For as long as I can remember writing was in my blood. In school I was the child that made extra effort to create longer sentences, descriptive paragraphs and learned how to tie it all up with a nice bow as an essay. Gold stars stickered my homework assignments. How I loved those gold stars!
I began to submit my little essays to children’s magazines. They were published.
As I grew older, I began to submit articles to teen magazines. They were published.
Emboldened by my success, I tucked a few of those magazines under arm, took the train to the Big City, marched into the offices of one of the major daily English Newspapers, asked to see the editor and guess what?
It just never occurred to me that that just does not happen. I did not think there was anything unusual about walking into one of Japan’s largest English daily newspapers that I would get an audience with the editor. Nor did I think it unusual that at age 16 I was given the chance to write a weekly column on the comings and goings of the expat community in Yokohama.
Yes, I was born in and living in Japan and this was a long, long time ago.
While my classmates made pocket money babysitting or tutoring I scribbled on the comings and goings of their parents, members of the local country club, and on the visitors who came to visit from far away. I was paid by the columnar inch and you can bet your bottom dollar, my sentences were as long as I could make them. To his credit, Mr. Shibata, the man who hired me and was now my boss, printed the whole meal deal. Payment was in cash, stuffed into an ordinary envelope, sent by ordinary post and delivered by the local mailman straight into the mailbox at my home.
Long before it became trendy and fashionable to “do what you love” and get paid for it, I was doing that. Life was good even if it meant that some mornings I was up at 4.00 a.m. to write the column, fold the typed pages and stuff it into an envelope, address it to Mr. Shibata at the Mainichi Shimbun and leave it for my mother to mail that day while I was in school. Yes! Can you believe it? Snail mail … and yet it always got delivered in time for the column to appear on time.
Many, many years later, at a class reunion the bunch of us were chatting over the good times, the teachers, the school in general and where in our lives we were on that day. Suddenly, one of my classmates looked me in the eye and said “Valentina, for so long every time I picked up a magazine I would look for your name. I had images of you traveling or living on some exotic island writing, I thought that by now you would have been a famous journalist or written a book or two. What happened?”
What happened indeed.
Instantly I was struck with one of those moments when the world stops. Suddenly my subconscious regurgitated years of forgotten dreams and that seminal moment when I stood at that proverbial fork in the road and took the one over the other.
We laughed, but later that night I returned to that conversation. The question that loomed in my own mind was did I squander my natural gift? I rationalized that hey yes! I could write. But I wrote in English where few spoke the language, in an environment with a friendly entry level, that my talent fell far short of that of the journalists I admired and read, that I could never write like that.
By now I was a success in a different world, the business world. So what was the big deal?
The big deal was that eventually I found myself at yet another fork in the road. This time I took the road less traveled which has brought me to where I am today. Now I write and I publish … and more.
If you’re still with me at this point, perhaps my story resonates with you. Are you an author? A publisher? Or on reflection, did you too take the tried and true path at that juncture of life and now once again find yourself at another? Join me on these pages as I take you on my new journey … the one taken on the road less traveled. Perhaps you too have a story that you would like to share? Let’s do that together.
DigiTerata – Digital Entrepreneur
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