I loved journalism and dreamt of becoming a reporter. I would interview my neighbors and write up my own little newspapers, pretending to be a journalist with the feather in my cap.
I wrote my first book at seven using the computer at school. It was titled "Poison Ivy," all about a little girl who gets poison ivy. Six pages of emotional and riveting storytelling, I tell you.
When I hit my early teens, I fell in love with poetry thanks to my grandmother. I loved reading the works of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, picturing in my mind the visions they saw in their thoughts as they transcribed that emotion to paper. I wrote hundreds of poems (yes, when I should have been paying attention or studying), and started building on my dream of writing.
Then I toyed with the idea of being a teacher during my senior year of high school. I selected that as my major upon entering college. Within a semester I changed my major from education to mass communications. I adore teachers and think that they have one of the most difficult and fulfilling jobs on the planet; however, my heart just wasn't in it. I wanted to write. I wanted to change the world.
In mass comm, I fell in love again with broadcasting. During my time as president of our college television station, I delved into this newfound love of portraying the written word on-screen. I became part of our radio station rotation, hosting a show with two of my good friends.
Then I tried out for the play one semester. I loved performing in my very tiny, debut-and-only role; but moreso, I loved the idea of writing those roles.
And that's when my dream - the vision of what I wanted to do with my life - came alive. I knew, finally, what I wanted to do.
I wanted to write books and movies. And maybe books that became movies.
My plan was simple. I'd move to California, try my hand at getting some experience until I could find something that would give me the opportunity to pursue my dream.
Then my heart was broken by my college boyfriend and my mom was diagnosed with (and cured of) early-stage Paget's Disease (a form of breast cancer). I put my plans on hold, but became more determined to achieve my dreams. In the meantime, I found a job I adored and people I liked working with and began learning the PR and marketing ropes.
The day J walked into my life, though, my heart couldn't help but skip a beat. People scoff at the idea of love at first sight but for me, it was. I knew. I knew the moment we were introduced that we'd be married someday. I adored him, and while we remained just friends for a year, we eventually did date.
At 22, I knew I had plenty of time to make my dreams come true. Even better, with any luck, I would have the love of my life with me wherever I ended up, working on the arts he loved so much.
Then at 24, the path made another fork. My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and given a few months to a year to live. That, however, is a story for another day (you can read about it here). When the end to her journey drew near, my heart was broken. I held on to the dreams I had because they gave me a focus on the future so that I hopefully would not fall apart when she left.
J and I talked about moving in together in Chicago, where I could get my foot in the door somewhere. Two months before my mother passed away - and a week after looking at apartments in the city - two little lines on a stick diverged into yet another fork in life's road: I was pregnant.
When mom died, I focused on work and pregnancy. When my little man was born, I tried to learn the ropes of motherhood without my own mother to lead the way. I thought, okay, I have a few years before he starts school and I won't want to move him away from his school friends. I still held out on that hope! After all, I was only 26.
We bought a house because we needed more space. We had plans to fix it up and sell it, moving on to something new. While California now seemed a little out of reach for me, I hoped that Chicago would present me with something close to home and still on the path of the dream I held: writing scripts and books.
Then the housing market tanked. (If I drew a picture at this point of all the forks in the road, it would look like the giant elm tree in my yard during the winter.) There would be no selling without taking a giant loss on the house, and I couldn't do that to us. Five years passed and we found ourselves married and parents to a little boy and a new little girl.
Then our son started school. And soccer. And Cub Scouts. And baseball. Our daughter started dance. Since the day they were born I saw my dreams started to shift from those I wanted for myself, to those I wanted for them. That doesn't mean I lost my dreams; they just became secondary to those of the beautiful little boy and girl I helped create.
Recently I was speaking with a friend and said something along the lines of, "Well, I will never be able to just pick up and move somewhere to give this writing thing a shot. Those days are past. I'm resigned to typing away in the comforts of my living room."
My son (the old-souled second grader), overheard me. (I should really know by now that even when his attention is buried in a book or a video game, he selectively hears everything I wish he wouldn't while ignoring everything I wish he would!)
He asked me later, "Mom, are you sad?" Surprised, I said no and asked why he thought that. He replied, "You said you always wanted to move somewhere and be a writer and you didn't get to do it because of everything you have to do here. Does that make you sad?"
Big learning moment for this mama. First, I need to watch what I say and how I say it around the wee ones, because I never want my kids to feel like I didn't get to do something because of them - they are the most important people in my life. Second, I needed to explain to him everything I just said up above, in terms a seven-year-old can understand. I believe it's important to hold onto your dreams, and set the example for your children to never stop striving for something better. To show them that life weaves a road for us and our dreams change or shift from time to time, but they still remain out there for us to achieve. But I also believe that sometimes, better dreams come our way even if we don't see them as such at first.
I sat with him and said that once upon a time, I did have some different dreams. I told him what they were and why I had them. And then I told him the very thought I think about every time I start to wonder what life would have been like if I'd have flown out to California upon graduation: he and his sister are my new, improved dream.
See? Aren't they cute?
And then my thoughts shift to those two, beautiful, sweet, charming - and sometimes irritating when they fight with each other - kids that I get to love. I cannot imagine life without them. Not without children, but without those two specifically. My funny and loving son, who emptied an entire bottle of baby powder in the living room; who grosses me out with wiggly teeth; who laughs so hard he hiccups and burps at the same time. And the cute and cuddly daughter who plays dress up daily; who has such a strong will I've given up fighting her on school outfits; and who poses like she's the next top model in every photo I've taken of her since she was old enough to pose.
Okay, maybe she doesn't pose like a model every time I take a photo.
As we were wrapping up our little chat, he asked me if I thought I failed - "like when you fail a spelling test, mom" - because I didn't get to do what I wanted to do.
I said that no, I didn't feel like I failed. I felt like I found a path that led me to a better dream. I asked him if he thought it meant I failed that I wasn't writing primetime television episodes and wasn't famous. He responded by telling me, "Mom, everyone in my whole class knows you write books. You're famous in the second grade."
It might not be Hollywood, but it feels pretty good. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.
"A writer mom. Like you. And an artist and a drummer."
Sounds good, kid. Whatever your dreams are and however they change, may you have a little kid just like you to remind you that you have succeeded in life. Just maybe different than how you'd first imagined.