It sounds trite, I know. And we’ve heard it a thousand times: Follow Your Dreams! As if it were easy.
Every Wednesday, I’m going to blog about this topic, because it has changed my life. At 38, I decided to stop wishing and hoping, and I started doing. I’m finally living my dream of being an author.
But following the dream isn’t all umbrella drinks and sunshine days. Quite the opposite, in fact. And even though it stresses me out sometimes and keeps me ridiculously busy, I wouldn’t trade one minute of it. The innate joy it has brought me is immeasurable. So I’m gonna start this series off by telling you how I got my start.
I’ve always written, but the stories were just for me. I had a husband, four kids, a small business, I tutored in my spare time for extra money, and coached high school tennis – I had no time for a dream.
My grandfather was in a nursing home after a series of strokes that left him physically fine but mentally deteriorating. He couldn’t care for himself, mostly because he forgot to. And the strokes left him with dementia, which made him belligerent and difficult to communicate with. I visited him often, and I noticed the home wasn’t keeping up with his personal hygiene. The nurses said that he wouldn’t let them bathe him.
So Grandpa moved in with my parents, who had built their home with this in mind. He lasted two weeks there. He wouldn’t let my parents care for him, either.
That left me.
My wonderful husband agreed to let Grandpa move in. I became his full-time caregiver. And while that time was the most rewarding of my life, it was also the hardest. I spent most nights crying into my pillow. And I took up writing in earnest.
I needed a break. I needed an escape. So after I tucked Grandpa into bed and turned on his baby monitor, I set the receiver next to my laptop and I wrote. And wrote. Somewhere along the line, I got serious about it. I realized I could really do this.
Looking back, it’s funny, because my life was busier and more stressful than it had ever been. If someone had told me that I could fit my DREAM in there somewhere, I would have laughed in their face. But the reason I was able to fit it in was because I needed it. I needed something bright and positive, I needed a creative outlet, so I made it a priority. It was really that simple: if you want something badly enough, you will make it a priority.
Before I spent my nights writing, what did I do to fill my time? Television, Internet surfing, working, laundry, sleep. Basically, nothing important. Sure, I still do all those things, sometimes, but the dream was/is more important. It’s amazing how much crap you can fit into a day and not even realize how much time you’ve lost.
Grandpa has now passed away, and my kids are now much older and more self-sufficient, but I still write every evening after everyone’s in bed. That’s my writing time. And something major has to be going on for me to give it up and do something else.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it, and we’ll explore it in future posts. But I hope I’ve got you thinking: how much time do I spend on things that don’t really matter? No one’s gonna be talking at your funeral about how many episodes of The Walking Dead you managed to watch, or how many funny videos you shared on Facebook. Don’t you want them to talk instead about your indomitable spirit, your drive, your courage in the face of insurmountable obstacles?