When I was a kid I wanted to be a veterinarian. I also wanted to be a nurse, a zookeeper, a detective, a writer, a nun, and an exotic dancer--the latter after watching a bikini-clad show girl on TV jump out of a huge, chocolate-iced birthday cake.
Slowly, one by one, these childhood ambitions fell away. A particularly gory nature program, which showed in detail the blood-filled birthing of a baby elephant, abruptly ended any desire I had of becoming a zookeeper or a nurse. Similarly, my dream of becoming a veterinarian dwindled and died after my older brother revealed to me--when dropping off Sprinkles, our dog, at the vet—that “getting fixed” was actually code for puppy neutering. My brother was also the one who patiently explained to me that exotic dancing usually demanded other talents in addition to a love of chocolate cake, birthday parties, and surprises. The nun thing petered out as well, probably because we weren’t Catholic; in fact, we weren’t even regular church-goers. I’m not sure what happened to my dream of becoming a detective. All I know is one day it was gone.
That left writing. At the time, I was especially enthusiastic about the idea of one day writing articles for Cat Fancy, my favorite magazine. It seemed like a good fit, mainly because I liked cats, and writing stories about them didn’t seem to be all that hard. So, in the same way that I assumed—without questioning--that I would one day be happily married, raise three, or maybe even four, beautiful and gifted children, and live on a charming horse farm in upstate Vermont, I just knew that one day, I would somehow become a writer of cat stories. I figured if it went well, I might branch out and include stories about dogs and maybe even people.
I’m not sure when, exactly, it dawned on me that this just wasn’t going to happen.
Once you become an adult, the world needs you: children need you, spouses need you, bosses need you. Your own dreams, once so clear and vivid, get crowded out. Time passes. Soon, your childhood aspirations are like muffled whispers that only surface during odd moments--when waiting at a traffic light and glimpsing a lone, crumpled shoe tossed by the side of the road and wondering, “How in the world did that single shoe get there?.... Who walks around with just one shoe?" Then the traffic light turns green, the car behind you honks impatiently, and your foot automatically reaches for the gas pedal, leaving the lone shoe and its untold story behind in a cloud of dust.
But what I’ve recently learned is that our dreams don’t really wither and die. Not completely. It’s more like they’re frozen in time. And, sometimes, if you’re lucky, they can be sparked back to life. Last semester, I took a writing class. My teacher, Professor Davis, would return my homework with encouraging and enthusiastic comments scribbled in the margin in green, felt-tipped marker. He’d write things like, “Nicely done!” and “This may be one of the best responses I’ve ever received!” and later, “What about writing a blog?” And slowly I began to believe, as Professor Davis seemed to believe, that maybe I could write something after all.
So here we are. I am writing something: this blog. It's not for Cat Fancy, nor am I sitting at a table on a horse farm in upstate Vermont. But maybe, in the end, that’s what makes life interesting-- it’s the unexpected twists and turns in life, the lone shoe left by the side of the road, that gives us the stories that are worth telling, the stories that call out to be told.