Cutting Up

I was in third grade when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I don’t, however, have one of those stories in which writing was all I ever wanted to do for my entire life. I guess I wanted to be a writer until about sixth grade, when I discovered that I liked pretty clothes and boys and going to the movies and listening to 45s while I sang along with the Beach Boys. It wasn’t that I wanted to be something else; I just never gave it another thought.

And then it was time to go off to college where knowing how I wanted to spend my working life was actually important. The trouble was, at that point I had no idea what I wanted to be when I graduated and went into the world on my own. I’d forgotten that I wanted to be a writer, and wouldn’t have known what to study even if I had remembered.

This led to that, and I quit school and didn’t return until 1975. The good news is that by that time I knew just what I wanted to be: a writer. Between graduating from high school and going back to college, something happened that changed my life: the Watergate Scandal. Of course, it changed President Nixon’s life a bit more than mine, but what it did for me was make me think that I wanted to be a journalist. A person who writes the news.

So, I selected journalism as my major when I returned to school, and while it turned out that I hated being a newspaper reporter, J-School taught me to write. It also taught me that I didn’t want to write the news; I wanted to write about life.

For the next 30 years, my various jobs entailed at least some writing, though most of it wasn’t about life. Instead, most of it was marketing in nature. But even within those parameters, I enjoyed writing.

Having said all of the above, I got to thinking recently about what I would like to have been when I grew up if I could choose any career. Before I tell you what I would choose, I have to mention that my choice comes with the caveat that I would have had to have had a different kind of brain than I do, one that likes biology and physics and chemistry, all subjects that in real life I not only HATED, but were difficult for me and in which I did not perform well.

So, here goes: If I could choose a career, I would be a forensic pathologist. Yes, friends, I would be that person who is first on a murder scene, and when the detectives show up, I will already be examining the size and shape of the wound, checking rigidity to determine time of death, and checking to see the identity of the body. Soon I would be in the laboratory, cutting a y-shape into the torso to examine the organs for signs of poisons.

To be honest, my gag reflex is acting up even as I write these words, so it’s a good thing I didn’t choose that field in real life. Still, the idea of examining a body to solve the mystery of the person’s death is very appealing to me.

Besides, in all of the mystery shows I watch, the forensic pathologist is always the most interesting person at the crime scene.