Life-Altering Questions

A few years ago, when I was a stay-home-mom-who-freelanced (I was never sure which of the jobs was more demanding, so I packaged them as one descriptive job), I was standing in the kitchen, drying glasses, watching Oprah. There was a motivational guest on (I can’t remember who specifically) who told everyone to imagine, for a second, what they would be if they could be anything.

My dishtowel hardly missed a swipe. “I’d be a novelist,” I said, in the general direction of the TV set, putting the glass away into the cupboard.

I grabbed the next dish as Oprah left a dramatic pause. And then she said, “So why aren’t you?”

My dishtowel halted. My hands went to my side. I turned toward the TV and stared. I stared at Oprah. I stared at the audience members. The camera panned and caught similarly stunned expressions from everyone.

So why aren’t you?

It sounds sort of silly that a television show – and only one line out of it, at that – could change your life, but that show did. That line did. Because I wondered, then, so why aren’t I?

Granted, I started out with a lot of reasons. As every self-respecting English major does, I had the proverbial Great American Novel started and unfinished in my underwear drawer. I started it right out of college. But then life got in the way and I created a series of excuses: I was just getting out of college. I was starting a “real” career. I was starting a family. I had little ones to raise. I was already working too many hours at the newspaper. I was already writing for a living. I was too busy. … 

But that day, while drying the glasses, all the reasons seemed to disappear. Suddenly the idea of writing novels didn’t sound crazy. I now had the time. I had the education. I had the familiarity with the publishing industry. I knew editors. My kids were older, and were leaving me pockets of time to work. I had already become the best mom I knew how to be. Suddenly I didn’t know why I wasn’t working to become the one other thing I would still be if I could be anything. …

So that day I began. I went to the book store and bought a few books on how it was done, and thus began my long (and still ongoing) education to do the very thing I always dreamed of doing – write novels. I decided on romance novels specifically. And I’m three years in, and as determined as ever. I have other work, too – there’s the “real” job (the one that pays the bills), and I like that job, too – but on my lunch hour, and on weekends, and late at night on the weeknights, I sit at my keyboard and pound out my books.

I’ve written three so far, each 100,000 words, and all in the editing stages. But I’m loving every minute of it. Even if I never got paid a penny, I’d always know that I got to spend some time being what I always wanted to be. I’ve met a wonderful writing community and have been able to surround myself with amazing new writer friends, and it already feels like my dream has come true. I’m willing to put in the work and pay my dues to become a pro novelist, but no more putting dreams aside. What would I be waiting for?

So how about you: What would you be if you could be anything? Can you start now? Have you heard of others starting their dreams late in life?

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0 thoughts on “Life-Altering Questions

  1. You’re so right! To know the dream’s already come true, just doing what you MOST want to do is the right dream… the rest is gravy. Can’t wait to see your published books, when the time comes.

  2. I am so happy for you! I get excited for you every time I see you get excited about a plot twist or some great piece of dialog. I know you’ll get it published one of these days soon!
    I too believe that living our dream is doing the thing (things) that makes us happy, be it work or lifestyle or both.
    Here’s to everone finding out what makes them happy and living it…and doing some good for others along the way!

  3. So do you think I could still be an NFL sideline reporter? Hmm…

    Gotta envision it.

    I really admire the way you have pursued your dream. You inspire me!!!

  4. Thanks, mizamiga, Chris and Grace!! Grace, I thought of your friend who decided to try out as a Rockette when she was … well, past the age that most people are flying to NYC to do such things! I remember that story and thinking “wow, GOOD for her!!!” As I recall, she didn’t make it (as I might never be published), but she’ll never wonder “what if.” And she’ll never regret not trying. An NFL sideline reporter, huh? Why not?

  5. When I was in my 30s working as an Ad Production Artist, I read a “Dear Abby” question from a guy who had always wanted to be a lawyer, but now, at age 30, felt he was too old to start. It would take him six years to complete his education, and “by then I’ll be 36 years old.”
    Abby’s answer was: “How old will you be in six years if you DON’T become a lawyer?”
    I became an editor and writer because of that answer. Also, it has a domino effect. When a 50-something friend of mine saw what I was doing, HE became a teacher like he’d always wanted.

  6. TexanPenny, what a great story! I love that Dear Abby quote! And I love to hear that someone besides me heard just one line that really pushed them in an entirely new life direction. … Congrats!

  7. Just thought I’d add my two cents in here – writing really is an incredible experience all on its own, even if the drive to publication takes on its own importance from time to time. I love your story…So why aren’t you? The question is an excellent one and one I’ll try to remember when I start listing “the can’ts” to getting more writing done.

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