They say, when you are dissatisfied with your career, that you should think back to what you loved to do when you were 10.
Do you remember your 10-year old self?
I didn’t. At least not when I was 25, 35, or 45.
But then I passed 50 and learned that a magical thing happens to you at midlife. (Yes, there is gold to be found in the hills of aging-related indignities!)
As the physical cycles that have ruled your life since puberty begin to fade to the background, you start to wake up from the long, strange hormone trip it’s been. You start to remember things, including your 10-year old self: the one who didn’t care about pleasing boys or pleasing girls, who didn't know enough to be afraid of what people thought of her. The girl who slept soundly at night, thoughtlessly, carelessly, and took each day as it came.
I hadn’t hung around with that girl for a long time. But she's started stopping by more often, offering unbidden and random memories:
Devouring book after library book, sitting with my legs tucked under me on the orange floral pull-out couch in my bedroom.
Making up imaginary fairy worlds and games in the woods with the smell of ferns all around.
Doodling and drawing for days. Who knows how long it really was. Hours. Weeks. All summer, probably. There was a lot of unstructured time in the 70’s.
I would mostly draw pictures of women wearing beautiful dresses. Actually, pictures of women’s torsos wearing pretty dresses. I couldn’t draw faces or hands or feet, so I settled for mannequin-armed and -legged torsos that ended at the joints. It was really about the dress, anyway.
I drew pages and pages of them, spilling off the edges of the paper, a convenient way to avoid said problematic hands and feet (delighted with my clever self!) and often the same ones, over and over.
By the way, I was actually supposed to be learning to draw for real. Set to a task meant to occupy me for a good long time by an exasperated mother, I was surrounded by “teach yourself to sketch” books, filled with pedantic instructions for turning ovals and triangles into animals. It seemed so pointless. I quickly got bored with that rigid geometry and went back to the more fluid lines of my dresses.
I preferred very long flowing skirts, as a rule. But otherwise I experimented freely with basque waistlines and princess seams, with sweetheart necklines and plunging v-necks, with poufy sleeves and floaty sleeves and bell sleeves and cap sleeves and ¾ sleeves. [humming happily]
Stirring from a recent reverie, I looked back to my computer screen where I was working on a new web site.
Smiling back at me was a lovely, grown-up, real woman, complete with a face, hands, and feet. She was wearing a Beautiful. Long. Elegant. V-neck. Dress.
I looked over at that little girl drawing on her bedroom floor, in awe.
She was a lot more patient and determined than I gave her credit for!
*** Each of our lives is a story pulled from the bookshelf of a library, filled with changing characters, surprising plot twists, boring parts we want to skip, good parts we read over and over, even some awful parts that we wish we had never read that haunt our dreams. We never know what will happen in the next chapter.
The fairy worlds we dream in the soft summer ferns are waiting for us to remember the way and return.
So don’t wish away a moment of your story, no matter how painful or confusing the plot. Keep reading.
The ending might surprise you.