What do you want to be when you grow up? by Melody Quinn

If you had known me when I was a child, you would have thought that working for a publishing company has always been my dream job. The answer is yes, but no.
I still remember career day in elementary school. They liked asking us over and over again what we wanted to be when we grew up. They even had us dress up in costumes that represented our future careers of choice and take pictures for our parents. For most of my childhood, my answer would have been that I wanted to be a teacher like my parents, and their parents, and everyone else in the family. (I shudder every time I think of being a teacher now, although I can’t say why.) No, that is not the job for me.
There was a short period of time between learning how to read and write and starting middle school that I might have answered the question by gazing wistfully off into the distance and whispering, “A writer.” I wrote and illustrated my first story book when I was ten. My head was, and still is, full of fantastical worlds and characters, but that always seemed more like a hobby to pursue at the end of the day once I clocked out from my real job.
As I was preparing to enter middle school, I began to realize that I wasn’t choosing my future career for the right reasons. I needed a job that would get me somewhere. MB, if you’re reading this, I believe that you might have something to do with these thoughts about stability and income. They didn’t belong in a ten-year-old’s mind, but rather in the mind of a seventeen-year-old who was getting ready to head off to college. My sister chose at that time to study medicine. She wanted to become a doctor. (Ironically, she ended up being a teacher.) I thought she was making a smart choice…and I liked animals…so why not make a break for freedom from becoming teachers together? I decided that I was going to become a veterinarian! I clutched the stethoscope and stuffed dog proudly in the photo that year.
I kept up my belief that I was going to become a veterinarian until my sophomore year in college. My family and friends were split down the middle in their support. Half of them were glad that I knew what I wanted to be and believed that I could do anything I set my mind to. The other half…well, they politely disagreed. They know that I’m not good with blood or emergency situations. Also, they knew my science grades. I will not repeat them now, but you should know that science was one of my worst subjects.
Still, I was resolute. Support or no, I proudly proclaimed to the counselor at the junior college that I attended for two years that I needed to take whatever classes would allow me to become a veterinarian. It was a struggle, to say the least, and gradually my resolve began to waver. It became harder and harder to sit through science class. Deep down, I knew that science wasn’t my strong suit, and that was okay. I found myself tempted to skip out of science lab almost every other day.
My escape at that time was books. I am a classic English nerd. Reading and writing – those sum up the majority of my life. I caught on slowly in elementary school, but boy when my mind finally grasped the alphabet, no book was off limits. I found myself especially drawn to YA Fantasy and Dystopian stories. (Seriously, I could talk your ear off for hours about Dystopian novels.) And that reflected in the stories that I wrote.
Looking back, I can’t believe how an English nerd lasted in those science classes for so long. Organic chemistry is what finally broke me. I remember running to my car after failing yet another lab, tears streaming down my cheeks and a stack of library books pressed to my chest. What followed was hours of crying and praying and the realization that, unfortunately, I was going to have to drop out of organic chemistry. I was not going to be a veterinarian. Yes, I loved animals, but I couldn’t build a career on that.
The question was…what was I going to do now? I knew, even before I got my associate degrees and transferred to SFASU, even after signed up for the English and Technical Writing degree program, even after I got a job at the library and an internship at the SFASU Press, even after my plans to move to NYU and work at a big publishing company fell through, and yes, even after I had to take a data inputting desk job after graduating, that I wanted to work in book publishing.
I wanted it more than I wanted to be a teacher. Or a veterinarian. Or an author. (Maybe.)
And I would do it.
So here I am. My name is Melody Quinn and I am an associate editor at TouchPoint Press. It wasn’t exactly what I thought a job as a book editor would be, but I tell people every day that it is my dream job. Being able to help create books and connect with wonderful, inspiring authors is something I could never have dreamed of the first time someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I like to think that the answer was inside of me the whole time…the part of my brain that knew that just wasn’t paying attention that day because it was reading.
What is the moral of my tale? Follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and push yourself. Always seek counsel from the Lord and your loved ones. But if you know in your heart that you’re a book nerd, or a science wiz, or whatever you are, then don’t fight it. Embrace it. I promise you’ll be a lot happier when you come home at the end of the day.

1 thought on “What do you want to be when you grow up? by Melody Quinn

  1. I’m late arriving, but finally made it.
    When I was in kindergarten, I remember distinctly wanting to be either a fireman or a garbage man. Not because I was interested in fires or garbage, but because I wanted to ride around in those big trucks.
    Like you, I began writing stories and poems in 4th or 5th grade. And from those earliest dabblings in “literature,” I knew I wanted to not only a writer, but an author.
    My writing had matured considerably by 10th grade, when my first story was “published” in the school literary annual.
    Later, additional validation and a few awards.
    Like you, I considered teaching, but not because of any kin in the field — because I’d been so inspired by some of my own teachers. I kept that career in my view for several years, believing I’d teach for several years, shift into guidance counseling, and all the while I’d be writing.
    Well, life came out differently.
    I went into journalism, enlisted in the Air Force, got married and helped raise two kids.
    Had a 30 year career in librarianship.
    During those library years I also wrote a lot and published a lot — non-fiction, poetry, reviews, etc.
    Retired, and finally turned my “full-time” attention to writing. FICTION.

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