“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Mrs. Langley, my fourth grade teacher, asked the class.
Several hands shot up.
A lawyer. An interior decorator. A dirt bike champion. A space engineer. A teacher.
“What about you?” she asked me.
A story writer.
She asked the class to write a one-page essay about what our future would be and turned it in to a book-which I still have. (see the picture above)
I knew then, at age 10 that was what I wanted to do. I didn’t know the kind of writing I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to write.
I thought it was interesting when looking back that I didn’t write author or simply writer, I specifically wrote story writer.
The more I thought about it, I decided it was fitting to what I want to do 14 years later (now). With writing I want to tell stories, but I don’t just want to tell stories, I want to tell people’s stories. Heck, I want to tell my own stories.
That’s why I went in to journalism. There is something so satisfying about meeting someone, talking and finding out their “thing.” Everyone has a thing and most don’t even know it.
In the past year I have talked with a preacher who decided to start a hot sauce business, a woman who retraced the Trail of Death, the forced removal of Potawatomi Indians from north central Indiana to eastern Kansas in 1838 and a woman who opened a coffee shop that accepts only donations.
I got to find the story behind each person – I was able to learn the man who started the hot sauce business used his mother’s recipe for one of the flavors. His mother has Alzheimer’s, which makes his connection to the sauce an emotional one. I learned the trip for the woman was a “spiritual journey” and is still very much a part of her today. I was able to ask how a business that accepts only donations survives and found out the answer: community.
I was able to get a glimpse of the stories that make up each person and I was given the opportunity to describe that story for others.
That’s what I’m trying to do with this project. I am attempting to update my series, or conversations, on a more consistent basis and it’s a work in progress.
I recently tweaked my name to “Collecting Conversations.” I know, I know, it’s not that different from the former name. I tweaked it to fall in line with this thought of telling other people’s stories. I don’t really feel like I’m “chasing” them, but I do feel like I’m collecting them and in a small way, carrying them with me.
The outtakes (in case you need a laugh):
Just in case you were wondering, in my future essay, my fourth grade self also said I would be married by 25 to a man named Casey, I would have twin girls and we would live in North Carolina. (None of which are true). My personal favorite though (and this is a direct quote from 10-year-old me): “My grandchildren were smart. They were all scientists.”