A memory of career assessment. I was twelve years old. My desk was a flat, wooden arm, winging off my hard-backed seat. Lead pencil smudged across the bump of my wrist. I filled in each bubble because I knew, I knew, I’m going to be a writer. And with every question, my heart would whisper its own. Is this the answer a writer would give? I circled. I nodded. I knew.
Days later, a typed description in a printed booklet crossed my desk. Lines dipped and mountain-peaked and soared on a chart. I scanned the fuzz of wordy descriptions, so certain, so sure.
When I flipped to the final assessment, however, my heart slipped. Writer was low on the list, practically last. Healer, it read. Number one.
I didn’t understand. Healer? I thought I’d be barefoot. I thought I’d hold a flute, charm a snake, rub leaves across others cheeks, touch my hand to a bowed head.
What does this mean? I asked my teacher.
She turned a page, pointed to the description, to the suggested careers. Doctor. Nurse. Member of the clergy.
I panicked. My grades in science class were abysmal. Doctor and nurse were not in my future. I’d have to be a nun like Sister Regina at my church, who had made fun of my sign of the cross because it was backwards. Up-down-right-left. But everyone else went left-right. Left-right, she had smirked and grabbed my wrist, thunked my hand against my shoulders, over and over, left-right.
I imagined my future self in a Climb Every Mountain-esque Mother Superior habit, shouting and stomping, left-right, left-right!
Writer was its own separate category with its own suggested careers. Journalist. Novelist. Poet. It sat at the bottom of my list. It sat at the bottom of me.