I don’t know if everyone does it at a certain age in their lives, but sometime way back in the mists of time, when I was too young to know anything about the meaning of the word “impossible”, I wrote down a list of things I wanted to accopmplish in my lifetime.
It’s long since gone, vanished, disappeared – too many house moves, too many upheavals, too many crossroads and choices which were unknown to me at the time the list had been made and which I had to face one at a time as they turned up.
I do remember a couple of things from it.
I seem to recall that one item on it had to do with learning how to ski. Well, I did that. Sort of. At the very least, I stood up on a pair of skis; I knew very well what the first thing that would happen when I did so would be – I would fall over – and that’s precisely what occurred, but I learned to stand up, and then I learned how to move when those great strapping pieces of wood were actually tied onto my feet. I learned how to lean into a turn, and balance, and get up when I fell down, even if it was mid-slope. I learned how to get on and off a ski lift.
I never broke a single bone, and I did ski a couple of intermediate runs (while still a raw beginner) in my time. I remember flying down a slope nearly empty except for me, the wind in my hair and the glitter of snow and frost-etched trees all around me, with my ski-school instructor, a thin, wiry, dark Frenchman from Quebec, leaning down from the ski lift where he was halfway up to the top of the slope and shouting down to me, his hands cupped around his mouth, “Magnifique! Magnifique!!”
Another item had something to do with swimming with dolphins, and I have done that.
Seriously, if you EVER have a chance to do this, grab it with both hands and don’t let go, even if they ask your first unborn child as the price. It’s… beyond awesome. It’s meeting an alien species, right here on Earth, and communicating through nothing more than looks and gestures – and trust me, the dolphin communicates, with others of its ilk, with you. There is something transcendental about meeting those bright intelligent eyes which look into yours and say, “I know you. I recognise you. I know what you are, and what I am. I know we are different. I know how very very alike we are.” They’re bigger than one would imagine, and they’re smooth-skinned, and soft, and warm, and they’re so special.
I don’t remember much more of that list in detail, except for one thing, which will surprise nobody who knows me.
I wanted to write a book.
This, too, I have accomplished. This, which has been a dream from childhood, has been given to me, and I am grateful for it beyond belief. I have people writing to me today, in email or in snailmail, who are putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard in order to tell me, someone they don’t know and have never met and probably never will, that they have read my books, and that they loved them, and asking me what my next book is going to be in a gesture of such beautiful and humbling trust and faith that I feel the tears prickling at the back of my eyes.
People ask you, in social situations where they meet you for the first time, “So, what do you do?”
In answer to that question… I can tell you that I am a writer, that I have written books which people have read and liked, that I’ve created a character whose literary demises have caused friends to phone me up at three in the morning to shriek into my ear, “You KILLED her! How could you have killed her?!” – and other characters who have been mentioned in the context of the commenter wanting to “squeeze him by the neck until his eyeballs bugged out”. That I am trusted to tell a story, that I am able to engage thought and emotion in friends and in strangers, is a source of pride and gratitude.
I had a little list, when I was a litle girl and such things meant something – when life was still something huge and mysterious and full of concealing mists and I could write fantasy lists which might never come true because I had yet to learn what was possible and what was dream. But some part of me knew, even back then, even way back then, that there was one dream that transcended lists and wishes.
I am a writer. That came true. That changed everything.