I’m going to need a bigger mantle or how I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

It has been quite a while since I posted, in fact this is my first post of 2014, but as I wrap up my final semester on my 3rd college degree I have finally figured out the answer to a question I have heard many times throughout my life. What do you want to be when you grow up? Before the age of 11 my answer would vary. I remember saying astronaut or cowboy or scientist when my grandparents would constantly ask me this question. But after the original Jurassic Park movie came out in 1993 the answer always involved Paleontologist. As I got older and went through school the Paleontology option stayed the same but I also added some stipulations, Paleontologist or Marine Biologist or Paleobotanist. It was always something to do with science, these were my favorite classes growing up, and I loved learning about nature and how things worked.

But being some sort of scientist is not what I ended up being when I got older, though my first degree does have science in the title! I have a Liberal Arts B.A. in Political Science an Associates of Applied Science in Disaster Preparedness and now my most recent degree is a Bachelor’s in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Fitting all of these diplomas along with my wife’s B.A. in English and Master’s in English Literature on the mantle is going to take some fancy maneuvering but I already have a Facebook picture planned out in my head.

So how did I end up working at Hanford on top of millions of gallons of nuclear waste? I joined the Air Force in 2003 at the age of 21 to make myself grow up. It worked, but I quickly knew that a career in the military was not for me. I did learn valuable skills and was trained in Emergency Management in the Air Force, teaching classes and running exercises for a little over four years. I switched into the Air Guard in 2005, moved back to Boise to focus on finishing college, and met my future beautiful blushing bride in acting class my first semester back at Boise State. She was wearing a Star Wars shirt the first time I met her so it was definitely meant to be. I worked my butt off and was able to graduate in 2008, the same semester as Ellie, and after a short stint at the Census Bureau I was able to snag a job at Hanford. One of the more valuable lessons I have learned as I get older is that the old adage it’s not what you know but who you know is oh so very true.

I am just now getting back into the field of Emergency Management, recently accepting a job in the discipline again, after working at Hanford for almost five years in Operations. I am looking forward to the change and challenge of the new position, and the good sized raise that comes along with it, but I honestly can’t see myself doing this for another 30+ years. My former boss, the one who originally hired me at the Hanford site likes to ask me the question I mentioned earlier every time I go and visit her, what do you want to be when you grow up? The answer has always been I don’t know or I’m not sure or something to do with movies, which after three degrees not having anything to do with movies is probably not going to happen. But the question has been on my mind quite a bit lately after I accepted this new job to go back into a field that my background is in, and I now have two degrees in.

Ellie and I have recently been talking about what we want in the future and how we can get there; this seems to be a pretty normal conversation for people as they get older. Being the anti-social animal loving couple that we are we both agree that we want a ranch set a way from the hustle and bustle of people where we can be with the animals we love and help those animals that are in need of it. While still being close enough that the friends and family we love and want to be around can come and visit every so often, but not too often. So how do we get there, and not have it take 30 or more years to achieve? Winning the lottery really isn’t a viable option as much as I would like it to be, but working as much as I do and not enjoying it all that much, other than the nice paychecks, and having Ellie work in a job that she doesn’t particularly care for either for the next few decades doesn’t really appeal to us either.

I have always heard that if you find a job that you love to do then you will never work a day in your life. This to me has never meant that you don’t work hard but if you find something that you love doing and truly enjoy doing it then you won’t mind the tediousness of it. I think I have finally found that thing. I have always been a reader. I love to read and get lost in a story and the characters that come to life on the page. But I have never been a writer. English was never my best subject growing up, and still isn’t, I always tell people I married an English major for a reason. But since I first came up with an idea for a story and started world building on it over five years ago I have found myself unable to stop thinking about it and continue the building. I was scared when I started writing on the story several years ago, terrified actually because I have never written anything of length and I have always thought my writing kind of sucked. But once I made myself stop editing everything I wrote as I went along and just got it down on the page I found that I really enjoyed writing. I enjoyed going into a scene with an idea and then my characters reacting in a totally different way than I had originally imagined it in my head. I like that it’s hard, that it’s frustrating, and that I can’t stop thinking about things I want to change on my revisions or coming up with new ideas.

I have over 50k words down on my first book and I am going to double that at a minimum before I start my first revision and I am planning on a series of five books total. I have to pretty much carry around a notebook all the time because ideas will randomly pop up in my head at the most ridiculous times and I have to get them written down so I can revisit them later. I know I have many years to go before I will be ready to try and get my book published but I look forward to the work and relish the opportunity to work on something I am really passionate about. Even then I will have to be extremely lucky to be able to make this into my career like I want and even if I somehow get published and make a little money off of my book I more than likely won’t be able to quit my job and write full time, but that sure as hell is not going to stop me from trying.

Now that this latest degree is finished and I am hopefully finished with college forever I plan on stepping up my reading quota and writing every day. This blog will be a part of that process, but after not actually writing on my book in quite a while and focusing on getting good grades in school instead, I plan on taking the advice that I have heard repeated over and over by successful writers. In order to succeed at being a writer you must write, and you must read as much as possible, especially books in the genre you plan on being published in. So that is exactly what I am going to do. I have stacks of books just waiting for me to get lost in, 50k words written and several notebooks full of ideas, maps, and characters that I am looking forward to going through and continuing to write on. I don’t feel overwhelmed or scared by the prospect of being rejected dozens of times by publishers and agents, all authors have to go through that. I feel happy that at the age of 32 I can finally give my former boss a definitive answer to her question the next time she asks me. What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m going to be a speculative fiction writer.