At the age of seven, I declared myself an author and an illustrator, confidently nestled among the ranks of favorites – Eric Carle, Arnold Lobel, Roald Dahl – to name a few. Having begun writing in kindergarten, it seemed only natural. My young imagination was ripe with stories to tell, and I couldn’t fill the pages fast enough. My first grade teacher would no doubt confirm this. I reeled in extra paper like most children do stickers and lollipops.
Early on, we are convinced that we can do anything or become anyone. We fill our blank slates with dreams of being astronauts, doctors, actors, and activists. Superheroes are found in our books, Band-Aids, dress-up bins, and backpacks; and we identify with them because behind their masks, they too are human. Why, then, do we not go after our adult dreams with the determination of our childhood selves?
Rejection: Instead of empowering us, rejection weakens our ambitions. The nagging voice of self-doubt kicks in, and suddenly we begin to question our talents and strengths. Our lifelong goals are quickly dismissed as foolish whims or silly fantasies.
Comparison: One of the cruelest villains of all, comparison breeds insecurity and envy. We measure ourselves against neighbors, colleagues, siblings, and celebrities, and we always lose. Why? Because our minds fail to take note of the ways in which our homes, relationships, families, and jobs are enough, and a reflection of our unique selves.
Distraction: Our days are full of interruptions. To-do lists grow, leisure time shrinks, plans are put on hold, and our dreams slowly fade into the background. Miscellaneous noise takes center stage, and we begin to lose sight of what inspires us.
Chaos: Perhaps the hardest to contend with, life is messy. As children, if we are fortunate, much of life’s mess (sometimes that which we create ourselves) is cleaned up by our parents or caregivers, and we remain blissfully naïve to its interference. As adults, when our path goes off course or tragedy strikes, we alone are left in its wake, and our priorities can be altered in an instant.
Our confidence, unrivaled as children, is prone to any number of threats as we grow older. But we can choose to pursue our passions as we did in earlier times, when our biggest worry was running out of paper. We can learn from rejection, and let it fuel our journey instead of diminish our growth. We can measure ourselves against ourselves, and celebrate how we much we have achieved. We can seek quiet spaces, to remind ourselves of what we are working toward, and actively resist that which deters us. When life happens, we can respond as best we know how; we can accept, rebel, wallow, or retreat. But we can always return, and pick up not where we were, but where we find ourselves now.
At 18, my early calling began to take shape, as I graduated high school with the proud title, most likely to publish a bestseller. You can count on it, as long as there are stories to tell and dreams to be had.