By J.W. Schnarr
I started to think about being a writer when I was in Grade 7. Before that, ask me what I wanted to be for a living, and you’d get whatever answer I could come up with that I thought might shock you the most. A lot of times, it was to be an undertaker or something similarly “creepy.”
Please remember that I was 14 at the time. I’ve come to see the undertaking profession as an honourable and important part of our society. At the time however, it was, ‘Muahahah! Dead bodies!’
Before that age, I was just a liar with no real outlets for my lies.
And what a liar I was! As a kid, I was willing and quite happy to tell people any lie I could think of if it meant they might like me more, or it meant they might be impressed with my awesomeness for even a few minutes. I remember once, after a round of Bruce Lee movies with my cousin, he proclaimed Bruce was so awesome at Jeet Kun Do that he could easily move his internal organs from one side of his body to the other to avoid having them damaged by knife wounds.
I spent weeks trying to convince some kids at school I had that ability myself. I would hold my breath and clench my teeth, and then pull my stomach muscles in and out. “You see?” I’d proclaim loudly. “My heart is now in my stomach!”
This particular lie was debunked by a kid a few grades older than me, who thought he’d test my Jeet Kun Do ‘skills’ one day after school. It was an early lesson in lying: don’t tell lies that can be debunked by getting your ass kicked.
When I first moved to Taber, going into Grade 4, I told some real whoppers. The kids here liked Transformers; coming from a small southern Ontario village with no cable or heat…or running water, I wasn’t overly sure what they were. But when some kids decided to be nice and show me their Transformers toys, I boldly proclaimed I had already collected them all.
The kids were suitably impressed, and I spent the next six months trying to make sure none of my new friends came over to my house to catch my lie. Of course, they did, eventually, but by then they had gotten used to me being around, and I was thankfully spared too much torment.
As I got older, I learned that lying about things only seemed to make them worse. It was a great procrastination tool, but I soon discovered lying to cover up some mistake I’d made only forced me to answer for that mistake AND try to remember which lies I’d told to whom. By the time I hit junior high school, my days of lying as a way to improve my life in the eyes of others were largely behind me. My lies were being channeled into something far more productive.
When I was in Grade 7, I moved from Taber to Calgary, to be re-united with my mom after spending four years with my dad. One of the first friends I made was this kid named Jason Goodman who lived in a group home near my house. We had a lot in common. We both loved Stephen King novels, for one thing — we spent a lot of time drawing little posters that said things like “STEPHEN IS KING”. We both spent our math classes drawing Ninja Turtle comics instead of doing our work. We also wrote a ton of really crappy horror stories, and were sure we’d both be rich horror writers one day (HAHA!).
It was in those stories that my lies were funneled.
Jason’s time in Calgary came to an end the summer before Grade 8. He went up north to live with his grandparents, or so he told me anyway — he could well have been lying about where he was going. I never talked to him again, at any rate, but my love of horror novels and the idea of being a writer has lived on, fostered and encouraged by a few important people in my life. I’m still chasing after that particular childhood dream some 25 years later, and I’m still funnelling my lies into fiction (though less interested in the “rich” part of that particular dream).
As an adult, however, I am far away from that lying little kid I once was. As I tell my daughter, being truthful is always preferred to telling lies. Truth is a constant in the universe, and while it can be coloured by perception and bias, it can be clarified through vigilance.
One thing I have going for me in this regard is that my memory is so bad these days I can’t possibly afford to tell a lie.
Even 10 minutes later, I’ll have totally forgotten it. I’m sort of like a goldfish that way.