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When I Grow Up...

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

What do you want to be when you grow up? That was an assignment I had back in elementary school. I vividly remember writing it. Unlike the other kids, who were writing about being baseball players and movie stars, I wrote a very practical version of where I seen myself as an adult. I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t want to be rich, but I also didn’t want to be poor. I wanted to live a normal, everyday life without the worry of money looming over my head. Although my teacher told me it was written very well, she said it lacked creativity. I argued it was realistic.

I fell into my career accidently and ended up being good at what I did. I was goal oriented, always putting my career first. My life fell into three different buckets: my job, my family, and my love life. In that order, and I never mixed any with each other. In my twenty’s life was a lot different than it is now. When a night out was like an episode of Sex and the City.

In my late thirties, I was a Public Relations Executive and earned a lot of money throughout the years. I was successful and my hard work had paid off. After over two decades in my career, I realized I had enough. I couldn’t stand the travel anymore, waking up in a different state every week. I couldn’t handle the office politics. It wasn’t like I was unhappy, I just wasn’t necessarily happy, either. I walked into my job and handed in my resignation.

My seventeen-year-old nephew Christopher moved in with me. I transformed my home office into a bedroom, his bedroom. I always described my office as “the room of my favorite things”, and now one of my favorite people would be occupying it. Chris and I would stay up for all hours of the night, talking about nothing and everything. We would go to the dine in theater and watch all the Marvel movies, as they came out. I told him everything, I trusted him more than almost anyone in my life. I always had lucid dreams, and we would discuss them in detail. After almost a year of living with me, Chris and I had a fight which resulted in him moving out. I went almost a year without seeing him or talking to him again.

One night, shortly after he had left, I had a dream that I was writing the last page of a book. When I woke up, I remembered it word for word. I wrote it down but didn’t do much with it after. It was when I was on the phone with a CEO of a company, interviewing for a job in Public Relations that I realized I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had no back up plan. I went and sat down in my office, Chris’ room- and thought back to when I was a teenager. What I had wanted to be and where I was now. I remembered my journalism teacher telling me that in twenty years she was going to be drinking her coffee and reading my work in the New York Times. Suddenly it occurred to me, I had worked my whole life to get to where I was, just to realize it wasn’t where I wanted to be. Now approaching forty, I declined the job and instead decided to do everything I never had a chance to do before. I went back to school, this time changing my major from Journalism to Marketing. I took piano lessons, archery lessons, and even became a Reiki master. You know, the normal things a woman does during a midlife crisis.

It was in a humanities class I was taking where I had to pick an artifact to write about. I picked The Catcher in the Rye. It had always been my favorite book and I was obsessed with it growing up. I must have read it twenty times trying to figure out what J D Salinger and Ra’s al Ghul had in common, other than somehow forming the League of Assassins. What I thought would be an easy task, turned out to be quite difficult. The assignment wasn’t about the book at all, it was about the author. So, for research purposes, I purchased the book "Salinger". Being old school, I bought the actual copy. When it arrived, I had no idea it was over 700 pages! It took me two weeks to get through. My teacher loved my enthusiasm, scored me an A, but more so, it inspired me. I went back onto my laptop, to that last page I had written months before, the one I dreamt about, and I wrote Wounds of Time. I wrote it backwards, based on pictures and items in Christopher’s room.

When it was completed, I hired an editor. A week into the editing process however, something unforeseen happened. The city I lived in, the city I loved, the city that never sleeps; took a nap, along with the rest of the world. I did what a lot of New Yorkers did during the pandemic, I bought a bigger house and put my condo up for sale. My editor and I now had plenty of time at home to go through the editing process and rewrites. Real estate became non-essential, it took a while for my little condo to sell. It was as I was moving that I saw Christopher again and we spoke. We didn’t bring up what had happened, it didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was that I was his aunt and loved him more than life. He said he was going to call me after I got settled into my new place.

It took about two weeks to unpack and get settled before I started sending my query letters. It was the first nice weekend of the year. My fiancé and I sat outside, drinks in hand and put on my summer playlist. We were about two songs in when the phone rang. I picked it up, expecting it to be Chris. Instead, it was his God mother, telling me he had died tragically. My first public appearance after the world started slowly reopening was speaking at my nineteen-year-old nephew’s funeral. He passed in the summer of 2020, when death was just another day. Grief was now an emotion that everyone felt, every single day. Mourning was a new part of the daily routine.

Months went by and I was broken. It was then that I had another dream. In this one, he was there with me, in his room. Telling me to get back up, to continue sending my query letters. I made one adjustment: I added a dedication page “In loving memory of Christopher” and I began resending.

The condo finally sold. As I sat in his empty room, staring at the bare walls, reminiscing of what was once on them, I had a revelation. His room had manifested into a physical object and would be alive in this book. The pictures on his walls became characters and told a story. That’s when I heard back from Atmosphere Press that they wanted to publish Wounds of Time.

I don’t know why I had that dream of the last page, but I do know everything happens for a reason. I realized in that moment; I now knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a writer.

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