A Snapshot Worth a Million Words

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Children do not concern themselves with reality when contemplating what to become when they grow up. Circumstance and caution have no part in determining the plans for the future. Doctor, police officer, fire fighter, cowboy, sumo wrestler, pilot, airline attendant, soldier, mother, politician, lawyer, and the list of possibilities go on and on. Sometimes they grow up and capture their dreams, sometimes they become something totally different, but as kids we all dream of something when we grow up.

I wanted to be all of them.

I wanted to be a sumo wrestler, a doctor, a pilot, and a warrior. I wanted to jump out of a plane from 12,000 feet above ground level. I wanted to climb to the top of a mountain. I wanted to catch the bad guys who terrorized defenseless victims, and be the one to throw away the key when those bad guys were locked behind bars. I wanted to know what it was like to walk in all of their shoes.

Life happened, I went to school, I journaled, I dreamed… and I became a hairstylist. Satisfaction didn’t exist where I ended up, and somewhere along the way I realized reality’s scope only reaches so far, only allows for so much, and certainly not all of it. That realization was a torrential downfall that completely drowned my determination, and, for several years following that, I floated about like a balloon tied to a toddler’s wrist – until I had a baby.

When my daughter arrived, she had a birth defect that resulted in multiple surgeries and an early life restricted to the hospital. During this time I lived there with her, and, because hospital life tends to creep by, I devoured books; I remembered to want everything.

The day eventually came when I took my baby home; Banners flew, chains broke, doors hung loose on their hinges: Freedom. Before leaving, I learned how to operate the machine that dispensed milk into her belly through a tube and how to keep her central port protected.

Life smoothed out.

Then one evening her machine broke and bottom line: the milk needed to be manually dispensed every hour at the top of the hour. Instead of trying to sleep, I decided to write a story. With some notebook paper and a pencil, I considered my options and chose the large maroon chair, old and worn, but cozy cloth rather than cold leather. I cannot recall the weather that night or even the time of the year off the top of my head, the feedings I’ve long since forgotten. I don’t know the thoughts running through my head as I sat there preparing to write.

All I see is a picture.

A snapshot of that night lives in my mind, like a black and white Polaroid taken from slightly behind me. Only the profile of my face visible, head tilted, hair falling forward, and by the angle of the pencil and the clench of my fist, the pencil creates. If I imagine it, I can hear the continuous sound of the lead transferring to the paper, and I can remember my hand not being able to keep up with the thoughts speeding through my mind. Believe it or not, I did not write an award-winning book that night; I didn’t even write a good book that night. Pages full of emotional, projectile vomit emerged on those sheets of paper. I will not say this felt freeing the way it did when we arrived home from the hospital, it didn’t, but I had begun to work through emotions that I didn’t understand. Even then I didn’t really comprehend what writing this book ultimately meant for me, but I realized something that probably should have been obvious long before that night; I loved writing. Not only did I love writing, but reading about writing, and I could no longer read a book without imagining the writer behind it. My actual dreams became about writing; it was in me.

The magnificence of this story lies in the timing. My daughter’s birth forever changed life in a mighty way. As a mom now, my priority became raising my baby correctly. Loving, cherishing, and shepherding her was fundamental not only in her growth, but mine too…and in some moments I felt deflated because I knew life suddenly became a balancing act of striving towards my goals- whatever they might be- and being present and rightly influential in my daughter’s life. As I continued feverishly writing, it dawned on me the profession that allows for becoming anything and everything that I ever dreamed of: a writer. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t published- it still doesn’t matter- because when I write not only do I get to be whatever I want, but I am able to confront emotions that I don’t understand and cannot quite put into words, I can face my greatest fears, experience failure, and conquer the world if I desire. By this point I have learned it is my right to write, something we all begin at an early age in order to, at the very least, communicate. More than that, I have discovered not simply my right, but my joy, to write.

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