I will never be Margaret Atwood. The revelation came to me as I was brushing my teeth furiously, my mouth a big, blue atomic O, foaming and drooling with the repugnant taste of Crest. I will never be a famous writer, I will never win the Governor General award for fiction, won’t ever take home the Booker Prize. Jesus Christ, I might never even publish in a small Mom and Pop publication. All of my writing will hide in my closet, jumbled beneath obscene amounts of clothing and old school books. No one will ever know that I can do it. That I could do it. That I won’t.
No one is interested in the normal anymore. We’ve been too desensitized. No one cares about the banal existence of a young twenty (or forty) something that has no drive to do anything. Very little of our population has considered the effects of a caffeine hangover, the (in)sanity test that should be required when trying to quit smoking. And certainly, no one wants to read about a parent who hates his or her child.
See, I used to be able to write poetry. And some of it was decent—mind you, I carefully chose the term decent because that is all the credit I will allot myself. But to hell with decent because I can’t write poems anymore. Writing good poetry requires deep and irretrievable sadness. So, being no longer sad, I’ve lost the ability to write poetry that moves. The only thing that my poetry moves is that feeling of annoyance of having wasted precious moments of someone’s life when they could have otherwise been vacuuming, sleeping or masturbating. Because anything, even diarrhea on a Saturday afternoon is better than what I can come up with.
I discussed this with a friend of mine one night last week. She was generous of her time, came over between studying for midterms, late on a Thursday night. I told her my predicament. That I will never be a writer. Not being a writer herself (she’s a commerce student who’ll do something spectacular someday), simply looked at me with a furrowed brow and said, “Clearly that wasn’t your initial plan, right? Like that was Plan B after you were financially comfortable with Plan A?”
When I informed her that there was no Plan A, she laughed and looked at me dubiously. “Honestly, you had no Plan A?” A sad and pathetic shake of my head answered her.
She shrugged. “Well, time to make a Plan A. You’ve got to understand, there is no money in writing. Only one in a billion manuscripts get published and do well. The rest, well, the rest are probably working other jobs and dreaming lofty dreams. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Come up with a Plan A. And besides,” she adds, “you don’t need to be making money writing to be a writer, you know that.”
Now, how to explain to her that that was exactly what I had been planning on?
Well, I didn’t. Because she wouldn’t have understood. She sees dollars and cents. I see all the dreams I’ve dreamed as a little girl stomped beneath my feet.
So then I had this brilliant idea of becoming a chef. Cooking is creative, it’s kind of like telling a story with food. I spoke with one of my friend’s boyfriends who’s in the chef program at the college. After talking to me for about three minutes, he unabashedly told me that I do not have it in me to be a chef.
“Chefs must love attention to detail. They are perfectionists. They chop vegetables properly. A chef can taste the difference between a green pepper grown in Ontario and one grown on a farm in Italy. Chef’s envision food as not just consumptive matter but life in and of itself. Chef’s love food, and not just eating the food but touching it and slicing it and smelling it.”
Well he carried on and I just stopped listening. He made me not want to be a chef. It was a relief. I found him boring.
During dinner one evening, I was complaining to a semi-boyfriend about being broke. My part-time job wasn’t paying enough and I needed to either find something better or a part-time to top it off or else I wasn’t going to be able to pay my bills.
He put his fork down and looked at me over the rim of his glasses with a seriousness I haven’t witnessed since.
“You could prostitute yourself. If it ever got bad enough. You’re good at sex. People would pay to have sex with you. I’m serious. Consider it. If you ever want to try it out, a friend of mine has a friend who knows someone at a call girl service...”
He and I never went out again.
The Christmas holidays are always hard. Relatives always want to know what you are up to with great detail. Aunts and uncles want to be taken aback by your spectacular plans to become a doctor or a lawyer. Everyone grins with anticipation when they ask if you want to be a teacher.
But when they ask the dreaded question, the “what are you going to do with yourself after school” and I answer with a shrug or the fated “I am not really that sure yet. I am keeping my options open”. You can literally feel the air go flat and the look of dismay slip across their faces. Soon after they ask my brother about his work, tell him what a good boy he is for staying in town and working at the Plant. And I, I slink into the kitchen, secretly praying my mother needs help with something, with anything. Anything to get me away from them and their questions.
No one told me that by twenty-four people expect you to have a plan. A concrete plan where buying a house and finding yourself a husband and buying a nice car and having some cute kids seems possible. The kind of plan that makes parents proud. My plan has always been writing and while I am writing right now, it certainly isn’t making me any money and I suspect you are getting that annoying pinching feeling that I am wasting your time. But maybe you’re enjoying this and maybe you can relate. Then maybe for sure there is a chance that people still care about the normal every day drone. Now that, that would make me feel better. And I think it would encourage me to write a little more often.
I decided to get that second job.
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