Netanya Joy

I’m basically an anomaly. I don’t like chocolate, cannot stand coffee, and I blast Taylor Swift when I think no one’s around. If you thought I couldn’t get any stranger, I also would sooner shut myself in the house with a book than go out and party on Friday nights like a normal college student.

I have lived in the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania all my life, the city known for its great cheese steaks and brotherly love. Kind of ironic, actually, since there are some pretty rotten people in Philly, so don’t expect too much love if you go there. Just keeping it real, folks.

Anyway, that’s the short version. If you want to get deep, keep scrolling.

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When I was in 3rd grade, I wanted to be a veterinarian.

That dream was replaced with another in the 6th grade when I saw the Cleopatra exhibit at the Franklin Institute, where I thought about how thrilling life would be as an archaeologist. After all, history is my favorite thing after fantasy novels. Soon after, however, I changed my mind a second time and decided I wanted to become a teacher (really bad idea, I’m so glad I eventually persuaded myself against it).

None of those career options seemed to stick.

Of course, deciding what career path to take at the age of 11 appears rather unrealistic when a tween still has years of experience and growth ahead of them. However, discovering what I was supposed to do in life at a young age helped me better navigate through teenage and early adult life.

I’ve always loved stories. I grew up in the realms of Lewis, Tolkien, Grimm, and many others (for this much credit is due to my parents and relations), and there I thrived. Some of my best memories include the ones of my dad reading The Hobbit to my siblings and I around the campfire, in the Misty Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. In school, I wrote poems and short stories, sometimes as a class assignment but mostly for fun. In 7th grade, I discovered the seed to a story idea I could make my own.

I began writing the book when I was 12. I did not know how long it would be, or if it would be the first of a series, or if I would ever finish. All I knew was I had a concept in my mind screaming for release from its dark, chaotic prison—a.k.a my brain. For a writer, there’s nothing more irritating or distracting than a story that refuses to go away.

So I wrote.

I outlined.

I researched.

And wrote some more.

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It’s an ongoing process that I’m still going through today. See, as a kid in the middle school, I was not—and still am not—too organized, so the story came out in bits and pieces. Furthermore, it seemed just as I was beginning this endeavor, I was moving on to high school, where both the workload and the people are demanding. I wrote when I could, but receiving a private education is a double-edged sword. If you want to do well, you have to sacrifice much of what you love the most.

This is life, however, and a major component of the writing process is purposefully finding time to do the writing part. While I was often occupied by 10+ page papers and quadratic equations that refused to solve themselves, I never forgot the world growing in my mind. I could have abandoned my project, but if a story holds to you for seven years I have the highest of doubts it will let go any time soon.

All I can say is this: I escaped the stresses and burdens of choosing a major to go to school for by realizing what I was supposed to do when I was young. Even if my writing never makes it to someone’s bookshelf, I know my career will involve books. Of course I have been told that writing will only get me so far, but I am willing to take that chance.

I’m still writing. One day I will finish, regardless of whether someone wants to publish it or not. Because that’s all a writer can do, isn’t it? A writer writes not because it’s easy, or because they will gain something from it, but because someone in the big, bad world needs to hear their story.

Even if that someone is them.