Every child has dreams. My parents encouraged us to dream big and dream often. I wanted to be a ballerina, a police officer, a vet, a singer, an actress, the red haired kid from Annie, an astronaut, a doctor, a lawyer… The list changed constantly but being a writer has been at the top for as long as I can remember.
As you grow up, things change. You start to recognise your strengths and weaknesses. You begin to identify the areas you're really interested in. You learn about life and the way the world works and you gain a more realistic perspective. I was too big to be a ballerina. Space travel scared me. I can sing but I’m no Whitney. So the list changed some more. Writing was still there though, right at the top.
I went to university. I worked hard. Of course I got a little distracted. I made friends, I went to parties, I directed Pinter plays and made obscure comments about the weight of a pause. Still I wanted to be a writer. But I noticed something. All around me, people’s dreams were changing. The things they had clung to in all the years I had known them suddenly mattered less or not at all.
I started to panic. They had all grown up, I thought. They were falling in love and talking about weddings and babies and PTA meetings. I wasn't interested in any of those things-I still wanted to change the world. I still wanted to write.
I waited to grow out of it and all the while, my friends and peers were getting promoted and saying their vows and buying houses. I continued to write. I never felt like I was waiting for a big break, never thought about spending my time pursuing something more profitable or more conventional. I wrote for the love of it. I wrote because I wanted to. I wrote to please myself. People asked when I was going to sort myself out and settle down and it got me thinking.
Perhaps I won't.
The thought doesn't fill me with horror. I have never believed in a one size fits all approach to life.
Marriage works for some people and not for others. Some people actively pursue the family life, some reject it entirely. Others don't seem to mind either way. Climbing the corporate ladder is a perfect use of time for certain people. Others spend all their lives doing work which is far below their potential because they can't catch a break. Some do the day job so they can afford to pursue the thing they love, be it a family or a crazy social life or beautiful house or, as in my case, a favourite pastime.
What works for you probably won't work for somebody else. It's worth remembering the next time you feel like suggesting somebody “settles down.” If you've found something that makes you happy, congratulations. Take it, enjoy it, be content but don't force it on the next person you meet that doesn't seem to have their life sorted.
I'm nearly thirty years old and I've spent a decade worrying about being left behind. I felt like there was something wrong with me because I was still holding on to dreams that helped a five year old sleep at night. Then it dawned on me; the dream of being a writer has been with me from a very young age. It burned hotter and brighter than everything else. It took root in a young heart and waited, impervious to time and worry and the process of growing up. It withstood all sense, logic and reason and though I have, at every stage of my life, had a million reasons not to write, I cannot seem to keep the stories in.
So there you have it. It is a wonderful thing to have a dream and you should treasure it always. It may not be a dream that others share or even understand but it is yours and it will keep you warm, when everything seems lost.