I have always loved writing. And it is hard to love writing without having a passion for reading what others write. I could read my first book aloud from cover to cover at age 2: He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown. As a young girl, I absolutely loved being able to escape into a book. I could go all over this world and many others, learning skills, history and life lessons, all within the pages. I always imagined myself as a character in the book, and I always wondered what I would do differently or how I would handle the situation. My favorite books as a kid were the kind where you chose your own adventure. You know, the ones with “if you think Billy should go into the cave, turn to page 73. If you think Billy should go home for lunch, turn to page 65.” In real life, I would have gone home for lunch. But in a book, I was the first one in the cave. And I could read that same book over and over again and have a different ending each time because I got to pick what Billy would do. And that’s what sparked the writing flame. I discovered I liked telling people, um, characters, what to do.
By the end of elementary school, I had begun to write “novels”. They were cheesy, error-ridden stories that lacked plot, theme, characterization, grammar . . . and pages. I think the longest was five notebook pages. (But it was front and back!) My diary entry on the last day of school for 3rd grade announced that my plans for summer were to make sure my sister stopped smoking, get a tan, and write a “real” novel. Well, at least I got a tan so the summer wasn’t a total bust. By high school, I had moved onto complex essays and the required dry reading they force you to do.
My well-meaning parents were always thrilled when I told them I wanted to be a writer and an actress. Those are both really booming and in-demand jobs in our small hometown with one red light. Ahem, not. I don’t want to say they didn’t encourage me to pursue my dreams, so I’ll just say they emphatically encouraged me to pursue a steady paycheck career instead. I tried to compromise in college by majoring in Speech/Communications with an emphasis in Journalism/Public Relations. I figured I could find a “real job” writing under those vague umbrellas. Instead, I found mouse ears through Disney’s college recruitment. And although there was no writing, I did get to act—act as though I really wanted to work in food & beverage!
I thought I had found my happily ever after when I settled into a new job at Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings, a new house, and a new marriage. Now the time had finally come for me to be an actress and a writer. But we were busy building a new wedding pavilion at work, filming weddings for television specials, and at home, my marriage and new baby needed attention as well. I started a couple of writing projects, but they always fell to the back burner. And the back burner was never the one that was turned on. After leaving Disney and that marriage, I floundered for a few years, searching. I spent time focusing on my incredible son, getting my own event planning company off the ground, and just trying to survive my life choices and their consequences.
Eventually, I found love (my knight!) and a new career in the education field. I prepared to start a new version of my old dream as I settled into teaching middle school writing during the week and occasionally acting in community theater on the weekends. Life should have been good. I had a wonderful marriage, an awesome son, and a steady job. And I was miserable.
I wasn’t who I was supposed to be. Every day I had voices in my head. (not the strait jacket/padded room kind of voices) Voices who had dialogue, plots and twists going on. Everyday occurrences became woven into my mind’s stories. I had fully scripted conversations with the mirror as I got ready for work, and I played all the characters. (okay, so maybe I should have ordered a jacket and some padding from Amazon, but stay with me!) I felt like I was going through the motions of my own life, not really living it. I encouraged those around me to follow their dreams. I even taught an adult class on how to find your purpose in life and live it. But I wasn’t. I told my son to follow his heart. But I wasn’t. And it continued to eat at me and spin inside me until I was in mental torment all the time. (okay, you were right; I should’ve gotten the jacket). I tried teaching a different subject at school, a different grade level, a different school. But I still had this gnawing feeling inside me that I was supposed to write. And so my closest friends and my incredible husband all said, DO IT. DO IT. DO IT. They were so supportive and so encouraging. (And so tired of me complaining I was miserable!) But they could see in me what I wanted to become, and they believed I could do it.
So I am.
And it’s funny how people react when you tell them you’ve quit your full-time job to pursue your dreams of writing, acting and art. They look at you as though you just confessed you secretly have horns growing out of your butt. And you’ve asked them if they want to see the horns. Yes, I know the economy is terrible. Yes, I realize there are no benefits or retirement plan. Yes, I realize that puts a lot of strain on my husband and my family. Yes, I am aware that there are already millions of people who are trying to do this, and very few succeed. And yes, I know how old I am and that it’s a little late to arrive at the dance.
But I don’t want to get to the end and wonder what would have happened if I could have been what I wanted to be. If I had just given it everything I had. I don’t want to look back on my life and wish I had at least tried. I would much rather say I did everything I could and it didn’t work. Well, who am I kidding?! I would much rather say I did everything I could and it DID work, but hopefully you get the point.
So here I am, World. I am a writer. I am an actress. I am an artist. I am who I am supposed to be. I am following my dreams. And I am at peace.