People will tell you that some of the things that we would like to have come our way will often take unexpected form--opportunity, random blessing, answers to prayers, new loves--so we should stay alert and open-minded to be ready to receive them. For me, one of the most insightful bits of guidance to be tossed my way came in a manner that was not only unexpected, but unintended.
As I've stated before, I've been working on my writing for many years. Along with that, when I was a kid, I learned the important truth that at their best magic and science were wicked cool. I started learning more about both, but as I wasn't raised in a magical realm, there were no wizards available with whom I could apprentice. A heavy diet of science, science fiction and comics gave me strong indications that being a science guy would be a great path. Physics and engineering would be the keys to unlock the wonders of the universe and yield a life of adventure and paranormal activity. Mortal flesh would be transcended. Superhuman abilities would be embraced. Weird science breakthroughs would herald an ascension that would allow me to rival the ancient gods we had cast aside and the monsters that had been relegated to the deepest shadows.
Give me a break, I was eight. The tall people I lived with had hidden my cape when I was four because it seemed like the best way to get me to stop diving off of things. I think it had more to do with my being rough on the floors than sparing me disappointment. Obviously, though, I had an established pattern of believing in the possibility of all things under the proper conditions.
Years of study took me on to college, having been scouted by a notable engineering school that I'll not shame by name here. My first English teacher at said unsaid school lauded my writing ability as being clearly filled with imagination and creative energy. In his next breath, he said quite matter-of-factly that they would crush that right out of me. He said it with a smile and seemed decidedly unapologetic about it. There it was: the unintended advice. It was a school dedicated to science and technology, after all. Writing was just another tool to them. My second English teacher, Dr. Dyer, had a name that would've better fit a supervillain and an attitude to match. Reading was to be dissected and analyzed and our writing was to reflect that. He was a dedicated editor, cutting so many passages from papers that they looked as though they were slashed and bleeding.
Something wasn't right. I pondered my lack of joy and came to realize that it had been months since I had written. That is, I hadn't written my stuff since school had started. The real writing that I cared about wasn't getting done. It needed to be done. There was a universe of possibilities going unexplored and that was making me miserable. It certainly wasn't going to happen where I was. The only other student I'd found who was doing any writing in scienceland had asked me to read a novel he'd been working on and...well, it told me about a character, an epic event and broke into an infodump of technical specifications for a giant spaceship that droned on very dryly for more pages than I was able to stay awake through.
I took the hints. I changed schools and majors. The clouds broke, the sun shone through and birds sang their songs. More importantly, I had found a better path for me to walk where I would find all that adventure and unlimited potential waiting to be encountered.
I never found that cape, but when I look to the skies (especially on big, fluffy cloud days), I remember flying. If there's a look in my eyes that says I'm...somewhere else, well...I'm working on it. Find your own proper path and maybe I'll see you up there, too.