The Dreams of Youth

I love how my nieces and nephews go for their dreams so vigorously, so filled with hope. They are making their lives happen. They’re grabbing happiness, the kind that comes from possibility. Their futures hold so many of these precious gems. It’s the maybes that propel their talents and creativity.
I remember when I was young and was sure that I would write books and get paid to “dream stuff up” as my thinking told me. I believed it.

Unlike my nieces and nephews, or even my husband, I only tinker with my dreams once in awhile and mostly give up. I’m not sure why. I think the hopes I have get crowded out by the need to go to the bank, take out the trash, pull weeds and put gas in the car.

Yes, I still write. My dreams took a different shape than I thought they would. And, maybe that isn’t a bad thing. I joined the Army as a journalist and was trained at the Defense Information School. I learned a lot there that my English degree hadn’t taught me. I learned, for one thing, that I’m good at interviewing people. I generally really like people and I like to hear their stories.

So, for a little more than four years, I did stories about soldiers getting promoted, an Army surgeon who could reattach limbs, awards for the best mess hall (or dining facility, as the military prefers them to be called), new gas masks, and the anniversary of World War II. I interviewed a young man who won the chance to be Lt. Governor for the day in Columbia, South Carolina. He told me, when I asked him who his hero was, that his little brother was his hero. I interviewed many World War II veterans, including Francis “Bull” Dawson, who served in World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War, and who helped found the Green Berets. I went with him to Ft. Benning, Georgia when he was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame. And, I listened to him talk about his golf game and his wife. I interviewed Tuskegee Airmen and Nuremburg prosecutors. I interviewed a Holocaust survivor and the chief of the South Carolina Cherokee, a man with a PhD who taught a room full of soldiers a complex history of the Native People here, a history seldom taught in schools. I am not sure I could write a novel better than so many of the stories I heard back then and the story of my life is richer because of these people.

Still, the illusive novel has not sprung forth from my brain yet. I’ve participated in the National Novel Writing Month every November since 2009 and completed all but two years. But, writing 50,000 words in a month can be discouraging for a perfectionist like myself because they become such an overwhelming jumble and I begin to think that maybe I will never see my dream come true.

And yet, I can’t give up. There’s something that stirs inside me that tells me I have to do it. My nieces and nephews are my inspiration. When they create works of art, I am inspired not just by the wonderful creations they make, but by their belief in themselves and their willingness to take risks to pursue what stirs inside them. I’m proud of them. And, so, my hope is renewed because of them. I am beginning to think that’s one of the purposes for children in this life – to remind us older folks how beautiful it can be to follow the voice of inspiration that speaks to all of us if we’ll listen. I think I hear it calling my name. What about you?

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