It was career day at my daughter's elementary school. A day where a small group of people were asked to come in and talk to the fifth graders about what they did for a living.
There was an environmental lawyer, a high level development executive, a USC sport's director, a firefighter who at the last minute couldn't make it and so guess who they asked to fill in?
Yep, the woman who gets paid to write fart jokes.
I was more nervous speaking to my daughter's fifth grade class than I was on my wedding day. My biggest fear was that I would humiliate my kid and have nothing of value to say.
But as I sat in the back waiting for my turn to talk I thought about myself in fifth grade. A brace face, freckly 11-year-old with pale skin and black hair who spent her days writing poetry and short stories.
I wasn't a good student. Not at all like my daughter. I was distracted by things going on at home and found school to be a place not to learn but to escape to for several hours before having to go home again. Class was where I could daydream about life, romance, adventure.
I had dozens of journals and had known for a few years that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
I struggled with authority figures, homework and telling the truth. Of course I now understand why I was that way but at 11 years old all I knew was that I wasn't living up to my potential. I wasn't focused. I was lazy. At least that's what the teachers all said.
"She daydreams and writes poetry."
Yes, she does.
And now, here I was being asked to talk about what all that daydreaming and writing poetry led to... my career.
I made my way to the stage area, my daughter sitting in the front row beaming at me, and I began,
"Let me start by saying that my most important job and the one I love most of all is being your classmate's mother..."
Everyone smiled and looked at my daughter who in turn smiled and looked at me.
"I'm a writer. I write everything. Television, movies, books, poetry... even a weekly column. When I was your age it was the only way I knew how to express myself. If I could make one person feel something, think about something, look at life from a different angle, laugh or cry through my words... that was what I wanted to do."
I spoke about the ups and downs of being a writer. The great joys as well as the painful rejections. The funny people I get to work with, and the long hours alone at a computer. The patience it requires and the passion it demands.
Most of all I let them know that I absolutely love what I do.
They asked me questions about what kind of writing I liked best, did I come on Two and a Half Men before or after Charlie Sheen died and, my favorite, is it stressful being a writer.
They were curious, interested and I was suddenly happy that the fireman couldn't make it.
My daughter told me later that not only did I NOT embarrass her but her friend's thought I was soooo cool.
Later that night I helped my daughter work on a Civil War project for school. She retains everything she studies in class and she gets excited to tell me about it in great detail.
I may have missed those lessons when I was her age, but being mom gives me the chance to learn it all again.
Before going to bed I thought about career day. Maybe there was an 11 year old in that audience. And maybe, like me at that age, he or she was going to school to escape. If so, I hope for a brief moment that child heard something. Heard me. Heard that daydreaming just might lead to a very bright future after all.