Friday, July 10, 2009

Multiple career disorder

When I was a little girl, quite a little girl, I wanted to be a child pyschologist. I remember it clearly - some kindly grown-up asked me, so what d'you want to be when you are big, Tammy? We were standing outside the creosote-coated wooden structure that I called home.
"A child psychologist" I answered, without missing a beat. Then wondered, why the chuckle?

I'm not sure where I got this from - or what I thought it meant. Was there someone who was that and I admired them? Did I read it in a book? Who knows.

The other thing I wanted to be, apart from a vet, a biologist and a motorbike racer, was a writer. This from as early as I remember.

Someone else asking me that ol question and I remember saying,
"I'm going to be a writer." Made sense. Granny had written books. So had Grandfather.
"Ah, said the person (one of many visitors that came and went through our lives)
"What kind of writer? Like a sign writer? Or a calligrapher?"
No stupid. A writer. The kind that writes books with stories in them. I wonder if I gave her a withering look. Patronising sort, she was.

The words and the bees
Back to the biologist part - actually more of an entomologist. I loved insects. Words and insects. At eight I knew the difference between an etymologist and an entomologist. Duh. I was quite convinced that I would discover a new species of moth, termite, or glow in the dark mosquito. I studied harvester ant nests and intimately understood their social structures and movement patterns. Perhaps I was Eugene Marais in a previous life. I remember being quite shocked when I pulled a copy of Soul of the White Ant off my mother's bookshelf and realised that someone else had been there, done that which I had fervently planned. This was before I went to Proper School, and discovered there was a weird separation between arts and science and apparently you couldn't be a poet-biologist.

The last bullet was plugged into that hope at high school. I adored my biology teacher (Mr Sherry, wherever you are, you rocked). But Chemistry? The teacher was a perv who liked looking down the girls' school blouses. Physics? A cold war that started when he walked into class and caught me drawing a devastatingly accurate caricature of him on the overhead projector.

Without Physics and Chem, Biology A-level wasn't going to happen and by 16 I was firmly on an arts course, for better or worse. The fact that I grew up around bottles of turpentine and pigment can't have helped. Two hippy artist parents? I didn't stand a chance.

A cunning plan
Then I went to Varsity - headlong into more confusion. I started off with that chrystalline logic you have when you are 19. I would major in English Literature, obviously. And I would do Drama for two years only. To learn about character from the inside, you see. And then I would choose Philosophy or something clever so that I would be able to write books that answered all the really important questions about the outer frontiers of reality and consciousness (what can I say - I'm Sag/Scorpio). I think that was the plan, anyway.

Something to fall back on?
At the back of all this, the persistent ring of my grandfather's voice - "you can't make money from this artsy fartsy stuff. You need something to fall back on. A secretarial course. For God's sake don't become a safari guide."

Was drama my thing to fall back on? Or just into, the way one falls into a rich chocolaty mudpatch, sliding stiff-kneed at first (oh no, I don't wanna get my clothes dirty) and then gleefully (wheee! this is fuuun!) and then you sling your first mudball at someone and you're done for, hooked, wallowing forevermore. Inadvertantly calling everyone dahling and using words like emoting. And projecting.

But still, I have career A.D.D.
Let's see. I have been a perfume spritzer, jewellery seller, a costume and set designer, a drama teacher, a waitress, a potter, a proof reader (I suck at that), an industrial theatre scriptwriter-actress-director, a fundraiser (I suck at that too), a proposal writer (I'm good at that), a facilitator and a radio operations communications control officer (aka ROCCO. I'm really good at that). And every now and then, someone pays me to write a play.

No wonder I'm exhausted.

Its eclipse season, and its time to shed some dead wood. Its time to bloody well focus. I "twist and turn like a -- twisty turny thing", to quote Blackadder. Or was it Baldrick. Yep, even this post is making me yawn and squirm and stare out the window.

Really though, it should have been obvious a long time ago. Writing, making plays, whatever. Living in the deadly serious world of what if - that's the place where you can be any damn thing you want. Even - (duh! It should have been obvious!) Even (of course) - a child psychologist.


Janelle said...

or a multiple blogger baby? babe. you are SO a writer. publish publish. i remember reading all your short stories all those years ago and being blown away by them. goosey. you owe the world ALL your stories. that is where you belong. you write like nobody else. that's my verdict. love you so much. XXX j

family affairs said...

We need to write a bloggy book....are you going to be in the valley with me (and hopefully Janelle?) early August? I'm going to start writing about why I'm going soon and of course your grandfather features in the story....I think we might all have something here. (Will be in Capetown too if that's easier). Lx

Miranda said...

Ah sis, I love this post, made me cry. Don't think its JUST the hormones!

word veri fenart

Chimera said...

Ahh yes..i completely relate! I was so confused I wanted to be 'people' rather then professions starting with a desperate attempt to become gerald Durrell (even tho' he wasn't even dead.) Then did everything from bingo calling to film editing. Now not sure what next...
Lovely post. You definately are the writer one!
T xx

tam said...

Thanks J.
FA - I did have something of a flicker when you first mentioned this story. Interesting
M - it is the hormones, doll!
Chimera - I think its a sign of character. What next indeed?
I've kind of got used to a project-based existence - ie I am what I am working on right now. If its play, well then I'm a playwright. If its a textbook - yeah, etc.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to that - I still haven't a clue what I want to do, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't involve sitting in an office for hours a day trying to earn someone else more money.

Damn it.

Write - if that is where your heart is - you obviously have the talent!