Usually, you don’t decide the office job you worked at for three years was probably just in the way of your woo-woo anyway, but if you do, it might go a little bit like this.
Learn to read early. Love the word “analytical”, even though you will later discover that you have ADD that will affect your life so badly that you cannot keep two thoughts in your head at the same time. Learn the word “analytical” from a book about palm reading when you are about six. Remember this over 20 years later and be a little stunned at how accurately most of your life can be summarized by this one memory.
Plan lessons when you are very young which, you believe, will eventually teach you Everything. When you are old enough to know this isn’t possible, be content with learning new words for the rest of your life.
Later in elementary school, when you have become both voracious reader and an outcast, watch Matilda. Feel understood because you also know more words than other children your age, and for reasons you cannot understand no matter how hard you try, you are different from them and they do not like you. Unconsciously treasure the idea that being different and curious makes you magical. Don’t realize what a shitty thing this is to think, not yet; you’re too young for nuance like that. Instead, consciously fall in love with the idea that you have psychic powers. Pretend to turn the pages of books with your mind while pushing them lightly with your fingers. Learn to watch the lights on cross streets turn yellow so you can believe that when you look at the ones in front of you and will them to turn green, they did so because you told them to.
Find a book called “Spells for School” that your father will only let you buy if you say that you don’t believe in magic. Read it and follow the spells, but fail to follow the logic of their steps. Eventually stop reading it and conclude that spells just aren’t interesting to you. Don’t think about why.
Be some age between impressionable and realistic when you stumble across a website that claims to teach the secrets to attaining psychic powers, including telekinesis and weather control. Conclude that this makes sense because, obviously, there’s no point in lying to strangers online for free, so it must be true. Make another friend like you, who believes. Read this website together. Spend whole afternoons together, trying to learn how to open your third eyes. Make magic staves together from fallen branches in your friend’s backyard. Do it according to the instructions: make sure the stick is the right height, remove the bark, sand it, and imbue it with the energy of one of the four classical elements. Later, alone in your room at night, struggle to decide whether you want to make a staff that controls water (your favorite element) or air (so that you can create storms, which fascinate and comfort you). Tentatively decide to amend the instructions. Hold the staff in your small hands and carefully visualize equal amounts of both kinds of energy imparting their powers to the branch you and your friend sanded together.
By coincidence, learn staff techniques in your extracurricular martial arts class. Practice them on your homemade staff and realize a pattern after a while: within one week after you do so, it will rain. Spend the rest of your life sternly trying to convince yourself that you are not, in fact, an actual wizard, because that’s crazy. Mostly succeed.
When you are twelve, go to summer camp at the local YMCA. Watch Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost with the other children and be absolutely blown away by the idea that a witch wouldn’t necessarily have to be evil. Google “Wicka” when you get home and learn that though you’ve spelled it incorrectly, Scooby Doo did not invent it.
Bookmark grimoires and introductory pages made with Geocities and Angelfire that are full of spinning pentacle .GIFs and graphics that read “NEVER AGAIN THE BURNING TIMES”. Feel more at home with a spirituality that embraces balance than you ever felt with Christianity. Never attempt magic; you’re old enough to have learned about the Butterfly Effect, and you can’t be sure that your magic won’t kick off a chain reaction that brings the Threefold Rule back to bite you. Accept that you need self-discipline for this, and sincerely dedicate yourself to understanding pagan spirituality first and foremost without overvaluing magic. Actually succeed at this. Then, read Why Wiccans Suck and realize, with a sinking heart, that everything the author says makes sense. Abandon Wicca and feel silly for having fallen in with it, but really for having been suckered in by magic again.
Meet a boy whose mother is a Reiki practitioner and astrologer. Have your first kiss with the boy and go on to date him for two years (which, since you are in middle school, effectively means that you are married). Borrow his mother’s books on astrology because you love systems of categorization, things that make sense, and hidden knowledge even if you are determined not to believe in magic. Never really believe in astrology, but fall in love with it, probably more than you fall in love with your middle school boyfriend. Learn the characteristics of the signs. Learn how to read your birth chart. Accept, for the first time, that you can have an affair with the esoteric without placing your unquestioning faith in it.
Some time later, buy The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tarot. Love it for the same reason you love astrology, but feel differently about it; while you can’t quite jive with the idea that the planets have any influence on your future, tarot is different. The cards make you think about things differently, and learning to read them is interesting and fun, like learning another language. Buy a Rider-Waite deck and learn the major arcana (mostly).
At a party in high school, do a reading for a friend, but when she finally tells you that she just feels too silly to take it seriously, think better of trying to read for others; after all, you’re a rational person, and it seems like no one will believe that you can take your readings seriously and understand that predicting the future is impossible at the same time. Let tarot go in high school, but continue to be fond of it, as you are by now with most forms of divination.
When you are in college, play a video game that features tarot cards in several in-game mechanics and assigns one of the major arcana to each character based on personality. Become totally enthralled with this concept and realize that you will never stop loving to find connections between sets of archetypes and real-world events. Relearn the major arcana and try again.
Get a call from the friend you read for. Listen to her tell you about a hilariously dramatic, badly written book of vampire esoterica. Laugh until you can’t breathe. Bond with her and another friend over this complete embarrassment of a book. Don’t waste a second believing anything in it, but make a game of holding the elaborate rituals and rites of passage detailed in it. When your love of metaphysical systems rears its head, don’t fight it this time, but don’t fall victim to it either. Become the one who arranges your frivolous cult meetings, analyzes the text, plans your next steps, and researches the origins of each ritual for accuracy and appropriate dramatic effect. Enjoy every second you spend reading about magic, energy, and spells. Take it all in with the skeptical eye of a grown woman and relish it with the enthusiasm of a preteen. Be all of the things you are: methodical, skeptical, excitable, and hungry for magic.
Bond with a group of people who play tabletop roleplaying games together. The first time you play with them, join a game that uses the conceit of being a monster as a metaphor for being a teenager. Admire the thoughtfulness with which the author crafts the game. Discover another game by the same author about solitary magical roleplaying as a way of confronting and reflecting on real events and feelings. Read the author’s summary of magic–something that does not exist objectively, but can still affect reality through the practitioner’s actions and mindset. Remember your college linguistics classes, where you learned that every word in every language is arbitrary. Think about how words are collections of sounds that stand for concepts. Think about symbols. Think about substitutes for ideas. Recognize that nothing, on its own, has any meaning but what we give it, but those meanings have the power to change everything. Realize that witchcraft works the same way.
Stop pretending you don’t care about magic, the power of symbols, and interpretation. Ask a witch for her favorite websites. Read about folklore, gemology, and esoteric theory to form the basis of your magical practice.
Start learning tarot again. Draw a card every morning and record it in your planner. Use tarot not to tell the future–you don’t believe in telling the future, you never have–but to point your mind in a new direction every day. Gradually deepen your relationship with your cards until you know most of the minor arcana. For the first time, know what you believe: magic isn’t real, but doing magic is; telling the future isn’t real, but uncovering secrets is.
Lose your job abruptly due to a downsizing decision.
Keep looking for work that supports you and develops your critical thinking skills and organizational abilities. Wish for a job where your responsibilities are to help people, read symbols, and do magic. Remember that you now have eight cartomancy decks.
Read. Research. Find readers who don’t try to convince their querents that they know the secrets of the universe. Find relatable, down-to-earth, honest, creative, smart readers, and make their recommendations the cornerstones of your practice. Wonder how you’re ever going to stand out in a field of so many talented people with so much experience. Remember that you learned how to network and ask questions in the office. Recognize again that you have one foot each in two worlds that have helped you grow.
Become a woman who still loves the word “analytical” and learns new words from books about telling the future, and forget that you ever learned you couldn’t do both.