“You know,” I say to my friend. “I think 12-year-old me would be pretty impressed with how my life is going.” I have cats. My love life is good. I’m writing full time, which isn’t lucrative by a long shot, but I make it work.
And I wear lots of dresses. That was apparently important to her. I have it written out. And the grown-up version of me that she draws wears a lot of dresses.
I’m shorter than that grown-up version. I have a larger chest. But no perm. No rock groupie’s teased hair.
Maybe 12-Year-Old Me Would Be Really Unimpressed
“Oh who knows,” my friend shoots back. “Past me was an asshole. He would probably pick apart my life.” He’d think we’re fat and old looking, he points out. Kids are cruel and relentless in middle school. It’s only sensible to conclude that they’d direct that cruelty at us as well.
He thinks that we’d naturally fall short of what we dreamed at that time, when we were at our most conformist, our most superficial.
He points out that he hasn’t been to outer space. And that I haven’t won big awards. I’m not on the NYT bestsellers list.
I fall into that large swath of the author field where you have steady sales and a following, but you’re not a household name. It’s the part of a writing career most folks don’t have psychological scripts for. People typically think of either the guy they know that wrote a book that nobody bought OR superstars like Stephen King, James Patterson, Danielle Steel, J.D. Robb, etc. Someone massively successful.
They don’t know about the big field between those two points. And that a “sudden breakthrough” usually isn’t sudden at all. It involves an intermediate stage, of some kind, that they didn’t see.
So when you’re an author and other people see you have fans, that you have book signings, they start rounding up in their head, thinking you’re gonna be REALLY FAMOUS. Which makes the job a weird thing to talk about with your family sometimes, when they can clearly see you sell plenty of books and have fans, but you’re not famous in the grand scheme of things. It confuses them a lot.
It’s Probably Best Not to Judge Your Adult Life By Childhood Dreams
I dunno. I can see what my friend is talking about. But part of me likes to think that 12-year-old me would still be impressed.
She’d be awfully confused about all the non-monogamy, I can tell you that much. That wasn’t part of her world view, what she thought was even possible. That would be a big plot twist much later, in her mid 20s.
But the rest of it? Who knows.
Because the important thing is that I like my life.
I suppose it’s probably best not to judge your adult life by childhood dreams. Because those dreams aren’t tempered by experience the same way my dreams are now.
Maybe that’s the real key to being happy — not living out every single fantastic childhood dream you had. But creating new ones as your life goes on. New things to strive for that better fit you.
“Or maybe that’s called settling,” my friend would probably say.
It’s good to have other people in your life who keep you grounded.