• Chantal Canales

Basing My Career On My Childhood Passion: A Memoir

Recently, I wrote a memoir for my Public Relations and Advertising class. The prompt asked me to write about a time, person, object or place that impacted me greatly. Of course, I wrote about my favorite childhood book series:

I am a person who firmly believes influence can come from anything. The simplest objects can impact the course of your life. That’s why I, a 21-year-old college senior who’s about to graduate and face the world head-on, am basing my future on a book I read when I was in the fourth grade.

As an impressionable fourth grader with few passions in life, including whatever was airing on Disney Channel at night, what lunch would be, and my friend group, I had no idea that “The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan would impact me in the way that it did. The 322-page book found its way into my hands, and after I read it once, I read it again and again until the book fell apart in my hands. I begged my parents to take me to the store to buy the four other books in the series the next day. I would sit on a bench at my elementary school’s playground or on the mulch with my eyes glued to the black ink words. 

I consumed the series within a week, reading early in the morning and late into the night with the dim yellow light from my closet. At 10 years old, I was in a constant state of reading about complex characters and wishing I was among them in the pages of the book. Riordan’s quirky dialogue and relatable characters gave me solace as none of my friends wanted to read together. I found friendship with fictional characters that I would never meet, but it was enough for me to live within their world for a few hundred pages.

Once I reached middle school, I didn’t allow my friends and classmates to make fun of me for being an avid reader. I continued reading my favorite books, bringing my latest library check-out to lunch and squeezing in time between classes to read about my favorite characters, their adventures, their struggles and their complex emotions. When my favorite author published another series, I woke up at 7 a.m. with my parents to drive to our local Walmart to buy the newest release to read during the school day. It didn’t matter if it was pouring rain. It didn’t matter if it was 40 degrees outside. My parents always managed to take the time to bring me to the store so I could read the latest book. They knew that nothing would bring me more joy than the feeling of a new book, an uncracked spine and the smell of fresh pages hitting me in the face. 

Books gave me my start in journalism without even knowing it. Every day I fall in love with the power authors have to create something from scratch in their imagination and put it into words. I didn’t know it then, but in my heart, I knew that I wanted to pursue something that would allow me to be surrounded by literature for the rest of my life. At the time, my mind went immediately to becoming an English teacher, but my path took a turn from education into journalism. 

Storytelling has always been a constant presence in my life, and books fueled the fire for my selection of journalism as a career. Storytelling in journalism became my focus when I first came to Baylor three years ago, and I plan to make it my life’s work to continue to share my story and the stories of others by pursuing a career in publishing. I wanted to be surrounded by people’s ideas, fictional or real, and publish them for the world to read and understand. The idea of creating fictional worlds by publishing books feeds my excitement. I want to walk alongside authors as we publish their books from their concept to bound copy in any capacity, whether it be as their editor, publicist or marketing associate. I have this grand idea of me working in a grand publishing house for as long as I can, and it’s all because of one book that started it all.

Until March 2020 during the beginning of quarantine, I hadn’t read a book for pleasure since my sophomore year of high school. I remember the exact moment where I was forced to spend more time on my advanced classes instead of reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexander Dumas for fun. The past six months have given me the greatest gift I could ever ask for: time. COVID-19 gave me time to read instead of hanging out with friends or going out to dinner with my family. The many lost years of reading hit me all at once as I returned home to a bookshelf full of titles I wanted to read all at once. Since March, I have read almost 25 books. Compared to the almost seven years of not picking up a book beyond the required reading for my English classes and my college textbooks, I am very proud of my journey back to books.

Always a constant in my life, books and their storytelling have shaped me into who I am today. As I read, parts of my favorite characters have stayed and become part of me. The resilience of Annabeth, the cleverness of Hermione, and the authenticity of Cath serve as a constant reminder that I am who I am, and no one is going to stop me from being my truest self. 

Now as a senior approaching graduation in May with no knowledge of what exactly my future holds, I know one thing for sure. Books and their magical storytelling power will surround me, whether it be in a modest New York City apartment with a never-ending stack of manuscripts to read or in my childhood bedroom scouring the Internet for a job. Ten years from now, wherever I am and whatever stage of life I’m in, I will take the time to return back to that original copy of “The Lightning Thief” waiting patiently on my bookshelf and silently give thanks to everything it gave me. The creased pages and broken spine will always welcome me home, and I am so grateful for that.