When I Grow Up…

Recently, I had this conversation with my 16-year-old son. It’s kinda long, so you might want to grab some popcorn. Or a pillow. Maybe a bed.

Me: “Any thoughts about life after graduation?”
Him: “I dunno. College, I guess.”
Me: “Good decision. Any ideas about a major?”
Him: “I dunno. Business, maybe. Or computers.”
Me: (pausing) “Because you want to be a business guy? A computer guy?”
Him: (looking at me like I’m just so weird) “Uh, no. But I need a back-up plan.”
Me: “A back up plan for what?”
Him: “In case what I really want to do doesn’t work out.”
Me: “Which is…?”
(And he told me. Which I already knew. Because I’ve managed to learn a little about my kids over the years. Though it’s been difficult what with all the manicures and pedicures and Desperate Housewives reruns I’ve been watching).
Me: (finished listening, now blinking at him like he’s so weird): “So you’re gonna go take care of your back-up plan BEFORE you take care of your actual plan?”
Him: “Yeah. That’s what everyone says I’m supposed to do.”
Me: “Okay, but you’ll be eighteen. Call me crazy, but this might be a real good time to give your actual dream a shot. You know, before wives and kids and mortgages kick in.” (And then I had to clarify that I meant ONE wife. We’re not into the whole polygamy thing around here. Anymore.)
Him: “But what if the thing I want to do doesn’t work out?”
Me: “Well…then go do something else. That whole back-up thingy. But I don’t think now is the time to worry about it. Wait ‘til you’re really old. Like, thirty.”
Him: “Oh geez. If things don’t work out by then I might as well roll over and die.”

At which point I vowed never to speak to my kids again. But that’s not really relevant to this post.

Anyway, raise your hand if you had a back-up plan! I had one. A few, actually. I did wind up with a degree I love (Journalism) and was a few hours shy of a second degree (English), but then I decided one was enough and stopped pursuing it (#97 on the list of Dumb Things I’ve Done). But then I graduated and went to work. Got married. Had a child, and then another. And I loved the people I worked with, and I sorta liked what I was doing. And working is a very honorable thing, and oftentimes doing the things you need to do is absolutely the right decision.


The whole time I sat at that desk, I knew I wanted to try something different. See, from the time I was little, I wanted to write stories. Novels, actually. Which seemed kinda weird to me, because who did I know who wrote books? And who did I think I was, Judy Blume or something? (Actually, I thought I was Brooke Shields, which was a whole other dream of mine. Also not relevant to this post).

Anyway, this dream took major root when I was in seventh grade and my English teacher read one of my short stories out loud to the class. She then submitted it to some writing contest for kids. I never heard what happened next, so obviously I didn’t win. But never mind that, because she planted a seed in me back then. She told me I could write. She encouraged me. Praised me. Told me to shoot for the moon.

But eventually I landed back on earth, stuffed that dream in my pocket, and did the grown-up thing. I wrote greeting cards. Newspaper articles. Catalog descriptions. Again, honorable. A dream job for lots of people. But it wasn’t mine.

I still wanted to write books. But by that point I was a little afraid. A little set in my routine-y ways. Because I had a husband! And kids! And a mortgage! And I needed to do the responsible thing and grow up and quit thinking about writing stories about fake people in made-up situations.


The dream wouldn’t die. In fact, it grew. And grew. Until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. And by ignore, I mean keep making up excuses why I couldn’t possibly give it a try. And since I am of the mindset that God is usually the one who puts dreams inside us in the first place (unless it’s a dream of eating Milk Duds all day while watching movie after movie in a dark theater. I’m pretty sure that one is all mine),
one day not all that long ago, I tried it.

I wrote a book. Took some classes. Wrote another. Took more classes. Wrote another…and another. And I’ve finally found what I love to do. Aside from being a mother, writing is my passion.

And now I’m beginning the whole submission process. And there’s no guarantee publication will happen quickly. Based on things I’ve read about the whole process in general, it’s practically guaranteed to take awhile. In fact, it might not happen at all.

But I’m doing it anyway. Should’ve done it years ago. Probably all those years ago when my teacher said, “You should be a writer.” And so today I substitute teach by day and write by night. Because writing is a lonely business, and though I could close myself inside my house all day and shove my face in a computer without ever looking up, I kinda like being around people. And hanging around high schoolers and kindergarteners a few times a week provides all kinds of inspiration.

So why am I writing this post in the first place? Because I really believe that people should go after their dreams. Chase them like there’s no tomorrow. Aim high, and then take cover if bullets rain on us. But never, ever take the chance that any of us will look back and say, “I sure wish I’d tried that. I wonder what might have happened if I’d at least given that dream a shot.”

And I know I’ve said this once before, but I don’t think anyone is ever too old to get started.

Now, on a completely unrelated note, the ice cream truck made an appearance in my neighborhood the other day. And when it showed up, we were completely unprepared. I was doing laundry. My two younger kids were playing in the back yard. So when they ran inside the house screaming for money, I dropped some socks and frantically dug around for quarters, listening to the sound of carnival music fading in the background. And then we ran outside. And he was gone.

And my four-year-old cried. Big, wailing sounds that threatened to give me a headache. So we hopped in the car and went for a drive. And four blocks over, we found that heavenly white van. And my daughter ordered a Popsicle. And my son ordered a snow cone. And I ordered an ice cream sandwich.

Because deep down inside, I have the heart of a twelve-year-old girl. And that whole growing up thing?

Why would anyone ever want to do something as boring as that?

Happy Monday!

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Amy, I relate on so many levels! I remember being in fourth grade, sitting next to my best friend Jody, and the teacher told us we needed to write a story about our best friend. I raised my hand and said: “Does it have to be real, or can I make something up?” Because I had this great idea pop into my head. The teacher told me to write anything I wanted – and the seed was born.

    But, life happened. A husband, a mortgage, a small business, two little girls and a set of twin boys happened. In February, when the boys were about to turn two, I asked myself what in the world am I waiting for? It’s never going to be convenient to write. So I started blogging – and BAM! The world of publication hunting was opened to me. I was BLOW AWAY. I had no idea what was even out there. I’d never read a writing craft book in my life. I didn’t know anything about agents, conferences or blogs for that matter. But, more importantly, I didn’t know there was a whole group of people out there speaking my language. I’ve never known anyone who shares the same dream of publication – but now I do. It is a solitary pursuit – and I am definitely not an introvert, but having so many like minded writing friends has put wind to my sails.

    I agree a hundred percent – go after your dreams and don’t let life stop you. 🙂

  2. jlmbewe

    Yes! Wow, that is so cool how you responded to your son. We’ve all had these thoughts drilled into our head. Writing isn’t a real profession, you can’t do it. What makes you think you can do it, etc, etc… For me it started when I was eight and I drew up little construction paper books complete with illustrations and an author’s page. Fourth grade catapulted me into reading. When I was twelve, one of my English teachers sent me to a writer’s camp. I hardly remember it now. A teacher once wrote on my short story assignment if I didn’t find a job using this talent, it would be a sin. Another time I won an award for my writing and a trip to the counselor’s office. Someone thought I was suicidal. And yeah, life happened and I completely forgot about it all. It wasn’t real, right? All that now has come back to me like little confirmations as I pursue my dreams. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I'm Amy

    Thanks, ladies. Gabrielle, it sounds like we have nearly the same life (also 4 kids, 2 boys 2 girls)! It’s nice to know there are so many people like me out there!

  4. Teri

    Amy, Love this post. When I was in my early twenties, I dreamed of writing a novel about a young woman serving as a missionary in Jamaica. I’d felt called to the mission field as a sixteen year old, so maybe I was hoping to live the missionary life through my character. But then, like you, life happened. Husband, three children, and lots of moving around. Then at 34, I finally became a missionary. 🙂 Dream come true. Now we’re back in the States, and guess what I’m doing? I’m writing novels set on the mission fields where I’ve served, except my WIP is set in Cuba. Wanted to serve there, but never got the chance. But, hey, who knows?

  5. I'm Amy

    That’s very cool, Teri! I know, it seems like goals and dreams usually have a way of catching up to people, don’t they? Maybe you’ll get to serve in Cuba one day! Thanks for your sweet comments!

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