Mario Villalobos


  • Journal

If I grew up in Montana, would I be a cowboy today? Would I walk into this shop and be excited to pick out one of these cowboy hats? Prior to junior year of high school, I loathed writing. I was never any good at it, and I hated that I couldn’t plug in sentences into my essays like I could numbers in math. But my junior year English teacher changed that. She made writing fun. She assigned more creative writing projects than any of my previous English teachers ever had, and my creativity blossomed because of it. I had fun writing my stories, and she told me she loved reading them. She was the one who told me to apply to the screenwriting program at USC, and when I was accepted, she was one of the first teachers I told. Her name was Mrs. O’Connor, and I will never forget her.

However, by the time the plague shut down the world and we were all locked inside our homes, I had decided that I didn’t want to be a writer anymore. Ever since I first met my other screenwriting classmates at USC, I’ve wondered if I was ever meant to be a writer. My stories were always different, the way I viewed writing was always different, and my tastes compared to theirs was always different. One day, when I was locked inside my home wondering how I would spend all my newfound free time, I reminisced on the moment when I decided to walk down the writer’s path, and I realized it was in Mrs. O’Connor’s English class. Before I entered her class, I was on the path of becoming some sort of engineer. I was always good at math, and I figured I should do something that was heavy in it. But Mrs. O’Connor made the prospect of becoming a writer fun and exciting, and I based my life decisions after that on fun instead of logic. What if I didn’t?, I thought. What if I had gone to UCLA or UC Berkeley to study engineering instead of USC? God knows I wouldn’t be in so much student debt today.

I spent those subsequent months of lockdown unproductively. I dabbled with my guitar and with the idea of making electronic music. I thought about learning animation and creating funny skits based on moments at work. I bought photography courses and wondered if I could make a living taking pictures. I did anything but write, and looking back at that time now, I felt okay. I was neither happy nor unhappy, but I felt I made the right decision when I “quit” writing. I felt relieved finally letting go of the writer persona I had built during my adult life, and I felt excited to embark on this new journey of self-discovery. But then something unexpected happened.

An old friend from USC asked me if I wanted to start a writer’s group with her and another friend of ours, and without any thought I said yes. The idea of hanging out with my friends felt exciting but the idea of writing again didn’t. I hadn’t written anything in months, and I felt comfortable not being a writer anymore. But I didn’t have the courage to tell anyone that. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever admitted this publicly. As the idea of becoming a writer again started to sink in, I decided to commit to it full bore, hence this blog. If I was going to be a writer again, I was going to write. And you know what? I’ve never been this happy in a long time. I’ve been writing a daily entry in here for about a month and a half, and I haven’t had a day yet where I wasn’t excited to start writing. There have been days when I’ve felt stressed because I hadn’t taken a picture yet, but each time I do take a picture, I feel happy. There’s value there that I should never forget.

There are things in life that just feel inevitable, and even if I grew up in Montana and was a cowboy, the role of writer was always going to be the path I took eventually. And that’s cool.