I never meant to be a writer.
In fact, I became a writer quite unexpectedly in my thirties, and for a long time I couldn’t even say it out loud. It just felt so icky and self-important to have a job title that implies you have something significant to say and that somebody out there wants to hear it. So, when people asked me what I do, I used to tell them, “I work from home”, and then I’d quickly change the subject (which I’m good at, because I did the same thing for years when the answer was, “I’m a missionary”). But sometimes they persist and so I have to say the words.
“I’m a writer.”
And then my cheeks flush red with…I don’t know…embarrassment? Yes, I think that’s what it is. It’s an embarrassment of riches, and I want to explain it away, to tell them I don’t think I’m special, I know I don’t have anything great to say, I’m just kinda funny sometimes, that’s all, and, honestly, I fell into this life completely by accident ~ a life that many others only dream of ~ and truly I don’t deserve it. I just got lucky, that’s what I want to say. But I don’t, at least not anymore, because it makes for awkward conversation and then I feel like I have to tell the whole story of how I really had no idea I was a writer until someone else mentioned it a few hundred times.
Last year, one of my sons said something that I haven’t been able to shake. It was during one of those difficult talks, where your grown up kids say grown up things that are hard to hear because they highlight your parenting failures and you must choose to apologize when what you really want to do is defend — but it wasn’t all bad. At one point he said, “Mom, in some ways, I watched you grow up in Costa Rica, when the internet convinced you that you’re smart and that you can write. It was like no one ever told you what you were capable of until a bunch of strangers saw something in you and called it out, and then you bloomed.”
He was right, and I cried at the truthiness of it. In the beginning, I wrote, but it was you who first called me a writer.
For that, I owe you a debt of gratitude. And a beer. And a cheesecake. Because, less than one month from today, my very first book will be released into the great big world. It turns out, I’m not just a writer, I am a whole damn BOOK writer!
The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever comes out April 3rd, and I hope it makes you proud. I hope you’ll buy it and read it, and I hope you’ll know that by showing up here again and again, as you have over the years, you played a part in creating it.
YOU helped me become me, and I really am a writer.
It’s what I do. It’s who I am. It has become, both as a practical career and as a healing art, my way forward.
In other words, I couldn’t survive without it. But I would never have found this path without you.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is…
I blame all of this on you.
And THANK YOU.
Your words are powerful, too.