Swoon Author Claire Kann: Thanks, Obama (No, But Really, Thank You.)
I never wanted to be a writer. Veterinarian? Yes. Pediatrician? Sure. Astronaut? Of course, but math. So much math.
Although I do have distinct memories of writing short stories, passing them around to my friends in high school and trying my hand at (bad) poetry, writing fiction was never this all-encompassing passion for me. And if I'm honest, it still isn’t.
But I don’t want to talk about that yet. Let’s Talk About: Passports.
Did you know that even if you’re a U.S. citizen, if your birth certificate is signed late or filed incorrectly, the U.S. government can deny your passport application? Because I didn’t.
Once upon a time, many a year ago, I applied for a passport. My boss and I were accepted to be speakers at a conference in Canada, and since I’m a U.S. resident, I needed a passport to cross the border.
(Yes, yes, I know, this is the not the time to tell me that back then I probably could have made it through without anyone checking. I realized that when we drove through the Canada checkpoint in the dead of night and the Mountie barely glanced at it/me. Okay. I know.)
See, I’m a procrastinator of the highest order. I waited until the absolute last minute to make an appointment to get my passport in person. There I was, all dewy-eyed and optimistic, full of hope and promise and ready for my very first business trip. I had all of my required documents and then some, waited for my number to appear on the screen, and walked to the next available window. The agent took one look at my birth certificate and said, “We can’t accept this.”
I blinked. Waited. And said, “Excuse me?”
“I believe you were legally born here, but we can’t accept this document because it doesn’t meet the requirements,” he said.
Apparently, there is a time limit on how long a hospital has to file a birth certificate. The hospital where I was born missed that deadline by two days. My passport application got put on indefinite hold, and they gave me a list of documents they would accept to prove I was a U.S. Citizen.
After crying for an hour in my car, I gritted my teeth and got to work. Let me tell you: My paranoid self obtained all of those documents. ALL OF THEM. When I returned a week later, I even brought my mom’s entire medical record about my delivery, x-rays, copies of hospital bracelets, my teeny tiny baby footprints, a notarized affidavit from my Grandma stating she was present for my birth—the whole shebang. I wasn’t messing around.
The agent sorted through my hefty stack of papers, stared at me for a moment, and then laughed. But my application got approved, so, worth it.
Back at home, before filing away the several pounds of documents I’d acquired, I decided to go through my school records just for funsies. It was there that I noticed a trend. Most report cards are digital now, but when I was a young whippersnapper in elementary school, they were written by hand or on a typewriter/word processor. Along with my grades, my teachers wrote notes for my parents. Every year, almost all of my teachers commented on my:
“Strong imagination.” Translation: Claire lies. A lot. Also, did you really give birth to twins this year?
“Likes to tell stories.” Translation: Claire keeps distracting her classmates. She’s even convinced a few she’s an international spy in the witness protection program. Where did she even learn about what that was?
“Passion for reading.” Translation: We can see the books in Claire’s lap during lesson time. Make her stop.
“Higher than average vocabulary.” Translation: Claire keeps confusing the other children with fancy words and making them do her bidding.
“Have you thought about signing her up for a creative writing course at the library?” Translation: ?????
It was funny because I didn’t remember any of that. I didn’t decide I wanted to try my hand at writing books until I was in college. I’d signed up for a creative writing course as an elective on a whim one semester and got hooked (story to come…). But because of a rejected passport application, I inadvertently confirmed that although I never wanted to be a writer, I was always destined to be a storyteller.