“What begins as something like a dream will in fact stay a dream forever unless you have the tools and the discipline to bring it out.” – Ann Patchett
When I was nine years old, I published my first article in a children’s fashion magazine.
I was about to start fourth grade, and I spent my summer honking my way through excruciating clarinet lessons and paging through Limited Too catalogs. I had no real qualifications to be writing articles in fashion magazines, except that I wanted to be a writer and my entrepreneurial aunt (who now owns a hand-poured soy candle company) was one of the people working to launch this particular magazine.
And my aunt took my writing seriously.
She gave me a topic: I needed to write an article about sunglasses. She gave me a deadline and a word count and a sense of how my article would fit into the larger vision of the magazine.
She wasn’t patronizing – no one was patting me on the head and cooing over how gushy and sweet my writing would be. The whole experience was new and exciting and dripping in generosity, but it felt very professional. As if I were a Real Writer. As if at age 9 I was worthy and capable of writing an article for a magazine.
And in the miracle of being taken seriously, I behaved like a Real Writer.
I went to Walgreens with my mom and spun the plastic display racks of cheap sunglasses while she shopped, imagining which sunglasses would look better on which face shapes. I debated the intersection of fashion and individuality – where “trendiness” crashes into personal preference, where my opinions collide with someone else’s flair.
I reflected in my sequined journal about how sad I would feel if I bought a pair of sunglasses I loved… then read a magazine article about how their shape didn’t look good on me. On the cusp of my own adolescence, I grappled with the power and responsibility of my words.
By the time my article “Made in the Shade” debuted in the summer of 1999, it had evolved into a celebratory piece. I claimed that readers would look dazzling in whatever sunglasses they loved the most – that they should express their souls through their sunglasses rather than worrying about what anyone else thought. (This was, unbeknownst to me, my first venture into self-help writing)
I was so proud of my article –I wrote an article for a magazine! Only in retrospect did I understand that my article was only possible due to my aunt’s commitment to disregarding my age and taking my dreams seriously.
What if the next time someone told you their dream, no matter how impractical or unrealistic it sounded, you treated them as if the dream were completely possible?
What if you refrained from pointing out every potential roadblock to their dream (which they have surely already considered during 3 AM panics) and instead gave them the space and the seriousness that my aunt gave me?
Are you willing to give that miracle to someone? Are you willing to hold the space for their transformation, no matter how old or young or broke or naïve they may seem?
And when we dare to take our own talents and passions seriously, we create the space for massive personal transformation.
Taking our passions seriously doesn’t mean we suck the fun out of them. It doesn’t mean we take our incredible and holy talents, furrow our eyebrows together into a “serious” face, and chisel our dreams lifeless into the ground. It doesn’t mean we are so strict with ourselves that we lose our original joy.
It means we value our passions. It means we honor them and treat them with intention and defend them against the urge to be “practical” or “realistic.” It means we claim our talents as vital pieces of ourselves – not just as disposable hobbies, but as real facets of our own evolution. It means we love ourselves enough to acknowledge that our passions are important to the divine functioning of Who We Really Are.
It means that when someone asks “Oh cool – you’re a writer(/entrepreneur/coach/artist/parent/person who loves to cook/whatever)?” we don’t shrink back and correct them. We don’t laugh nervously and respond with a sarcastic comment that downplays our gifts. We don’t attempt to be so humble and casual that we lose the opportunity to share our fierce and vulnerable truth with them.
We clear our throats. We let the cramped-up feelings of inadequacy, of freak outs, of Oh-my-God-I’m-not-ACTUALLY-that-thing roll through our bodies for a moment.
And then we stand a little straighter. And we smile. And we remember that our time on this planet is short, and there is no wiggle room to tap-dance around our desires. We remember that the present moment is pregnant with infinite future outcomes that hinge on how we react to this question and how worthy we believe ourselves to be.
And we gather up our little snippets of daily bravery, we scoop them towards our hearts like bundles of autumn leaves, and we say:
“Yes. Yes, actually, I am.”
Peace and Dreamy Rockin’ Shades,