Many years ago when I was a teen, I had a dream. Actually a couple of them. I dreamed of becoming a writer and a photographer. I wrote constantly, a lot of silly poems and little stories. I kept a journal faithfully, to use for future story ideas and loved getting assignments in English which required researching and then writing about something. Anything. It didn't matter what the theme was, I would dig in eagerly and my grades always reflected my love of writing with an A.
As for the photography, that had it's own place in my heart and where the writing was a way of getting things out, anger, sadness, anxiety, or sharing happiness and knowledge, the photography was more of an escape. Photography brought a calmness to me. Whatever was happening in my life would seem to disappear for a brief time while I became the camera and all the beauty I captured was stored inside my soul. It still works like that today.
I kept these dreams to myself, they were my anchors, my secret goals to see me through what wasn't an easy childhood, although it may have looked great to the casual observer. When I was too young to have a license, I would often disappear early in the day on my bike. Taking my camera and lunch I would set off and spend my days riding along the back roads, rarely spotting another person, taking shots of anything that caught my eye. Flowers, cows, horses, old rotten fence posts, stone walls, reflections in streams, abstracts made by nature's textures, shadows from light filtering through the leaves, so many wonders to be caught through the lens of my camera.
After many hours I would return home, always happy and tired with a couple of rolls of film to be developed. I have lost most of the photos from those days, a fire destroyed quite a few and the actions of another person took most of what remained, along with everything I had written during my younger years. However, 45 years later I still have some photos tucked away. Not many, probably less than a dozen, but I like to take them out and look at them occasionally and go back to the days when I was young and full of dreams that seemed possible to achieve.
My plan was to go to college for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and then, while working at whatever writing or photography type jobs I could find, continue my studies until, at some point, I got a Master of Fine Arts degree. I had great grades and ambition and most of all love for both subjects so I was hoping to get help with college through scholarships if possible, even though I didn't take the college courses in high school and went for the business ones instead. I might have been a dreamer but I knew it wouldn't hurt to have a backup plan! Also, I had started working when I was 13 and was putting money away so knew I would keep working and saving. By high school I was so used to working it would have felt strange to NOT work. and of course I knew I would keep writing and taking photos while I continued my education. Perhaps even get some articles or photos published! In those days anything seemed possible.
If only a strong desire was all it took to obtain your dreams. Now I look back and think of how naive that younger me truly was. I was so positive I would succeed, after all, what could go wrong?
I soon found out that LIFE could go wrong. Despite my best intentions life came along and knocked me on my butt, stealing all my dreams in one full swoop. For reasons that will remain known only to my therapist and a few very close friends, before I turned 17 I was working a full time 3rd shift job, had dropped out of school and by my 17th birthday was living in my own apartment. I had actually left home at 16 but was dragged back for another year. During that year I quit school and found the job which enabled me to have the money to move out.
And that, as they say, was that. It seems that no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get hold of the dreams firmly enough. I ended up getting married, and divorced, and married again. First husband didn't support any of my "little hobbies", so they withered away during our 12 year relationship. Second husband was proud of his wife the writer and very supportive. So I started taking a home study course in Journalism and was doing pretty good at it..when LIFE decided to rear it's ugly head again. This time in the form of our first child, a son, who despite odds of 1/800, was born with Down Syndrome. Not a curse, he was, and is still, very much loved. He just wasn't what we had expected at our age. However, as a writer and a new mother of a baby with a disability, I saw a wonderful chance to help other new parents of Down Syndrome babies and wrote an article titled "So Your New Baby Has Down Syndrome" which included many helpful tips and such that we had learned, mostly on our own, not being ones for groups and such. I hand wrote it in a notebook and eventually typed the final draft on an old Royal typewriter, all during times when our son was sleeping. When it was ready I mailed off letters to baby magazines trying to get it published. Every day when the mailman came I would meet him, only to be told no letter today. He knew after a couple of days what I was waiting for. And then one day, it came. A letter from American Baby. I think the mailman was just as excited as I was by then, so he asked if he could wait and see what it said. I didn't even have to tell him. The fact that I screamed and practically jumped into his arms to hug him said it all!
WOW! They wanted it and were going to PAY me for it! This was it. I was now a REAL writer! Of course I should have known better, but I was floating, with my head in the clouds, never expecting that once again LIFE had other ideas where I was concerned. My article was lost in the mail. I had sent it out the very next day, regular mail. As if that wasn't bad enough I had sent the ONLY COPY of my final draft. All I had kept was my original, very rough, handwritten draft, basically nothing more than a glorified outline. Almost immediately after that, the rabbit died again and baby number two came along. Again, not a curse, she was, and still is, very much loved. But it made me rethink my goals. With a new daughter who was very advanced and did things much sooner than she should have and her brother who was delayed, it was almost like having twins. One or the other always needed me, so it was time to close the textbooks, put away the pencils, paper and typewriter and grow up.
Part Two coming soon....