When I was a girl I wanted to be a gymnast, a writer, and a veterinarian who traveled to the remote corners of the world in search of exotic beasts. There were plenty of other things in between, passing dreams, but these were THE DREAMS. I remember something from the Paul Zindel book The Pigman, in which the characters try to do two real things every day to bring them closer to their dreams, and they keep a record of these things. I don’t remember the book well except for that part but that really made an impression. I think I got the message very young that there are dreams and then there are DREAMS. There are flights of fancy and wishing to be a princess or a super hero, and then there are our real, soul-deep hopes for the unfurling of our lives. Our lives will unfurl come what may, even if we don’t do anything but watch television all day, but they will only unfurl in the direction of our dreams if we steer them that way.
I was a competetive gymnast blessed with a mother with infinite patience for carpools and bleachers. She braided my hair so tight my scalp felt like a prisoner. The living room was kept empty of everything but a gymnastics mat (I think this was more because we were a young military family of limited means than because of my gymnastics, after all, mom drove me to practice almost every day, but that empty living room was where I finally learned not to put my hand down at the last minute doing ariels.) I pursued that dream one backhandspring at a time, and I learned that dreams have to be built, assembled -- they aren’t delivered by dolly all ready to go. And girls -- and boys -- need back-up, parents who’ll sit in bleachers watching the same boring compulsory routines over and over, who’ll drive them to the gym or dojo, or the library, the museum, the bookstore, the observatory, the zoo, to whatever place feeds their dreams, and that’s how you give kids the tools to build themselves. To build their SELF.
My brother and sister and I were very lucky in our parents. And the thing that inspired this thinking was reading about another lucky, powerful girl and another awesome bleacher-sitting mom. If you haven’t visited her site before you’re in for a treat; she’s an amazing storyteller. Anyway, eleven-year-old Maya has qualified for the Junior Olympics in Taekwondo, and you can help send her there. Reading this post about her drive and motivation really brought me back to myself at that age, and how I did my homework in the splits to work on my flexibility, how I could just NOT walk past a patch of grass without a flip or two. I made a small contribution to the Maya fund and I’ll give some bracelets to my niece Izzy, who’s an incredible athlete and artist herself, and who I hope will grow big dreams of her own, and learn to follow them doggedly into a beautiful life.