The Long Way Around

You have an idea of who you want to be, what you want to do. You grow up fantasizing about it, imagining your future life, conversations you’ll have, wearing yourself on your sleeve (I know it sounds weird but go with it – it does make sense… in some world…), showing the world you’re proud of who you are. You grow up a little, you get a chance to share that dream with others; they laugh for a good five minutes – not out of malice, but because it’s such a ridiculous idea: *you*, a professional football player?!

So you abandon that dream, and start working on another. You have so many ideas and hopes – some won’t be possible for, oh, say, several millennia (I’m lookin’ at you, Starfleet), but others are within your reach, surely! You write out your plans and goals and start dreaming again. As you get older, your dream changes; maybe you alter an edge here, or cut that part out entirely. It’s like hemming a cumulus into a stratus – it’s all fluffy and ethereal at first, and you’re working to make it more streamlined and defined. Eventually, you see something that you’re satisfied with: this is what I want to do, you think. Excited, you tell your friends; one by one, they shatter every hope. “Child psychology?! Oh, you couldn’t possibly do that. You’re just not smart enough. Do you know what kind of work goes into that? No, you’d be better off pursuing art.”

For one, you don’t understand why art should be something to downgrade to. Art is amazing! Art is tangible emotions, created for the world as well as the artist. Why would art denote a lack of intelligence? What, is it a category, a genre, a filing drawer where others can place you if you don’t measure up to their understanding?

But you’re heartbroken, and full of doubt. You take their advice (I’m sure they meant it with good intentions, you think) and apply for art school. You did always love photography, maybe you can study that. Your parents are, as always, supportive of every dream; they tell you constantly that you must work towards your dreams, don’t let anything get in the way! You don’t tell them what your friends said about your last dream. You don’t tell anyone. You’re pretty sure others would agree with them. Even you think they may be right.

You attend art school (unaccredited, of course, but that certification will be coming in any day!), and everything seems to fit really well; you learn history, different processes and techniques, and you really enjoy photography (your major). But the class you really excel at (and, you’re embarrassed to admit, the one you enjoy most) is writing. You feel a little guilty for preferring writing to sketch work or painting, but you feel such a connection to it – like you’re fulfilling a purpose. Every word you write brings you closer to understanding yourself.

But this is art school, and you’re trying to get your degree in photography, which is why it’s so discouraging when your teacher continually insults your work. You are told several times that you’re not good enough, you can’t learn. You start to think coming here was a mistake. You finally get the courage to tell your parents you want to quit, and you feel only marginally surprised when they support you. Your mother tells you that sometimes it’s okay to stop and take a few steps back, and if something isn’t working, you can try again. You feel encouraged, but now you’re at a loss as to what you should do.

Then you tell your friend – the girl you look up to – about what you’re going through, and when she asks you what you want to do, you hesitantly tell her about your newfound interest in genetics. Her response amazes you: “then why don’t you study THAT?” You begin to tell her all the reasons why (according to your old friends) and she stops you midway: “they’re not the ones living your life, why do you care what they say?” It’s like fireworks are going off inside your brain, the epiphany is so bright. You decide to apply to her alma mater, and are accepted early decision (something about your essay).

Partway through freshman year you realize your mistake – you signed up to major in biology, but you wanted chemistry! What’s more, your sad history in math makes it nearly impossible to switch (according to your professors). You wonder if you should even bother; maybe you can learn to love biology. Then your fiancĂ© scolds you for thinking so low of yourself. “If you want to be in chemistry, why would you let anyone else stop you?” He offers to tutor you, anything to help you achieve your dream. So you switch, and – surprise! – you end up with a minor in math as well! You decide there is nothing you would rather do – except for one point, your junior year, after a semester of awesome essays for your world civ class make you fantasize about a degree in history.

Throughout your college career, the classes you excelled most at were the ones that required a lot of writing. That familiar feeling from art school returned, and you begin to remember all the fun you had writing out stories and dreams – you were always writing, as a child. It was peaceful for you; a chance to release your thoughts and watch them grow. It worked out well that you had a class with many required essays each semester to offset the stress from your degree – as fun as it is, that stuff is HARD!

You graduate and move on (literally as well) and for a little while (as in 3 years) you feel lost. Now what? You’re not ready to go after a Master’s, and there aren’t really any jobs in the area you moved to. Then your husband’s best friend starts an insane project that escalates into a website, and you start helping out with the podcasts and the website (coding is fun guys!). You also become interested in writing some posts, which he agrees would be “totes awesome for realsies” (haha Kenny!) And then you start panicking. What is all of this? You don’t know what you’re doing! How can you possibly be able to handle all of this? It’s so not you! You decide to take a few steps back, and you remember what your mom said – that it’s okay to stop, reconfigure, and try again. But you feel like something’s missing now. And you realize, maybe you took too many steps back. And you realize, maybe *you* are the one getting in your way this time. No one has told you that you can’t do this. No one has told you you’re not smart enough. This is something you enjoy and even dream about. So why are you running away?

You take a tentative step forward, and begin writing again. You hit publish. And it’s like you’ve finally reached the finish line (on Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 64). Fireworks, cheers, and a sense of peace. This is what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re anxious of what other people will think, but you know in the long run it doesn’t matter: you’ve finally fulfilled the dream you had all along. You’re finally writing.

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