ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 41


By Rukshani Weerasooriya

Someone once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember it clearly. I was four years old, sitting on my high chair, with my usual philosophical/worried-sparrow look on my face. I answered very decidedly, "I want to be a house." I meant it. Even at the age of four, I was tired of thinking and being an animate, mentally active entity. I was sick of the questions that popped up in my mind every so often. The ones no one wanted to answer.

The road not taken, maybe?

Such as, "Why must I grow older and not younger?." The only way to escape such mental torment and frustration was to grow up to be a sturdy, solid inanimate object, of much use to other people – such as a house!

I had a wildly imaginative mind which never ever stopped thinking, and I suppose it didn't help that my mother told me the most bizarre bed time stories. While my brother and sister were read stories from books of Greek Mythology and the Bible, my mother, inexplicably, put me to sleep by telling me stories she made up on the spur of the moment about talking iguanas who lived in secret houses all around the neighbourhood.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that this imagination-fuelled mind of mine was gradually found to have drifted off into the field of stories, poems and plays. I began to live two lives at the same time; one in the visible world where I was exactly what I appeared to be, and the other in the world of the pen and paper, where I was a princess, a boy, a monster, and sometimes, on special days, even a house!

All tied up in knots?

Writing was such an outlet for me. But as I grew older, and the time came to make decisions regarding my education and career, it was brought to my attention that the exercise of the imagination alone, and the record of such exercises in writing, would probably not give me a regular pay cheque or a comfortable, stable, life. This made me search alternative avenues for a career. And before I knew it, I had signed up to study law at my University. Why law? Possibly because it involved a lot of reading, the study of language and social evolution, visualisation of all such elements, in-depth analysis, and of course, a lot of writing. I thought those things sounded quite attractive, and they were.

I loved the four years I spent studying law. So many things were brought to life as I read those great hard-cover books, which I can never erase from my mind or cease to appreciate.

Yet, at the same time, I knew the little girl in me, who thrived on the impossible, the invisible and the unreal, longed to break out. She didn't like being restrained by hard facts, and absolute rights and wrongs which could not be played around with or made to rhyme with each other.

Life’s maze...

The four-year-old inside me finally brought to my attention the fact that I had in fact turned in to a house. I was a solid, hard, rigid-minded person, useful, no doubt, but inflexibly dull. If I wasn't all that already, it was only a matter of time before I'd become all that.

It was time to listen to my heart. Yes, law is an excellent field to be in. It is a mind-opening, life-consuming profession which can be of tremendous aid to society at large. But at the same time, in order to make a truthful, honest contribution to one's society, one must do what one's heart burns for inside. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed my legal studies, my heart longed to express its very core in the form of poetry and writing. I found that I could be nothing else but a writer in the end. A writer with a law degree, but a writer nonetheless.

Was it a hard decision? Yes. I won't make as much money as I can as a lawyer, or experience the satisfaction of winning a court-case. Instead of living like a Queen, I may have to live in a one-bedroom flat and spend my life explaining to concerned loved-ones why I'd rather write then practice law. It isn't the smoothest path to walk, but perhaps, by walking it, I will know what it’s like to be true to myself and the leading of my heart.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.