I am a super-model on resume paper. My lists of achievements, accolades, education, and certifications paint a picture of my life in air-brushed perfection. However, it is not an accurate picture of my life, but simply a list of successes with the struggles and failures brushed away. Nowhere on that shiny paper does it list my dreams or my hopes. I first wanted to be a writer in elementary school. I still have the first book I wrote with binding help from my mom using cardboard and wrapping paper, essays and short stories from 3rd grade, library poetry contest submissions, and essays from junior year English class. Yet, I took only one English course during my first four years in college – a required technical writing course. I took no creative writing classes, and the writing I entered in contests I wrote at the last minute claiming I wrote better with a deadline. I feared failure. I feared criticism. I feared someone telling me I could not write, and could never learn to write well.
I called writing a dream or a goal, but in truth, it was neither. It was a passion, a calling that whispered to me. But, I denied it. How could it be a calling when I spent so much time failing at it? I was supposed to be in some lofty academic field or living out a life of service to others. I felt guilty for my love of books. I loved the feel of books, the smell of books, and just sitting in a library or bookstore. I had a career I enjoyed that I was successful at. However, I still stared longingly at the covers of books at the library and wondered if my name would ever be on the cover of one of them.
I took a sabbatical from my career this past year to attempt to become a writer. I based my success on completing the book I have spent a decade working on with only a pile of failed attempts to show for it. During the earlier part of the year I decided that I needed to start a blog so that I would at least consistently write something read by others, but I never felt prepared enough to begin. I read information about blogs. I tried to find the answers to my questions of how to be a blogger, but I continued to run into my own doubt. My husband suggested I pretend to start a blog, and then write a month’s worth of posts just to see if I enjoyed blogging. I wrote two draft posts and started a third. I went to a writing conference. I ran a writers’ group. Then several months into this adventure, after nearly two years of unsuccessful efforts to have a second child, we found out we were pregnant. I developed relentless all-day, all-night morning sickness. Just basic life became more of a challenge than I ever imagined possible, and writing became non-existent. In the middle of all of this, I realized that counting on someday allowing me to have the time, ability, talent, and perseverance to achieve this dream only kept me counting on an imaginary, non-existent future. So, I started a blog without a perfect plan, without all the answers, and without assurance that I would succeed.
A year has passed, and I have not finished my book. I have received multiple rejection letters for essays and poems, and I hope much of what I write never leaves my laptop. I have a blog read mostly by kind family members and friends. By the definition of success I originally gave myself, I have failed to become a writer. However, I am a writer, not due to arbitrary success or failure, but simply because I write. Maybe I am not good at writing, but maybe I am a little better at writing than I was yesterday. Living a dream is more than simply dreaming it. I do not know where I am going – if I am going anywhere at all – but that doesn’t matter. This is an adventure – my adventure. If you are looking for the air-brushed version portrayed by my resume, I’m sorry – she does not exist. But, if you are looking for the person who listens to the calling in her heart even, and especially if, it is messy, challenging, and has no guarantee of success – I wave welcome to all who cease to hide behind the image of who they “should” be and instead embrace who they are with all the imperfections, blemishes, and journey-weary beauty.