AMSTERDAM — When I’m asked when I realized that I wanted to be a writer, I have a hard time answering.
I simply cannot pinpoint a time in my childhood when I completed the sentence, “When I grow up, I want to be a ___” with “writer”.
That sentence was completed with the usual, almost requisite and expected answers of a child: doctor, teacher, nurse. My more colorful choices were policewoman (take note of the very 80s term: “policewoman”) and Wonder Woman.
I can’t say I ever overgrew the desire to become Wonder Woman, but really, for the life of me, I could not remember when I first started to dream of becoming a writer and seeing my name in print.
Blame it on being rejected for the school paper in my junior year of high school (and losing the nerve to try out again in my senior year) and to my years in advertising and consumer banking which pretty much obliterated any hope of ever becoming a writer.
When I was in advertising, I was an Account Manager who was pretty much content living as what Julia Cameron (in her book, “The Artist’s Way”) calls a “shadow artist”. I was happy to be among the copy writers and art directors who could whip up a kick ass, award-winning, heartwarming ad that ran for 30 seconds or less in just one OT (often meaning overnight) session–and thinking that I would never be capable of such creativity.
And in banking, well, the writing that I did back then was pretty much regulated to concept papers which required business insight, rather than literary aptitude. Advertising and my marketing post in consumer banking were my “shadow careers”.
It was in Amsterdam, of all places (or for those who know me well enough, Amsterdam XXX just might be the place for me) where I recalled, with great distinction, when I first dared to dream of being a writer.
It was during my visit to the Anne Frank Huis. We studied her diary in my freshman year and remember being moved. There was no internet back then so we could only imagine the “secret annex” that Anne so vividly described in her diary.
But visiting the Anne Frank Huis turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. First of all, there was a long line—which apparently, is normal. I wouldn’t have minded the wait except that the crisp Amsterdam wind was getting to me. When it started to drizzle, my tropically acclimated butt had to take shelter and it was getting too late to go inside and finish the tour.
I ended that day by taking a photo beside the Anne Frank statue which was near the museum.
With my days in Amsterdam being limited, I thought about foregoing the Anne Frank Huis visit altogether and settle for the photograph. (Lame, I know, but I still had the Sex Museum to go to!)
And then I remembered.
I remembered sitting in my high school Literature class talking about a girl who was not much older than me (at that time) whose diary—whose words—moved generations of readers and inspired students like me who studied it in class. (There was no blogging back when I was in high school, so you can imagine how incredible it was to read about Anne’s life.)
“No, you have to go,” I told myself. “That was when you first wanted to be a writer.”
I checked the weather report and went back to the museum the next day. Right when it was my turn to purchase a ticket, the counter had to close for a few minutes because the house was too full.
But finally, after more than an hour, I was inside! I was in the house where Anne, retracing her steps and imagining how she,her family and the four other people who went into hiding with them, lived for close to two years.
And then I saw this was on the wall:
“You’ve known for a long time that my greatest wish is to be a journalist, and later on, a famous writer.” ~ The Diary of Anne Frank, entry made on 11 May 1944
I began to recall parts of the book that we had discussed in class in detail: how she had a crush on Peter (the teenage boy in hiding with them) and would pinch her cheeks for a natural blush when she was going to see him, how they had to keep absolutely quiet for most part of the day,and mostly, how she longed to live long after her death through her work.
And then I remembered with clarity that is now rare for me, that that was when the first stirrings,the tentative dreams to become a writer started.
So thanks, Anne, for the inspiration. It took me awhile, I know. I promise to make up for lost time. : )
NOTE: Taking pictures is strictly prohibited within the Anne Frank Huis, thus, the limited number of photos in this post.