Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Not-So-Static Dreams

I recently finished reading a book called Firefly Lane, written by Kristin Hannah.  My step-mom had read the book a couple weeks ago, and as soon as she finished the book, she mailed it to me.  In the box, she included a single tissue.  At first, I was a bit confused, wondering if she had meant the tissue as some sort of padding for the box to keep the book from sliding around.  But that didn't quite seem right since the box was about the same size as the book--there wasn't a whole lot of wiggle room.  A note was also included, which explained the tissue.  It was a "starter tissue" because she couldn't fit an entire box of tissues in with the book.  She promised I'd need more than just the one, and she was right.  I got to the end of the book, the most emotional bit of the story, while my students were writing an in-class essay.  As they wrote, I silently (and at times not-so-silently) cried.  And sniffled.  One thing I love about books like Firefly Lane is that in between the main events that further the plot line, meaningful interstitial issues force me to take stock of my own life and beliefs.

One theme that struck me is the ability (or inability) to know what you want out of life.  So many people spend life wishing they had more--or at the least, something else.  I was--and am still--a person who has a hard time identifying exactly what she wants to do in life.  Growing up, I changed my mind about every six months.  I wanted to be a doctor, astronaut, veterinarian, cartoonist, clothing store owner, interior decorator, lawyer, teacher, and the list goes on.  And on.  As an adult, the only thing I can say for sure is that I need language to be a part of my life.  Most of you are probably shaking your heads, thinking that everyone has to use language to communicate, so really unless I stopped communicating altogether, I'd still have language in my life.  But when I say I need language in my life, I mean I need to do something with language--I need to be able to play with it, whether that's accomplished through writing, reading, analyzing, or studying it.  I used to feel the need to apologize for not knowing "what I want to be when I grow up."  Now, though, I'm not only coming to terms with the fact that I may never know exactly what I want to be, I'm starting to revel in the freedom of wanting more than one career goal.  I still feel a small stab of jealousy for those people who know exactly what they want at all times, and yet I know even those people still end up questioning whether they should have done more or something else entirely.  Mary Lou Retton summed that conundrum up nicely when she said, "Many medal winners dream of competing in a sport other than the one they're famous for."

Speaking for the people who can't quite make up their minds about what they want out of life, Kristin Hannah wrote the following in Firefly Lane (on page 127):

"How could she tell her best friend that she no longer shared their dream?  It should be easy to say.  They'd been girls all those years ago when they'd chosen to embark on their tandem life.  In the years between then and now, the world had changed so much.  The war in Vietnam had been lost Nixon had resigned, Mount St. Helens had blown up, and cocaine had become the Chex mix for a new generation of partygoers.  The U.S. hockey team had pulled off a miracle win at the Olympics and a B-rate actor was president.  Dreams could hardly remain static in such uncertain times."

My mantra has become that last line: "Dreams [can] hardly remain static in such uncertain times."  I am learning to love that my dreams change as I grow.  For me, I think static dreams would be reflective of my giving up on myself, of my thinking that I was finished accomplishing anything new.  I sincerely hope I never get to that point.

Thank you to Janet for sending the book to me, and thank you to all the supporters in my life who stand behind me no matter what proclamation I make about my life goals.  It's nice to know I've got people surrounding me who don't laugh when I announce that I want to be the next Miss America. . .

Happy reading, and happy dreaming!

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