Like many other people, for years I walked around under the shadow of the great What If. What If I were living elsewhere? What If there were less people, and more space? What If I actually pursued work I’ve always wanted, rather than succumbing to someone else’s “practical” suggestions, or taking what was available at a given time?
What If I succeeded?
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From the time I was small, I was in love with the written word. In grammar school, I used to read books while walking home from school. I read everything I could get my hands on – whatever I saw lying around – whether or not it was appropriate. My mother tells me that when I was about six years old, I found one of her Lamaze books and read it out loud to her and her mother (I am the oldest child). By the time I was in first grade, I knew I was going to write books.
Then I didn’t. Write them, I mean.
I pursued all sorts of other things I thought that I wanted to pursue. After college I took a “good” job, and otherwise digressed from the dream, prompted by concerns about practicality and the well-meaning suggestions of those close to me. I found myself getting ever more frustrated and unhappy, though it took me some time to acknowledge it. Eventually my unhappiness became self-directed anger, and impacted my health and personal relationships.
This went on for years. Then, at the end of 2011, I had another opportunity to confront my long-time nemesis, What If. I had quit my job. What If I spent a month in Montreal, in the teeth of winter, with three words of French and my laptop computer? What If I spent this month just writing?
It’s hard for me to adequately express how much I loved it. I made myself a schedule – yes, I was one of those people – and gave myself writing assignments. They were longer in nature, but I broke them up into bite-size pieces. I was firm with myself – I had a workweek. In the evenings, I was required to relax and do something completely different. I could literally almost feel my body unfolding, relaxing, filling with energy and purpose.
What If I wrote for a month? I fell in love all over again, that’s what I did.
What have you been dreaming lately?