I was fifteen and had been nominated to represent my school at a Future Leaders of America Retreat in Providence. I was sitting at a table in a Marriott Hotel conference room with five other fifteen year-old over-achievers waiting for the orientation to begin. “So, what is everybody going to study in college?” asked one of my table-mates. Around we went: Law, business, business, law, medicine – and then me.
“I’m going to be a writer.”
Five confused faces stared back at me. It was as if none of them had thought they’d heard me correctly.
“Why?” asked a future businesswoman.
I didn’t understand the question. By my reckoning there was only one possible answer. “Because I like to write.”
A future lawyer leaned over the table. “But what about money?”
I stared back at him, trying to form my answer. It wasn’t easy, because all I could think was, “I hate you all, and I don’t belong here.”
To be fair, I had asked this question of myself from time to time, but at fifteen still felt I was not yet obliged to answer it definitively. That would all sort itself out in adulthood. But sitting there with all those other A students, all of us capable of jumping through whatever hoops there were to jump through, believing that somehow all this hoop-jumping would ensure a safe and prosperous future, I could feel that future fast-approaching. I knew there were lots of artists who made no money at all. I just wouldn’t be one of them.
Until I was. But even in those days when I was not yet being paid for what I love to do, I did not and could not regret the choice I’d already made at fifteen. I had no other dream in my mind. When I dreamed of money, all I imagined, aside from a new house and maybe a nicer wardrobe, was an end of worry.
That seemed sweet indeed, but the truth was that as soon as I dropped into whatever story I wanted to tell, as soon as I was focused on something interesting, something cool, something new, I wasn’t worried at all. Now I was having fun, was where I should be, was doing what I should do. Money’s not much of a motivator when I can get for free what I imagine it can buy me, just as my future ceases to be a problem the moment I come back to the present.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.
Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com