When I drive, I think. Sometimes I think out loud. Sometimes I reminisce. Occasionally, I will have entire conversations with absolutely no one. It is extremely liberating, and I suggest you try it sometime.
For those of you who are still with me — despite having learned in the first paragraph that I am at least mildly insane and possibly schizophrenic — I offer you this entry, which details a thought that occurred to me while driving for an extended period a few days ago.
When I was a senior in high school, I was invited to come back to my elementary school alma mater and talk to the fifth grade students there as part of their D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. I was supposed to talk about the pressures that they would face as teens and why it was okay — maybe even cool — to say no to drugs and alcohol.
What I said to them isn’t important. It was what I was supposed to say … what I was expected to say. This entry isn’t about what I said to them; it’s about them in general.
I still remember some of the kids — which is odd, considering I spoke to them for all of 15 minutes several years ago. They are just one of those random things that sticks out in my memory — moments in time that are no more special than others, but hover above those others for some strange reason.
As I was driving, I thought about that time. Then I thought about those kids. It was at that point I realized…
…the kids in that class have graduated high school by now.
They are considered adults by our government. They can vote, should they feel so inclined. They can purchase cigarettes at the gas station after putting gas in their cars. The one kid that I pointed out as the obvious class clown — he’s more than likely in college now. Maybe he’s taking some of the same classes I took, walking the same hallways and sidewalks. Regardless of where he is or what he is doing, he’s not a kid anymore. But that’s how I remember him.
It was a sobering thought.
There are a number of things I thought I would have done by this point in my life. I honestly believed I would have published my first novel by now. Of course, that would require having stuck with one idea long enough to write one, but I digress. I set (and, as it would seem, continue to set) impossible goals for myself, yet I am still disappointed when I don’t reach them.
When I first started working on my novel idea, I wanted to be a 19-year-old novelist. Looking back, I am glad that didn’t happen. The story has matured as I have, and I believe it is much better now than it was then. But that was the goal I set for myself: to have a novel published by the time I was 19. And I failed to meet that goal.
This summer, I will be 27 — eight years beyond my first goal as a writer. And, though I believe my writing has greatly improved and matured since that time, it is still disappointing to have missed that opportunity. I will actually have to rely on the quality of the material rather than the novelty of my age to sell my idea now.
Imagine that. Now I’ll actually have to write something good. Perish the thought.
Luckily, my attitude toward writing has changed. It genuinely has me excited again. At the start of this blog, I wrote in the very first entry that, as a writer, I enjoyed having written more than actually writing. I enjoyed the satisfaction of holding the finished product, but the process of writing was truly a labor. However, I don’t feel that way anymore. I get excited when I have a few minutes to add to a story, or when I begin mapping out plot elements and characters in my head.
Age has never been just a number to me — if anything, it’s a scorecard. Right now, as a writer … I am losing. But not for long.
Not for long at all.