When I was about 13, I realized that I had a secret I could never share with anyone. I desperately wanted to tell everyone my secret. I didn’t want to live a lie. But I knew that if I did I risked being ostracized. I tried sharing my secret with my mother once and it didn’t go well. After that I knew I would always have to keep my secret to myself and pretend to be somebody else.
It was time for me to start thinking about my “vocational rehabilitation goal.” In other words, soon I would need to determine what I wanted to be once I graduated from the state boarding school for crippled children, which I called the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT).
I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I wanted to be poet. I loved everything about the poet lifestyle. They stayed up late and slept late. No curfew and reveille like at SHIT. Poets never wore ties. They wrote about how misunderstood they are. It was the perpetual lifestyle of a brooding teen. It was beautiful.
Poets were who they were and screw you if you didn’t like it. Poets never kissed anyone’s ass. But as I got a bit older, I realized that being a poet was not a prudent vocational rehabilitation goal. The one thing that sucked about being a poet was that they were always broke-ass. I knew if I was going to survive in the world beyond SHIT, I’d need lots of money. Every time I had to put on my shoes, do laundry or take a crap, I’d have to pay somebody to help me. So I adjusted my secret vocational rehabilitation goal from being a poet to being a rich poet. That wouldn’t be too hard for me. I wrote so much kick-ass poetry. I could easily crank out a book every month or so and sell about a million copies.
I also knew if I wanted the state to pay for my college education I could never tell my vocational rehabilitation counselor of my secret vocational rehabilitation goal. If I wanted the state to pay, I would have to aspire to be something “employable,” like a social worker. And then I could get a job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, telling cripples they had to become social workers.
My mother was also asking me a lot about my vocational rehabilitation goal. So I finally told her straight up one day that I wanted to be a poet. She said, “But honey----.” And that’s all I remember her saying. But she probably said something like, “But honey, maybe you should do something practical for a living and write poetry as a hobby.” One day my mother proudly announced that she had a great idea for how I could pursue my dream of writing poetry while still making a living. “Maybe you could work for a greeting card company, like Hallmark!” I bet they pay fabulous money!” Greeting card poetry? Never had I been more misunderstood.
So I never spoke of my secret vocational rehabilitation goal again. But by the time college rolled around, I no longer wanted to be a poet. I discovered a higher calling. I had a new secret vocational rehabilitation goal that dared not speak its name: stand-up comedian.
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