Hello Gentle Reader
“What do you want to be/do, when you grow up?” is an age old question, which adults use to engage children in conversation or at least probe their still forming psychological character. The answers are best general or archetypical: police officer, firefighter, doctor, lawyer et cetera. To add to the conversation one will ask for rationale for the answer. The rationale varies from: ‘I want to lock up the bad guys,’ to ‘save people.’ Yet the professions identified are always admirable, just as their reasoning’s are adorable.
In a recent interview with Studio 10 in Australian, veteran actress Dame Patricia Routledge reflected on her dreams of her future as a young girl. The grand dame reflected that when she was younger, she had fancied herself a English teacher, and by the time she was forty she would have become an avant-garde headmistress, who drove a red sports car, who had romances all over Europe during her holidays. Yet, Dame Patricia Routledge’s life took a different turn during university—where she was studying English language and literature—when she worked alongside the academic Edmund Colledge, who was involved with the dramatic society of the university, and encouraged Patricia to seek out a career in acting, which she did.
Alice Munro is considered the marvel of Canadian conventions, ideals, and beliefs. She’s modest, humble, hardworking, and never ostentatious—she’s almost on the borderline of apologetic. Her career has been an example of hard work and dedication, while overcoming life and obstacles. Her first forays in publication where muted but celebrated, but she was deemed a housewife before she was titled an author. Then, forty-five years from her debuted short story collection, Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature with the citation of being: “the contemporary master of the short story.” When asked in an interview her early thoughts and dreams of her writing success, Alice Munro presented a contrary perspective to the reality. She confessed when she thought of becoming a writer in her early teenage years, she would have become a great success before she was twenty-five. Afterwards she would have traveled to England and met Laurence Olivier, and have a beautiful velvet blue ballroom dress. She would have written one great novel at this time, which would have been the “Wuthering Heights,” of its time. Alice Munro may have never met Laurence Olivier or wore her velvet blue ballroom dress, or write the “Wuthering Heights,” of her generation; but her short stories have captivated readers beyond borders and languages. Her keen psychological insights, sparse prose, and ability to portray the extraordinary in the ordinary, and cast a welcoming gaze on the life of others, have made her a successful writer and Nobel laurate. She helped raise the short story from its root cellar dwelling, all the way up to its Olympian heights. In all: quite the achievements for someone who was once remarked as just being a house wife cum writer.
Another Nobel Laureate (and the most recent), Kauzo Ishiguro, recently elucidated on his private and personal ambitions of his younger self. When he was fifteen years old, the young Ishiguro had the ambition of becoming a songwriter, much like his hero and favourite singer Bob Dylan (who regrettably is also a Nobel Laureate in Literature). Ishiguro credits Bob Dylan’s album: “John Wesley Harding,” to opening his eyes (or ears) up to the possibility of utilizing words in a way beyond their vernacular functions, where one can tell stories, create worlds, and share moments. Following Bob Dylan’s influence, Ishiguro opened up about other literary ended singers and song-writers for the late seventies which included Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. During this time period, Kazuo Ishiguro confessed her wrote hundreds of songs in his bedroom, and played them on his guitar with his friends, and has called this period his apprenticeship to becoming a writer of fiction. As he states in an interview with the Nobelprize.org website, one year in his twenties he transitioned from writing songs to short stories—and after years of getting nowhere professionally as a songwriter, and somewhere as a writer of prose, he moved to the one which was better received. In another interview, Kazuo Ishiguro had expressed how he did not fit the rock and roll image or the scene, and perhaps in a subconscious form of justice was always destined to be a man of letters then music.
Herta Müller is an individual marred by history and circumstance, while being an abnormality all the same. In an interview with “The Paris Review,” the author commented on how as a lonely little girl she tended the cows in the summer. There by herself with only the cattle as company, Müller dreamed of a life away from her tiny agriculture community. She considered becoming a seamstress (a career her mother had wished for her daughter) like her aunt, and even a hairdresser. But a writer? The thought was absurd if not entirely non-existent. There were no books in her parents’ home. Yet the young and lonely girl who tended the cattle identified, created and named the world around her. She created names, personalities and relationships for the wildflowers of the pastures, and gave thoughts to the clouds drifting overhead. She also imagined the unique lives of the passengers on the trains as they zipped past. She would wave at them, but also sure to have a new apron on every day, to show she had several ones. During this time the lonely girl would have her first existential ponderings, she ate the wildflowers and the plants throughout the valley, because she thought plants truly knew how to live, while she did not, and by eating the plants she would gain the knowledge of what it meant to live. It was the first time she would try to conceive of the notion of mortality and its meaning. She took note early on her existence was always vulnerable. This lonely girl would eventually escape her village, and ‘grow young,’ where she would discover books in the city and become corrupted. Once she started to read, she read voraciously! She consumed and devoured every parchment, poem, prose, and story she could get her hands on. She would study at university and become a translator at an engineering factory, where she was solicited by the communist state to cooperate with the secret service. She declined and suffered. She was sacked from her job, and was not permitted to have any official status of employment. She worked as a kindergarten teacher and supplemented her income by teaching private German lessons. Her solace and resistance, however, came in writing; which only infuriated the state. Still she continued to write, and much like her younger self, Herta Müller used her unique precision of language to identify, name and understand the cruel and absurd world of communist Romania, only to end up on the blue carpet of the Nobel Prize ceremony, as a recognized Laureate in Literature—a true world away from becoming a seamstress or a hairdresser.
Everyone has dreams of their future, and the success which they will surly accumulate over time. Success varies for each individual, from being an avant-garde headmistress driving a red sports car, to a songwriter who creates mystical worlds through the use of instruments and words, to having that velvet blue ball gown, where you are most certainly invited to all social soirees, and can indulge in champagne and good company. No one is immune to these dreams of the future; whereupon they break free from their current mundane life and achieve something extravagant and personal.
When I was younger, I don’t recall being an ambitious dreamer. I once thought myself a lawyer where I could stand on the pinnacles of justice; though I was persuaded by a contrary argument by a relative who asked me: “how can you defend someone who is guilt?” or on the flipside: “how can you prosecute someone you believe is innocent?” This relative immediately called into question my righteous capabilities, and as a shy and anxious child I could not argue or provide any contrary argument and accepted defeat. I don’t recall ever wanting to become a firefighter or a police officer. They always had the glory of the hero but at the cost of chaotic dangers. I once said marine biologist, because I had heard that a cousin of mine in the states was one—which is now considered ironic seeing as I never learned to swim. Yet, throughout my childhood I always viewed the pinnacles of success being working in an office. To my young mind, success was shaped by the office environment. I had always dreamed of working in some skyscraper in some high flung office overlooking the urban cityscape. Success was having one’s own office with a window with a view, where you could look out onto the horizon and see only potential and new conquests, because the dirty business of clawing ones way to success had already been done.
As a child, I was renowned in the family circle for being neurotic. My neurosis often displayed itself in absurd anxieties. The most prominent neurosis of my childhood was: taxes. I was constantly obsessed with taxes. Whenever I heard someone talk about taxes in my childhood I always imagined some bowler hat, suit wearing, leech mouthed man who was destined and determined to bleed the financial resources of people’s parents, through mundane ways such as: utilities (electricity, heat, and water), consumer goods, and paycheques. I often feared due to taxes my family and I would be forced into abject poverty, and to thwart this financial drain, I often ran around the house turning lights off and ensuring the taps never leaked. It was during this time that it came to my attention that taxes originated from the government, and seeing as the only position I knew of that worked for the government at the time, I vowed to become prime minster—if only to avoid paying taxes. Thinking of this now it is ironic, throughout my junior and secondary education (aka junior high and high school) I was often deemed in my class the most likely to become prime minister or work for the government. Of all my childhood dreams this one is still the most prevalent and present. I still wish to work in the public service, though not as a politician anymore, but rather a civil servant. Laws, policies, statues, and edicts still fascinate me, and the broad world of political science and law have become even more enticing and attractive with age. The law is a board field of study encompassing: constitutional law, criminal law, taxation law, business law, employment law, healthcare law, contract law, family/probate law, and so many more. The field itself screams bureaucratic paradise, one complete with paper work and ostentatious elocution—what could be better? Of course the studying path for law in Canada is not a straightforward or easy process—but that is a column for another day.
It’s fascinating: to review previously held dreams and to see where one has deviated from them, or changed the course of their life in a far more exciting venture. It’s exciting to see what still remains prevent, what interests have never changed, what goals are more refined now than ever, and how one continually builds, dreams, and falls for success.
Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
And As Always
Stay Well Read