Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My authentically adventurous self was evident in childhood

When I was a kid, I think it was in second grade, I wrote the following story. I think it says a lot. It was written on two foot-shaped pieces of paper and the assignment was to write a story from each foot's point of view. (I kept all spelling and punctuation errors in.)

FEET Were we go! What we see!
One day I ran away from my body. When my body saw that I was gone, he held on to my buddy. I jumped up on my bodies bed and tikeld my buddy. He got away. Then we traveld to the end of Alpine Dr. The next night we were in Los Angles. We started to run. then we got lost, we could not cry because we didn't have any eyes.

We found a knife and two eyes and a bottle of glue. We cut a hole in one foot, and another in the other foot. It hurt. We glued the eyes on. Then we could see we traveld to a mountain It was big for little us. We climbed up we saw a campfire, in no time we were warm. We found some shoes, and put them on. We ran home and put on a body.

The End

When I was a kid, I thought I would grow up to become a writer. As I got older, I would write elaborate, multiple paged stories about adventures. A group of friends would go off on some kind of journey through a fantasy world, or we would ride in space ships to other worlds. Once I wrote for a practice standardized test an essay about a dream where I was in a forest running through the trees. We had to grade each other's essays in the class and so many people liked my story that the teacher asked me to read it to the whole class.

As I got older, people told me that's not the correct way to write an essay. You were supposed to follow a structure. They taught me how to write properly. I never wrote creatively ever again after that. They also told me that being a writer was not a realistic goal. I spent the rest of my life struggling to somehow find a compromise between what they said would be realistic and what I enjoyed. I never succeeded at this.

When I talk to children, which admittedly isn't very often, if they tell me they want to be artists when they grow up I congratulate them on a wise choice. The people I know who are artists make good money. Many work for themselves. Art, I was always told, was the most unrealistic goal of them all. Nothing could be more wrong. If I meet a kid who wants to ride a unicycle, I say, Good for you! What if they excel so well at riding a unicycle they get to ride it in the summer parade and they enjoy that so much they end up becoming the executive director of the organization that puts on the parade? You can never know where something will lead so I never tell a child something they want to do is unrealistic.

There is a huge gap between when you are a child and when you are an adult. In the gap between my own childhood and when I became an adult, personal computers were invented among other things. In the years since, so many things have changed, so many new fields have been created, that the occupations that are available to me now could not have even been explained to my parents and teachers when I was a child. Who am I to say that the skills learned riding a unicycle won't prove to be the key to that kid's future? I haven't a clue what the future is going to be.

It's clear from my childhood writing that I wanted to write and have adventures. When I engage in those activities, it is the truest expression of my authentic self. It has been a long struggle to get even this far back to who I am, and I've spent so many years not being myself that I sometimes feel a little sorrow for how much of my life has been wasted. I suppose that maybe answers why I left a good job at a billion dollar company to hike the PCT and why I didn't go back to it when I finished the trail.

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