I don’t remember much. Often if I don’t write something down I will forget it. My room is covered in old lists that say things like “do laundry” and “buy Dad a birthday gift” and “you have a job, don’t forget to go to work”.
In spite of my horrible memory, I distinctly remember my kindergarten graduation. In the classroom, before we got in line and marched two-by-two to the gymnasium, we had to pick a hat to wear during the ceremony. We were to choose between police hats, doctor’s head mirrors, cowboy (or girl) hats, fireman hats, princess crowns, etc. The headwear was symbolic of our futures, of course. Of the great destinies we had ahead of us.
When it was my turn to choose a hat, I chose the princess crown. Even if a writer hat existed, I inevitably still would have chosen the princess crown.
I’d like to imagine that five-year-old me was standing there contemplating the choices my peers made as we congregated in the classroom, wearing these new identifiers.
Does Sarah like the doctor’s head mirror or is that what her parents want to see her wearing?
Does Emily really think she can pull off the police officer thing? I saw her steal that extra cookie at snack time.
Does Luke actually want to be a firefighter or was that just what that was left?
I wasn’t. I think I was probably standing in front of a mirror, admiring the sparkly crown on my head. Past me wasn’t as astute and observant as her present counterpart.
I hope that at some point during the short walk to the gymnasium, I at least asked one person why they chose the hat they did. Did Michael love Westerns so much that the cowboy hat just called to him? And if so, does he own a ranch in Texas now? Or is he out in Hollywood producing Westerns with the memory of that cowboy hat still weighing heavy on his head? Has he forgotten that moment entirely and lives his life without harping on insignificant memories from childhood? Likely.
To me, being a princess meant moats and castles. It meant dragons and unicorns. It meant happily ever afters and magic. It meant that I was incredibly naive but also that my imagination was flourishing.
In some ways, that princess crown was my writer’s hat.
One arbitrary choice made at the age of five does not define me. But, it is a part of who I am.
If you had asked me at 5, 10, 15, 20, or 23 what my life would have looked like at 25, I most certainly would not tell you something remotely close to the life I lead now. But, you would see it. It’s there. It was in that princess crown I chose. It was in every subsequent book I read. It was in every horrible essay I wrote for school and in every time I picked up a pen and unleashed my imagination.
You may see a princess crown but I see a writer’s hat.