My guest blogger today is Johanna from Johanna Garth. She’s a newly published author with dreams of becoming a long-term successful writer. She’s sharing an amazing post with us here today based on her experience, a journey that is so worth reading.
When I was in third grade I decided to become a lawyer. I was certain, from the tip of my toes to the ends of my pigtails, the life of law was meant for me. I couldn’t articulate why I wanted to be a lawyer and I have a strong suspicion I had no idea what lawyers did, but that didn’t matter. What I had was a dream. Someday I would walk into the offices of a major New York City law firm (unchartered territory for a girl from rural Oregon) as a full-fledged lawyer. I held onto my dream with such ferocity that it couldn’t have surprised anyone when I finally did what I’d set out to do.
The interesting thing about achieving that first dream is that it wasn’t exactly like I thought it would be. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. I did, I absolutely did. It turns out my third grade self somehow knew I would love the practice of law. It’s just that somewhere along the line the initial dream became unimportant. I’d done what I’d set out to do and now there were other goals and dreams. We measure ourselves against the people we see on a daily basis and my colleagues had all achieved the same pinnacle of success as I had. Now we were all shooting for higher pinnacles.
I went right on tackling one mountain after another until I had a metaphorical mountain climbing accident. My daughter was born. She came along and I lost my hold on everything else. My first taste of that all-encompassing love affair that is the way a mother loves her first child, left no room for any other dreams. I couldn’t imagine anything better than holding my daughter in my arms while she looked up at me with her amazing deep blue, baby eyes.
Somehow I managed to go back to work, partly because it never occurred to me to do anything else. A month later my daughter went on a hunger strike. Her particular genius for guerilla warfare combined with starry-eyed mother love spelled the end for my legal career.
I gave it up.
I gave it up quickly, with only the slightest tinge of regret. I told myself I wouldn’t look back or second guess myself. Except, it’s almost impossible not to look back. My colleagues became partners in law firms, judges and business executives with their own staff. I changed diapers, cleaned the kitchen floor and taught myself how to cook.
I also started to write.
I’d always kept a journal and jotted down little things that appealed to me. Now, I snuck off to my computer at naptime and wrote stories. The stories turned into books and the idea of publishing something, anything, began to emerge as a new dream. I didn’t tell anyone about this new dream because it seemed impossible. I just kept writing, sending things out to editors, agents and magazines and filing away my rejections. After five years I told my closest friends I was writing. After seven years, I could sometimes bring myself to tell acquaintances I was an unpublished writer. This year, nine years after I walked away from my first dream, I’ve achieved my second dream. The dream I was beginning to think was impossible. My book has been published. It’s my dream come true. I’m walking on air. Except…
This time around I’ve been more careful. I’ve learned that dreams, while important, are never as satisfying as we expect. As soon as they become reality we accept them and move on. I’ve barely had time to savor this first step towards becoming a full-fledged writer and already I want more. It’s never enough and that, I’ve realized, is the essential problem with dreams (or maybe me, I’m not sure which). Dreams can take you a long way but it’s easy to keep striving for the next big moment and forget all the little moments that make life amazing. With that in mind I gave myself the task of creating a list of things that are important to do each and every day:
1. Stop and listen to each of my children and focus on whatever it is they need me to know.
2. Kiss my husband.
3. Laugh with anyone. Dreams are empty without laughter
4. Have something to look forward to – maybe a movie with friends or a vacation. It doesn’t matter what as long as it’s something.
5. Eat something that tastes good.
What’s my point? Women cannot live on dreams alone. My dream was to publish a book (just one) and have it see some kind of moderate success. You can bet money that now I want to publish two (just two) and see them both achieve wild success. As my dreams expand, contract, die out and renew I’ll be keeping a tight watch on the list above. Figure out your own list of things that sustain you and then keep it somewhere safe and close to your heart.
Those are the real dreams.
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