Visiting an ENT specialist clinic some time ago, I had to go through the usual registration procedure. Apart from the usual personal particulars, the receptionist also asked for my occupation.
I replied, “Writer,” to which she asked, “You mean like a journalist?”
The two are often used interchangeably, but I believe there is a distinction between them. However, I figured that it was simply a formality, so I told her “Yes”. She did not seem convinced, but wrote that down on the form anyway.
Her next question was whether I had been subjected to any loud noises. I thought about it for a while and answered, “Not recently, but I used to visit construction sites.” Her questioning expression prompted me to go on to explain that I used to be an architect.
She murmured, “Oh, I see,” and I noticed that she moved her pen back to the previous field on occupation and added “Architect” to it. I had to suppress the urge to point out to her that I am no longer practising, but again, I figured that it was just a formality, so I left it at that.
It then occurred to me that perhaps I should also mention the noise exposure due to my past involvement in motorsport and Formula 1. She again responded with “Oh I see”, but this time with an added curiosity in her tone, accompanied by an intrigued expression on her face.
She went on to ask me about how I was involved, how I got involved. Despite the obvious irrelevance to the form at hand, I tried my best to give her the briefest of answers, condensing 20 years of involvement into a few short sentences.
All this while, I was eyeing the room full of patients who appeared to be engrossed in their doctor-waiting-room reading materials, but I knew full well that I had a captive audience.
The most bizarre thing was, her pen hovered back up to the occupation field and she again added something to it.
That really got me thinking. Was she dissatisfied with my job as a writer? Is writing not considered a real job? The way she was going about it was as if she was crafting my resume. At the rate she was going, my writer/journalist/architect/motorsport-person credentials should land me quite a fancy position.
This incident might have bothered me if it was 10 years ago when I had just left professional practice. Obviously, it was a tremendous change from working full-time for a renowned multi-disciplinary firm, inside my corner cubicle with a view and my team of draftpersons and technical associates, to becoming a freelance writer working from home.
But it was what I wanted, even if I knew a part of me would miss seeing the lines that I put on the drawing board become reality.
Writing has always given me so much pleasure. I write when I am happy, I write when I am sad, and of course, I write when I have deadlines. Through writing, I have forged an even deeper connection with the things that I love – design, architecture and cars. To have the opportunity to write about what I am passionate about is a blessing indeed.
But the greatest blessing of all is that this work arrangement gives me the flexibility to spend so much more time with my daughter during her precious growing years. I get the opportunity to share her literary ideas, to hear her share about her aspirations to become an author one day, and to see her using scotch tape to bind those loose sheets of writing into a homemade booklet.
And because we parents are all heroes in the eyes of our kids, my daughter is impressed when I point out one of the schools I designed, and equally impressed when she reads an article I penned. And that is all that really matters.