I always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I could scrawl words onto paper, the ideas for stories flowed. I loved making up names for new characters and creating adventures.
But during my formative years, I did consider two other possible career choices. In the primary grades, I attended a small parochial school. I enjoyed listening to Bible stories and reading about the many characters and their problems. Like an ancient soap opera, we learned tales about fighting brothers, a prodigal son, people being turned into salt, a coat of many colors, greed, betrayal, adultery, and a giant-slayer. Around second or third grade I decided that I might want to be a pastor when I grew up. I liked the outfit—black shirt, black pants and white collar—and I also knew that the pastor got a free house next to the church.
I even started conducting Sunday morning services in my bedroom when my parents had been out late on Saturday night and wanted to sleep in the next morning instead of driving us to Sunday school. I don’t know how my little brother felt about this, but I planned a different hymn and Bible verse each week. I did not know if women could even become Lutheran pastors. We only saw older men reading the sermons at our small suburban church. But I still considered it a viable career choice.
A few years later, after an embarrassing incident in fifth grade, a new career option presented itself: children’s optometrist. As a youngster, no one had a clue that I needed eyeglasses. When I was a small child, I used to sit in a weird double-jointed frog-like way on the living room rug in front of the television set to watch “Captain Kangaroo” and “Romper Room.”
In elementary school, I usually sat in the front row of the classroom. Most of my teachers were older women, probably counting down the days until retirement. For their own sanity, they placed the well-behaved children like me in the first and second rows. The trouble-makers were left to their own devices in the back of the classroom to sleep or run amok.
But in fifth grade, I had my first male teacher, Mr. Renninger. I remember that he called all of us, boys and girls, by our last names like ball players. “Kovach, Eliason, Wright, etc.” Mr. Renninger decided to arrange our desks in alphabetical order. In that fifth-grade classroom, I ended up in the back row, behind Johnson. One fateful day, Mr. Renninger wrote a word on the blackboard and called on me to read the word out loud. From my vantage point in the way back of the classroom, I squinted my eyes and said, “Dinosaur?”
The word was “diamond” and the whole class laughed at me. Fortunately, Mr. Renninger knew that Kovach, the straight-A student and excellent reader and speller, would not have made that mistake. That afternoon he called my mother and suggested that I needed eyeglasses to see the blackboard. That led to my visit to a kindly neighborhood optometrist, Dr. Miller, and my first pair of tortoise-shell eyeglasses. Dr. Miller told me to wear my new glasses only for distance—like reading words on the blackboard, watching TV or going to the movies.
Several years later in high school, I finally decided to get contact lenses since I could not see the cute guys driving by when I hung outside with my friends and ended up waving at practically every car. My transition from young eyeglass-wearer to contact lens-wearer, deepened my desire to think about pursuing a career in optometry. I even sent away for information on an optometry school in Manhattan.
However, once I started college, I focused on my one true passion—creative writing—and never looked back.
Kim Kovach helps high school students write college application essays with personality. Learn more at kimkovachwrites.com.