When I Grow Up

Story time!

One of our patients came in with her kids the other day. I love it when kids come into the office almost as much as I love it when dogs come into the office (which is more often than you might think.) They’re so cute and their tiny voices are adorable and I answer “what are you doing?” like fifteen times and it is great. This patient brought her two girls in and was waiting for her husband’s appointment to be done. While she waited, we sat and talked for a little while. We talked about her oldest daughter and how she has read almost all of the Pony Pals books (which is a pretty incredible feat, actually, Pony Pals was still growing when I was a kid. That’d be like me trying to read all of Junie B. Jones.) And from there, she told me that her oldest wants to be a writer when she grows up.

“Me too,” I told the girl. “I want to write when I grow up.”

The daughter got a little shy about it, which I assumed was because I was a Big Person with a Big Person Job. And talking about what you want to be when you grow up to a Big Person who also wants to be the same thing as you when they grow up is a little daunting. Just ask five-year-old Senna; she was super shy around Big People who said they wanted to be singers when they grew up.

After a little bit of prompting from her mom, the girl recited a small saying that she’d learned; “if I can think it, I can write it. If I can write it, I can read it. If I can read it, other people can read it, too.” And that really, really stuck with me. At some point I want that on a decal in big letters on my bedroom wall, I’m not joking, because it’s a really important thing for me to remember. And the more I thought about it, the more I saw my younger self reflected in this girl. I used to have notebooks filled with teeny tiny short stories, and I would write boldly, really hoping one day I’d become an author.

As I write this, I’m “living the author lifestyle” for the afternoon; I’m sitting in a cafe, on my second coffee, wrapped in a fringed shawl. I’m not that much closer to being a real author than I was when I was young, though. I can’t finish what I write most of the time, and I end up hiding my work from people, thinking, wow, this is awful, no one is going to want to read this. I’m writing specifically so that others can read what I write, and yet I’m afraid to show my stuff to people. Little Senna would show her work to literally everyone, and expect them to love it. I wrote boldly and whenever I wanted. One year, I even asked for a typewriter for Christmas (and got it, my dad bought an old electric one at a yard sale) so that I could feel like a true, sophisticated writer.

A slightly older Little Senna than the one I’m talking about. But still, Little Senna in all her short-haired glory.

So the fact that Now Senna sits around and pretends to write while actually watching Sailor Moon is probably a huge bummer to Little Senna. The other huge bummer would be that Big Senna has written so many things that might have had a chance to be published, but didn’t finish them. Heck, Big Senna is bummed about that, too.

And so the universe has provided me with another push to finish this dumb NaNoWriMo novel, despite thinking it’s getting worse and worse. (My boyfriend assures me that with every new copy that I send him that it’s still just as good as when I started, though I only believe him about 72% of the way.) I’m behind on my count by a day and a half (I have 21k words when I’m supposed to be at 23k, and trust me, that’s a pretty big gap,) I’m running out of steam, and I’m sacrificing sleep for only a few extra words, but mark my words, I’m going to finish this. And then I’m going to hand it to friends with red pens and say “destroy it,” and I’m going to revise it, and I’m going to get it published, even if I have to publish it myself.

Just watch me, Little Senna. I’m gonna do it.

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