When I was a little girl, I used to fill notebooks with the stories whispered to me in my dreams. Crafting their covers out of construction paper, I couldn’t wait for the day I would see them on the shelves next to my favorite adventures.
When you were just a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? When bedtime was a negotiation you were determined to win, and bubbles and fireworks were proof magic was real, and catching a firefly in cupped hands after a late-afternoon barbecue meant wishes do come true – who did you think you would grow up to be? Did you make that happen? Would your younger self – the one with wide eyes, millions of questions, and even more dreams – be proud of who you are? Can you see them, dreaming still, right behind the smile lines in your reflection? Are they smiling too?
Or did your dreams change?
I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write great adventures, mysteries, and romances. I wanted people to line up at bookstores for my newest release, pouring over clues and questioning every detail just like I did with my favorite titles. I used to grip my pencil so tight in my hand for fear it would fly away before I could get everything I needed to say scratched onto my yellow-lined paper.
Then, I grew up.
Now, I am a writer … but it’s definitely not what I thought it would be.
I thought I’d wake up every morning, make myself a cup of coffee, bring it up to a cherry-wood desk sitting in front of a great bay window overlooking a magnificent orange, yellow, and crimson maple tree. It’s always autumn in that dream, and there’s a slight chill to the air that smells like promises kept and plans made. I’d take a sip of hazelnut and cream and sit down at my laptop to finish all of my adventures.
Simple, right? Not so much.
When you’re eight, you don’t think about bills, responsibilities, health crises, relationships, chores, or the ever-changing publishing industry. Childhood whimsies are simple, pure, and stuffed so tight with possibilities that adulthood problems are pushed out and away, into the distant future. I never thought I’d catch up to them. I never thought I’d grow up like everyone else either. Neverland felt, for a long time, much more believable than things like taxes.
I have bad news for my eight-year-old self: taxes are real. The good news is, I’m writer… but I’m also a mom, a student, a manager, a wife, a friend, a crossword puzzle master, a sometimes-karaoke singer, a chronic illness sufferer, and mental illness survivor. All these identities spin together, complimenting, competing, and ultimately figuring out a way to coexist. And this means that writing has never been as simple as getting up, drinking coffee, and crafting adventures. In fact, it’s often one of the hardest things I do. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and first drafts require a level of patience I don’t often possess as they’re peeled off, letter by letter, and placed onto paper.
Yet, nothing tastes as sweet as a finished project. I am a greedy writer, and I savor my words, retracing each curve years after they’re written. Nothing gives me as much joy as following a story from idea to ending. Writing is still my calling.
But I don’t think my younger self would be smiling with smug pride at the person – the writer – I am today. I think, instead, her brow would be furrowed, her mouth pursed, her eyes narrowed, and her heart pounding. I think my eight-year-old self would be interested. She’d wonder how I got to where I am, which jokes grew those lines around my smile, whose words caused such tear-stained ridges by my eyes, what adventures had produced such twisting scars, what dreams had I reached for and caught in my fingers still so thin and long like hers.
I think my eight-year-old self would want to read my story.
What would your eight-year-old self say?