When I was fifteen I was selected to represent my high school at a weekend retreat for the Future Leaders of America. This was in 1980, and I had grown up through the seventies believing that leaders were people who sought their position for power and personal gain and were generally not to be trusted. Plus, I didn’t like the idea of other people telling me what to do, which seemed to be in a leader’s job description. Nonetheless, there I was at the orientation meeting one afternoon at the Providence Marriott. I sat around a table with four other bright over-achievers. While we waited to be oriented, someone asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. Around the table we went: doctor, businessman, lawyer, lawyer – and then me.
“I want to be a writer.”
My four new companions stared back at me in confusion. “Why?” asked the girl next to me.
“Because I like to write,” I answered.
More confusion. Finally, another boy asked, “But what about money?”
For a moment, I hated them all. I hated them for their conservatism, for their agreement, and for asking that stupid question for which I had no ready answer. How could they not see, I wondered, that it was more important to do something you loved than select something that will make you a lot of money? I looked around the conference room at the other future leaders, at my new enemies, and felt alone.
I attended the retreat, though more as a conscientious objector than a full participant. I was still haunted by the question I had asked at the orientation. How could they not see how important it was to do what you loved? It turned out not be such a simple question to answer. I would ask it and ask it until one day I looked up saw that I loved virtually nothing that I was doing. Now I had my answer, and now there was nothing to do but lead myself back to what I had once known.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.