Jennifer Hillier

When I grow up

May 26, 2009 | Uncategorized

Last weekend I had the opportunity to reconnect with a couple of long-lost friends via Facebook.  I found myself typing the requisite 100-word summary of what I’ve been up to the past decade and, of course, both messages ended with something like, “I’m working on my second novel…”

For many long-lost friends – regardless of when we last spoke – this is a total shock.  “You’re writing a book?” they say. “How’d that happen? I thought you wanted to be a…”

Their surprised reactions are my own fault.  They’re right to be shocked.  I hardly told anyone I wanted to write.  There were many things I wanted to be when I grew up, and though ‘writer’ was always part of that list, I never made that one public.

For instance, when I was really little, I wanted to be a singer (everybody did in my family – it’s tradition) and at age four, I was the top draw at family parties.

At six, I desperately wanted to be a tap dancer.  (I got piano and tennis lessons instead. Hmph.)

When I was seven, I wanted to be Miss Universe.  I practiced my pageant walk on the coffee table in my mother high’s heels, my parents cheering me on as I waved and recited my victory speech.

I wanted to be a neuro surgeon when I was eight.  I didn’t really know what “neuro” meant, but I knew that when I said it, grown-ups would nod approvingly and say, “Good for you.”

For about a month at the age of nine, I thought it would be cool to be a nurse in some exotic war tending to wounded but very handsome soldiers.

Then at ten I wanted to be a concert pianist, at eleven a tennis player, and at twelve a marine biologist.

And then in no particular order I wanted to be a doctor, a dancer, a lawyer, an “entrepreneur” (again, not knowing what the word meant but finding approval in the adult world when I said it), and a songwriter.

For all of ninth grade, I wanted to publish my own fashion and beauty magazine.  This one I actually thought about rather seriously.  My childhood best friend, Annie, was going to be my publishing partner, and we were going to call it Charisma.  I can’t remember why I picked that name.  I’m guessing it was another word I thought was cool, and I suppose Annie did, too, since she never tried to change it.

Then I wanted to be a lawyer again.  I think the lawyer thing stuck because it was a profession that sounded interesting and again, got me that adult approval.  I even majored in Political Science for a while thinking it would be a good background for law school.

But my point is, depending on when I last talked to each of my long-lost friends, they all remember me wanting to grow up and be something different.

And almost nobody remembers that I ever wanted to be a writer.  How could they?  It was always there, a huge part of me, but I never really told anyone.

For the first thirty-three years of my life, I was a closet writer.  I have boxes of short stories, poems, and unfinished novels from age five and up that nobody knows about.  I was very secretive about it.  Why?  I guess because writing was always the thing that meant the most to me, the thing I was never really okay with putting out there, because it was the thing I knew would break my heart if it never happened.

And I still feel that way.  The difference is, I now have the courage to talk about it.

Talking about writing makes me accountable to it.  This blog, for instance, is my way of throwing it out there and demanding that you witness my journey, whether I succeed or fail.  It’s me reminding you to say to me, “How’s the book going?” or “What are you working on?”, which forces me to have an answer ready.  Plus it’s a daily reminder that even though I’m not published, I am what I always wanted to be when I grew up… a writer.

So what did you want to be when you grew up?  And are you there yet?