Skills From My Youth

Yesterday, I went to an office supply store to make a photo copy of the copyright page of my first book. As I was leaving, I walked past a sale table and a typewriter was sitting there looking oddly out of place.

MP900387619[1]The temptation to stop, run my fingers over those keys, listen to the click, hear the carriage return was huge. I was immediately transported back to high school where I’d taken a typewriting class at age fifteen. The feel of loading a new page, watching the words magically appear, backspacing and white-out, and crumpled pages filling a wastepaper basket ran through my mind. Ah: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. How many times did I type that one?

I can still remember the teacher walking around behind us and telling us to keep our chins up, no peeking at the keys…thirty young girls in long rows, learning new skills. I tried hard to recall how many words per minute I could achieve back then. The number evaded me. While I wasn’t a very competitive kid, especially when it came to grades or playing competitive sports, typing was something I did challenge myself with. I would compete with my numbers all the time, always delighting in small successes.

At the completion of high school the school counselor advised I enter the world of the secretary. He did not envision me pursuing a university degree.  Maybe a technical college, he suggested. We had a good college available in my small Australian town. Right out of high school, I was offered a job in banking using my secretarial skills and could have worked my way up within the banking system; however, I chose a career in nursing. I went on to graduate as an RN, get a post graduate degree in ICU/CCU nursing, and further my career working with some of the best heart surgeons in the US.

Why had I decided on nursing? At the tender age of seventeen I thought there was no way my restless soul could sit at a desk all day. That would be boring! Fast forward nearly fifty years and what am I doing? You got it! Yes, I’m sitting at a desk and tapping away on a keyboard and sometimes with breakneck speed, and thoroughly enjoying myself. I put in long hours too, more than the eight hours per day. But it’s different. How? Secretarial work would have belonged to someone else. I’d have been typing letters, memos, filling out paperwork. Now I’m creating whole new worlds with characters I adore, and creating choices for them that get them into hot water. Then I have to find ingenious ways for them to handle their problem, before I find yet another one to toss into their path, and every six months or so I get to do it all over again with a different setting, and different players.

It’s pure joy for this restless soul!

Who’d have thought I’d owe today’s happiness to a skill I learned at age fifteen?

What about you? Is there anything you imagined yourself never doing when you were young and have rediscovered, and now enjoy?

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18 Responses to Skills From My Youth

  1. Janie Emaus says:

    OMG! You brought back so many memories. I remember those tests and the typing teacher marching up and down the aisles. But it did pay off. BTW, I’m also really fast at a ten key adding machine!

  2. Gina Bono says:

    My mom taught me how to type when I was in sixth grade, so I never took an actual typing class. I looooved to type. We had an electric typewriter at home and I made my own magazine, although I never showed the “issues” to anyone. I’d cut out pictures from magazines and type up my own “human interest” stories. I’m sure I’d die laughing if I read them now – lol. I had so much fun writing them, though.

    We actually have a typewriter at work that people use occasionally. When someone turns it on and I hear that familiar hum, followed by the clack of keys, it always takes me back 🙂

    • robena grant says:

      Gina, I can see you writing those articles. What a fun thing to do. I think you should find out if your mother kept any of your magazines. I’m betting she did. : )

  3. Skye Hughes says:

    I took my typing class at the age of 14 and received my first manual typewriter at 15. I treasured that machine and carted it off to college with me! It was a godsend. For college graduation, my folks bought me an electric typewriter, which was like heaven after that heavy Smith-Corona.

    I do wish I’d kept my typewriter. It would be a nostalgia piece. Of course, I’m much happier with a computer keyboard now.

    I thought I would be a secretary, like my mom. And a writer. And a mom. Who knew I would be a single tech writer? I’m at least working on the fiction part, too.

    • robena grant says:

      They weighed a ton, didn’t they? We had one that lived on the bottom shelf of a cupboard and had to be put away after use. If I had to lift that baby today I’d throw my back out. Ha ha. I’ll bet you’re a good fiction writer too, Skye. Keep on writing!

  4. Sam Beck says:

    As much as you loved to type, I’m glad you didn’t follow your guidance counselor’s advice! If you had taken a different path, we might not have Robena Grant, the writer, today. 🙂

    • robena grant says:

      I know! If I hadn’t become a nurse and been able to travel so much with that career, I’d still be living in my small home town. But, you know, I could have ended up as president of the bank. ; )

  5. I remember my older sister’s brand spanking new Smith Corona typewriter when I around twelve. The first thing I did was write a book. It was a mystery and the protagonist’s name was Carrie. I hand colored the book cover. Oh, how I wish I’d kept that.
    Fast forward to my twenties – I was a medical transcriber using an electric IBM and could blast out 75 words a minute. I also remember writing a book about two people sending each other letters (a kinda sorta love story) and giving it to a friend to read. She was of the school of thinking – if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all (kind of like some of the agents and editors around these days LOL) and she never gave me a single ounce of feedback. I packed that book away deciding I’d better hone my other skills. That’s when I went back to school (Nursing school). Forgot about writing books for many, many years…until my late mid-life crisis and After All came pouring out of my brain.
    Ah, thanks for the memories (cue Bob Hope) kid!

    • robena grant says:

      I did not know this about you, Lynne. You and Gina both surprised me today with your early writing. I’ll bet your romance was good.
      I wrote plays once upon a time and my siblings acted them out for our parents…oh, and I wrote really bad, awfully horrible, totally pathetic poetry. Hah!

  6. Glad you enjoy writing books. I also took a typing class when I was younger. I hated it at the time but I find myself using that skill in many, many ways.

  7. robena grant says:

    Thanks, Judy. : ) I’ll bet there are people who had learned to sew, crotchet, take photographs, cook, draw or paint, as a youngster and then in later years were drawn back in some form or other, perfected their craft, and went on to have success.

  8. Oh my—the typing class. Miss Martin gave only two grades: “A” or “F”. Zero mistakes = “A”
    One or more mistakes: “F”

    Talk about high anxiety!
    “No if the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” That went along with that darn brown fox. LOL.

    I shudder to think how sore our fingers would be now if we were still chained to those Smith Coronas!

  9. Julie says:

    Oooo I loved typing class. Even though I was about average, not quite up there with the very fastest students (we had some boys enrolled). When my kids went to school computers were just getting started, so they all learned “keyboarding” (and what a gift that was).

    Great post, and yeah, these roads we end up traveling certainly are an adventure!

  10. robena grant says:

    Yep, they sure are Julie. But my guess is it’s those turns in the road that keep us young, huh? Or if not young, at least engaged in life. : )