The idea came like a wild dream when I was a child. The kid I was, I didn’t give it much thought. And the next thing I knew, I had become too busy entertaining myself with the adventures I came up with, of things that never really happened. I was too young back then. Too innocent to realize how absurd it was for a little girl to rise to fame by writing.
Like any other 11-year-old, I failed to see the actual scale of such an ambition. My ever-so-supportive parents raised me to believe that impossibilities like this one would be within reach if I work hard and strive harder. So I did. I wrote a number of unfinished stories, some to be forgotten and never to be completely told, and others that I hopelessly continue to this date. I don’t know what drove me to go forward. Despite the grammatical errors, the sentences that exposed the nonsense of carelessly chosen words, I enjoyed writing. Back then, that alone was enough.
At 13, I started to dream about the future that lay ahead. “Do what you love,” they say, “and you’ll never go wrong a day in your life.” I wanted to be a writer. This time, I knew I was serious. I started reading famous works, doing my best to learn what I could from the masters. I studied the origins of poetry, the elements of a good novel, the timeless classics—using all the means I had to be a step closer to the star I longed to reach, believing that someday, maybe not today, my name would be immortalized on the pages of a book.
I believe it was also at this time that I became most productive in my work. Most of the concepts and ideas of my current novels stemmed from the time I was alone in the afternoons with nothing to distract me as I sat back and faced the computer. Fantasies, reveries, of witches and swords, of fairies and gods, of angels with wings—all in a world I created in my mind. I went to romance, of a love not meant to be, of two people of different roads, of circumstances that only happened on chance and coincidences. I went on to suspense, of a killer within the midst, waiting to strike when he was least expected. I tried different genres. It was an adventure for me, each story having its different take, its different pace.
From fiction, I began to seek something different. From happy endings and once-upon-a-times, I began to experiment on a new perspective. It wasn’t something I regret doing, but for someone of that age, I was probably better off with my fairy tales. Politics became an issue in which I was deeply immersed. Alongside the Philippines’ current affairs, religions and sects and the philosophies of great minds weren’t the easiest subjects to deal with. I needed to do my part of the research before going on ahead. I needed to watch my language, make sure every word could deliver my point without unintentionally offending anyone.
There was one essay I was truly proud of that lay somewhere within this field, an essay I dedicated to a woman of good heart, who became the mother of a whole nation. It was an essay I dedicated to former President Corazon Aquino sometime after her death. Sadly, it was lost somewhere in my old notebooks.
When I turned 14, I started to feel reality sinking in. What if I don’t succeed and end up jobless? What if publishers refuse to accept my work? The what-ifs woke me in my sleep, clouding my mind with concern and worries that a girl my age shouldn’t be thinking about.
Criticism was not a friend of mine. There was always the desire for approval. I couldn’t imagine myself facing the media and critiques of what I had written—some of my controversial ideas, thoughts probably better off in my head than in fine print. My fear of failure pulled me back on my feet. When the harsh truth strikes, only a few want to face it. How many successful writers has the Philippines produced who received the recognition they deserve? Not enough, I suppose. The problem is, great novelists like Rizal only appear in the face of adversity. People like him are often unappreciated in their time. Society speaks highly of Rizal, but he’s not alive right now to hear our praise, is he?
In a country with an unsteady economy, I needed to rethink my goals. Providing for my family was my priority, so I had to know: If I do become a writer someday, will I make enough to cater to my own needs? I considered other jobs, other things that I could vent my interests on and be assured that I’d have a sure income there. Writing can always be a hobby, I told myself.
I considered being a teacher; perhaps I wanted the audience, the attention. I thought of being a businesswoman; maybe a good wardrobe was all I wanted. But at the end of the day, I still found myself at the computer keyboard, writing whatever felt right at the moment. I realized that I could never really abandon the thing that I love the most.
Now that I’m 15, the question remains unanswered. I’ll be a high school senior in the next school year. My plans for the future are blurred. God gave us what we have for a reason. I’m still finding mine. I’m young, and it’s too soon to say what God has planned for me. I don’t want to make mistakes, but I do know that it’s through the struggles that you learn. Life’s crossroads? You’ll never know they exist until you get there. One day in a person’s life, he/she will be given two choices that will change his/her life forever. And as the great Robert Frost once said, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” In a world ruled by monotony, by routine and never-ending steps, everyone is called to make a difference, no matter how small. The question is how, in what way…
I don’t want to feel regret. I don’t want to look back at my past as a wrong turn down the road and see myself as a disappointment. I don’t want all my efforts to go to waste. I can’t. Surprisingly, I’m no longer afraid of failing. I have brushed it off, after understanding that failure molds a person to become better in his/her craft.
What I am scared of, really, is the possibility of finding myself in my office 20 years from now, finishing a book, reaching the back page, and seeing it’s by a rising novelist the world knows nothing about. It’s haunting me, asking what could have been if I chose a different path.
I was 11 when I started dreaming of becoming a writer, 13 when I realized I was serious, 14 when I grasped the reality of it being almost impossible to attain. And at 15, I am still dreaming and ever hoping…
Maria Katreena Saguid, 15, studies at St. John Mary Vianney Academy in Antipolo City.