The way we perceive ourselves is a peculiar thing. As a child I had high hopes and wild dreams for what I would be when I grew up but as the years passed by those hopes and dreams faded like a hop scotch court drawn in chalk on the pavement. I no longer knew what I wanted to be and I drifted along from job to job, sometimes loving it, sometimes hating it, but never really feeling fulfilled.
Looking back the truth seems blindingly obvious – it wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but that I didn’t dare say the words out loud. I wouldn’t allow myself to tell the world what I had always known – that when I grew up I wanted to be a writer. I don’t think I have ever told anyone this but when I was eleven I wrote my first book and sent it to a publisher for their consideration. I can’t really remember it now but I know the main character was a hedgehog and I drew a line half way down each page where the illustrations would need to go (my art skills have always been lacking). I wish now I had kept the letter the publishers kindly sent me in response, thanking me and letting me down so gently.
The sad thing is my dreams of being a writer disappeared not through lack of desire or interest but because I was so convinced that people like us are not writers, or musicians, or actors, or artists. People like us are care workers, or barmaids, or maybe, if you work hard enough, and are really lucky, teachers. Since I met my husband, George, he has gently but persistently encouraged me to write again, in both practical and emotional terms, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Here I am at age 36 having worked for an international magazine, published successful blogs, and written a whole book, and I still feel uncomfortable saying the words out loud ‘I am a writer.’ It makes me feel itchy and squirm, and I avoid it. When people ask me what I’m doing in Ecuador I say ‘nothing’ or make light of it by declaring ‘I’m a housewife.’
The truth is I am a writer. Nothing else has ever given me that same level of excitement, energy, and enthusiasm. I have never woken up in the morning and bounded out of bed for any other job. I have never had to be dragged away from any other occupation, only to creep back as soon as the coast was clear. The truth is people like us have to force ourselves to say those words and believe them. We can’t give up on our hopes and our dreams. My name is Joski Byrne and I’m not a housewife, or carer, or teacher. I am a writer.