When I was 10 years old, I hit the "horse stage." I'm pretty sure that at least half of all young girls go through a this phase (and I'm also relatively sure that 33% of all statistics are at least 45% made up). When I was 10, I discovered a book on Sister's bookshelf: A Horse Called Wonder by Joanna Campbell. I had actually given her this book for Christmas many years before--I vaguely remember standing in the bookstore with my father, deciding what to get her that year and picking out this book because the cover was so pretty (don't tell me not to judge a book by its cover--I'm very susceptible to advertising, including trendy book jackets and/or cute baby animals).
I was 10 and looking for something to read. I was not an avid reader at that age, so it must have been for school or something. But when I opened that book, the world came alive for me. It was the first book that I remember enjoying outside of the picture books of my younger childhood years. This was different. I didn't love it for the pictures; I didn't love it for the fact that I could read it by myself; I didn't love it for the fact that my mother did all the voices of all the penguins. No, I loved it for the story. The way the words came alive and made pictures in my head. And through loving the story, I began to love horses.
After that, I inhaled books. I used all of my allowance and birthday money to buy the next book in the Thoroughbred series, then the next, and then the next (there were over 72 books in this series... I think I finally called it quits somewhere in the 60s). When that didn't slake my thirst, I read The Saddle Club, The Golden Filly Series and the High Hurdles Series, Horsefeathers, Heartland, Misty of Chincoteague (and all its sequels), and any other book about horses I could get my hands on. And before I knew it, I was consuming any book, about horses or not, that looked vaguely interesting in the Juvenile Literature and the Young Adult Fiction sections of my local library.
In the 6th Grade, I was placed on the gifted track at my school (Don't start thinking anything of this. My IQ was a tiny bit higher than average and my parents were very involved in my learning outside the classroom, so I was ahead of my classmates by a little bit. It's not like I'm in Mensa or anything. Because, please.). The gifted track at my school basically meant that I got to skip language arts and part of geography to go to a creative writing class. This class, combined with my newly voracious reading habit, was a pivotal moment in my life. When I realized I could make stories just like those famous authors and all I needed was paper and a pencil (or a keyboard... or my just my mind for that matter), I was changed. My dreams of becoming a racehorse trainer in Kentucky (For reals and for serious. I was going to go to the University of Kentucky, major in Animal Husbandry, and train racehorses. Why? Because I was 6' tall in 6th Grade, so knew I could never make it as a jockey, duh!) paled in comparison to my new dream of being a writer.
[Incidentally, I actually started this post to tell you about my career ambitions at age 10 (a prompt from Mama Kit's Losin' It), which were deeply horse-related, but it has taken an odd and yet completely reasonable turn. So bear with me if it seems scattered.]
So, time goes on. I leave the 6th Grade and that writing class, along with a lot of memories I'd rather forget and a big girl complex to last the rest of my life. But that, my friends, is a poem for a different cafe. Anyways, I kept reading, branching into all sorts of genres and interests. My library, as awesome as it was, is a small town library with low funding, so by the time I hit 8th Grade, I had read almost 75% of the section (see the statistic quote above). I had read anything that had remotely piqued my interest and quite a few that hadn't, so one (sad) day I stopped going to the library. And my life got a lot more expensive.
My bookshelf was overflowing with books that I had been given for Christmas, birthdays, and had purchased with any babysitting money I managed to capture. By this time, I was reading the assigned books for school as pleasure reading--weeks before anything was due (and then forgetting to do the assignment and almost flunking 7th Grade language arts, which is further proof of my inability to follow through on anything). I was enjoying some of the classics, though I wouldn't discover my love for many of them until adulthood. I discovered Harry Potter at the start of my 8th Grade year, during a weekend stay at a hospital while a surgeon cut into my mother's grey matter (What, I haven't told you about that? Remind me to get permission and maybe I will...). These books, love them or hate them, opened my eyes to a talent like I had never seen before. J.K. Rowling can write, she can foreshadow, she can misdirect, and she can create a fantastical world from nothing other than her grey matter.
My freshman year, Sister handed me a book: Whatever Tomorrow Brings by Lori Wick. It was a Christian Romance novel, possibly a little more mature than I should have been reaidng at 14, but nothing racy or scandalous. I actually set it aside for a few months, not really interested, because it was a grown-up book and was probably boring. When I got over myself and read it, I fell in love for the very first time with a fictional character. Marshall Riggs was my hero and everything I wanted in a man. I finished the rest of the series in two days and started pillaging my mother's and Sister's bookcases for anything like them.
It would be years before I discovered that very few men exist with Marshall Riggs' kind of tender, yet rugged manliness. And that these kind of novels set young women up for a certain level of dating failure, because no man in real life is that patient, perfect, understanding, or communicative. I'm not ragging on men; Lord knows we women have our issues, too. Plus, it's not like the women in these books are paragons of reality, either. Okay, rant over... I think. My point is, however vague I was in making it, that there was something in these books that spoke to me. They weren't all completely realistic, but there were slivers of truth in each story. It was like when I found the Thoroughbred Series, but deeper. I realized that it was the ideal, the life I had always wanted: to fall in love and make a family.
Some of the books were better than others, some much more fantasy than a realistic description of a the evolution of a relationship. But in each of them, I connected. And the more I connected, the more I realized that I had stories in me. My own characters who pestered me incessantly to put their stories on paper. For much of my life, I have ignored them or only allowed them out to play in the moments before sleep. When I do write, my self-doubt always creeps in and I end up causing permanent damage to my delete key. Or I allow the files to languish on my hard drive or in a notebook under my bed.
Since I've started blogging, though, I've found the "Publish Post" key to be the kryptonite to the dreaded delete key. I do some editing, sure. And I still over-think everything before I type it. But at the end of the day, I still publish. Because I have readers that I don't want to lose and who might walk away if I leave them alone too long. I try not to think too much about them running away if I reveal too much or say something stupid, because... There's a lot of crap on the Internet that has readers. I've found a niche and I'm staying here.
Anyway, this post has taken a strange and winding turn, one that I took a break in the middle of to cry over completely unrelated and yet intrinsically linked issues. So, what did 10-year-old me dream of doing when I grew up? I dreamed of living in Kentucky, training racehorses by day and writing novels by night. What do I dream of now? I dream of getting married. I dream of having babies. I dream of working a job that I am passionate about, without being abused by my boss or terrorized by my coworkers. And writing novels by night.
I guess that answers more questions than the one I asked myself at the beginning of the post. If this doesn't make sense to you, don't worry... I'm still working some stuff out about which direction I am supposed to go with my career and my life right now. If it does make sense to you... Well, you are probably my mother or father. So, Mom, Dad, if you're reading this and it makes sense to you, will you call me and tell me what it means? Thanks and I love you. Oh, and: sorry for keeping you up so late tonight.
Enough of my ramblings. What did you dream of being when you grew up? Are you doing it? Did your dreams change? Or did your expectations from life and from yourself change? What do you dream of now for your future? Will you give yourself permission to have it? If you do, do you realize how rare that is?