I was cleaning up the basement the other day, moving some of my books and university papers from decaying cardboard boxes into clear plastic bins.
As I re-arranged and transferred some really lovely old books, mostly of the Celtic history genre, I came across a book my mother had given me on July 2, 1993, the summer I had graduated from high school. The gold lettering on the dark green cover reads Irish Literature – Poetical Works, S. Lover. The Selected Writings of Samuel Lover.
Recalling next to nothing about this writer, I Googled Mr. Lover (now that I can, now that there is something to Google…I think that in 1993 there maybe was not) and found that he was an Anglo-Irish songwriter, poet and novelist and a contemporary of Charles Dickens.
I leafed through the pages, read a few poems.
Inside the cover, I found the card my mother had given me with the book. She had written “To the future of Canadian literature” across the top and then explained that she could not pass the book by as its lovely verse led her to think of me.
I stood there, in the dim back room of our basement, surrounded by a chaos composed of books and boxes and plastic bins, and I pondered the card and its message.
July 2, 1993 – twenty years ago. It seems like another lifetime and yet it seems like only yesterday. I can imagine sitting in my childhood room looking through the book. But although I often think I still feel like I’m about 18, the “me” I can see through the mists of time seems to have been an entirely separate person. Me but not me.
I had always dreamed of being a writer but I guess I didn’t realize that this hope was part of what defined me back then. Now that I have “grown up,” it seems that being a writer is something people (adults, that is) roll their eyes at, and think of as a nice lark but not really what people do full time. Unless they are J.K. Rowling or Paul Theroux or someone else in the elite 1% of people who can actually make a decent living at writing.
But it is nice to come across a message that suggests I was expected to contribute to literature in some way.
I like that perception of who I was.
But what have I done for Canadian literature since then?
Well, apart from beginning a blog three months ago…nothing really.
Rather than making me feel sad about lost time, though, I feel energized and reassured. It is so good to have this message practically fall out of the sky into my hands, reminding me that I always meant to write.
Even on the difficult days, I know I am at least on the right path. I write daily. I may not actually contribute to literature, but at least I am writing. And I may not know where the path is going but at least I am on it.
As a dear friend pointed out before I started writing again, it’s better to realize at almost 40 that I want to write and should have been doing it for the past 20 years, than to kick myself at 60 for missing out on doing something I love for the past 40 years.
So, fellow writers, even if it’s an off day, or week, write something, anything. Keep it to yourself or share it with others but seize the day today, because you can.
The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe