Thursday, July 24th, 2008 • No Comments on Reading My Past, Predicting My Future
I was waxing nostalgic about the Scholastic Book Club a few weeks ago. I’m starting to pare down my enormous book collection and I discovered how many of those wonderful Scholastic books I still own. Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt, a cautionary tale of teen pregnancy by Richard Peck. Deenie, a cautionary tale about scoliosis and the risks of vanity, by the incomparable Judy Blume. The eerie Summer of Fear, a cautionary tale about letting strangers into your home, by Lois Duncan. We liked our cautionary tales back in the late 70s.
I also found a book called Test Yourself: A Career Quiz Book by Gordon P. Miller. I couldn’t find a picture of the book cover online, but it’s a serious little paperback with blue stripes and yellow (cautionary?) lettering. It includes a series of writing assignments and quizzes, designed to (presumably) help the average pre-teen figure out what to do with the rest of her life.
I took my little Career Quiz Book very seriously, filling in the various portions as Mr. Miller directs. The opening assignment is called “This is My Life.” Mr. Miller tells the 12 year old me to “Imagine that you are now 60 years old and you have lived the kind of life you have always wanted to live… On the following page, write your life story.”
So, for your amusement, here is my life story as I imagined it twenty-nine years ago:
When I graduated from college I became a writer. The first year was hard but within 2 and 1/2 years I wrote my first novel. It became a best seller very quickly. This inspired me to write and illustrate a children’s mystery. At 27 I married and continued writing everything from drama to comedy. I became a very accomplished author and artist, for I began illustrating all of my own work. At 45 I took up painting. Occasionally I’d write a child’s book or short novel but I concentrated on my paintings that were very quickly sold. I retired at 59 happy and healthy.
I was surprised at the comments about art—I don’t remember being that interested in pursuing it at that age. Oddly enough, in the last year or so I’ve contemplated taking art classes. I’m four years early. I also got married four years earlier and wrote my first book four years later than my younger self predicted. I am far from a best selling author, but I do write “everything from drama to comedy.” I don’t know what “retiring” at 59 means, but I think I was trying to fit everything in before the requisite age 60. Notice I didn’t mention children—I didn’t want any then. College and writing, those were my priorities. I don’t even really remember wanting to get married—likely I threw that in because it was the expected thing to do.
My Career Quiz Book doesn’t hold any real surprises, other than the interest in pursuing art as a career. My main goals were being a writer, expressing my creativity and maintaining my freedom. Not much has changed—and I think I accomplished the big goals. I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer and while the path I’ve taken may not have led to the wild success I imagined for myself as a child, it has been rewarding.
Thanks, Mr. Miller. It’s nice to have your book around as a touchstone to my past.