On my flight home from a short trip to Miami a few weeks ago, I read a National Geographic cover story about a storm chaser and engineer who had died in a tornado back in May. I read the story for the duration of the flight, so gripped by it that I stopped to reread certain parts. One part stuck out to me in particular — the part that discussed how the storm chaser’s parents had nurtured his growing fascination with storms and engineering. They plopped old TVs in front of him to tinker with and abandoned trying to make him play Little League when they realized he cared more about the clouds in the sky than the game. The description juxtaposed with another individual mentioned at the end of the tale whose parents had not nurtured his obsession with weather.
It all got me thinking about how I’ve always wanted to write, always been interested in creativity and the arts and how my parents supported these interests. And how incredibly thankful I am, as I sit here as an adult having done what I’ve always loved to do for a decade.
To this day, I have no idea why I’m inclined towards creative pursuits. My mother worked as a retail manager, my father as a computer engineer who in his spare time dissected baseball statistics. I have one uncle who is a music teacher and my younger sister is a talented photographer and writer. But as far as I know, no one else on either side of the family has a passion for the arts.
But somehow, I started reading when I was 2 and began writing short stories before I was even in kindergarten. My family gave me full access to our one computer to type up stories that bore a striking similarity in plot to the Baby-sitters Club series. Despite his otherwise analytical pursuits, my dad did love to read and kept a trove of books in our basement to which he gave me full access. This led to me reading books like The Shining at a far younger age than I should have. I compulsively bought books from Scholastic while in grade school. When in second grade, I was chosen as the representative from my year to go to a regional young author’s conference on a Saturday, my parents didn’t flinch about taking me.
Writing wasn’t the only creative thing I loved to do. I also loved to dance, draw and go to plays. My parents would indulge me, taking me and my younger sister to local plays and letting me watch A Chorus Line and Annie on repeat. When, after a few years in gymnastics, my mom asked me if I wanted to try dance lessons, I leapt at the chance, even though, at age 7, I was already far behind a lot of the other girls. Despite not having the body type or natural flexibility of a born dancer, I loved it, and kept adding classes on as I got older. I eventually competed and helped teach younger girls during the week while in high school. My mom sat through 11 years of dance recitals and funded my classes, my costumes and my competition fees — all because I loved it. Not once did she ever try to get me to quit, even when my dad was sick.
As I leaned more and more toward writing as a career, my parents never tried to dissuade me, even as my dad, somewhat impatiently, tutored me in the one subject in which I struggled and he excelled, math. I get that it can be a hard pill to swallow when your kid tells you they want to pursue something that might not be stable or result in a decent income. There was only one time in all these years that my mom questioned what I would do for a living after college. She asked if I would consider teaching. I said, No. That was pretty much the end of that. She chipped in for my bills for the few years immediately after college when I was making a paltry salary, helping me continue to realize my dream.
My parents never could have imagined the doors that would be open for a writer in the 2000s. My career has ebbed and flowed between print journalism and professional blogging, editing and marketing. I’ve yet to hit the Holy Grail of publishing a book, but I will, in my own time. It’s a true shame my father never got to see what I became, how the 5-year-old at the computer eventually cobbled together a freelance career that helped support her in another country, got her published on major web sites and in magazines and newspapers and now helps sustain a life in Manhattan. Somehow, I hope he knows — and I hope both my parents know that I am forever grateful they let me follow my dream.
Who supported your dreams — career or otherwise — while you were growing up?