On our way down from the peak of Yosemite’s Liberty Cap, my housemate, Max, and I encountered two ill-prepared Hollanders with round bellies and jovial grins. With nothing more than a camera and a some stylish European shorts, they passed us on their way to complete the six hour hike from whence we came.
“How much farther to the top,” the one with the camera sang at me in his heavy Dutch accent.
“Depends on which top,” I replied with a smile, glancing towards the many surrounding peaks.
This halted their gleeful ascent but did little to deter the enormous dimples carved into the corners of their lips.
“Any top,” he chuckled, swaying gently in contentment. “Where are you from?”
“Berkeley,” Max offered.
“Ah ya, so are you in a Startup too?”
“No,” I giggled, gesturing towards Max. “He’s a pilot and I’m a…” I hesitated. “I’m a writer.”
We exchanged a few more pleasantries before they ultimately decided–despite the ominous rainclouds above–to carry on with their hike.
I walked away from the conversation beaming. I had finally done it. After so many sleepless nights spent running through plot lines and character arcs, thousands of hours of drafting and editing, after tens of thousands of words typed, I had finally claimed the identity of a writer as my own. I could have fallen back on my usual response: “Oh I’m starting a teaching job in December,” sometimes accompanied by a barely audible squeak, “and I’m trying to publish a novel.” But I didn’t. I don’t quite know why this particular instance inspired me to own up to my rightful title. Perhaps it was the adrenaline-driven rush of confidence that comes along with completing a challenging hike. Perhaps it was the light-hearted nature of the cheery Dutch man who asked the question. Maybe I was just too damn tired of discrediting all the emotion and energy I’ve put into this book. Regardless, now that I’ve claimed the title of writer I’m never giving it up.
“I am a writer.” Every syllable feels right.