Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Carol Howard
I was a graduate student, studying dolphins and living in a funky cottage near the ocean. Every Saturday morning, I'd do my laundry at a laundromat next door to a small, breakfast-only restaurant. I'd load my clothes into the washing machine and then go next door for breakfast. By the time I finished eating, my clothes were done in the washer. After shoving my laundry into the dryer, I'd go for a walk along the beach or around the yacht harbor. When I got back, my laundry was dry.
I was such a regular at the breakfast joint that I got to know Kathy, the waitress, fairly well. One morning she asked me if I'd be interested in cheap rent. I was. The person with the rental unit was co-owner and cook at the breakfast place. She wasn't working that day, but Kathy said she'd recommend me to her.
Kathy later told me she'd tried to describe me to the cook, to pinpoint me among their array of regular customers. "Marine biologist, over easy," she said. That tickled me—to be defined as much by how I like my eggs as by my career choice.
"Marine biologist, over easy" also was an apt description of my career status. Not that I found it easy. Rather, I'd been flipped over only lightly in that particular frying pan and was still rather runny in the yolk.
I guess my career path more generally has tended toward the runny. I studied psychology, speech pathology, and science writing before I turned to marine mammals. And I didn't stop there. Though I still love dolphins and the sea as much as ever, I'm now making my living as a writer.
I guess that makes me a writer, over easy. Except my customary egg choice has changed. So make that writer, scrambled. I doubt I'll ever be a hard-boiled writer. Coddled would be lovely, but I'm not counting on it. Maybe if I could publish more books I'd be sunny side up about it all.
I've often envied those people who seem to know from the age of five (or college age anyway) exactly what they want to be when they grow up and then go about being it. I just never figured out how to make that work.
I like to think I am defined by the breadth and depth of my experiences, not by any given title. Or perhaps it's that we carry many titles. Most often these days I describe myself as a writer—or science writer. But I probably am identified at least as often as "Hannah's mommy." I'm also Joel's wife. And Renie's sister and Bob Howard's daughter and Lisa's friend and Shambles' owner. The woman who runs the coffee stand downstairs in my office building knows me as a "tall decaf."
I am writer, biologist, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, pet owner, coffee drinker, egg eater, beach walker. Some of it over. But not easy.
Carol Howard lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the author of Dolphin Chronicles (Bantam Books, 1996) and is a member of the Feckless WOE writing group.
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