For as long as I can remember I wanted to be famous.
Picture a 7-year-old girl watching Nadia until she had it memorized, and then re-creating the same ab crunches along with some rudimentary cartwheels in the backyard, all the while envisioning the movie they would make about her one day.
A few years later, while the neighbor kids were out riding bikes or huddled around afternoon cartoons, I was hovered over my parents' typewriter, plunking out page after page of "my first novel" that my school class would beg to have me read aloud to them, whenever the teacher would indulge me.
By age twelve my artistic ambition found inspiration in the pinnacle of talent that was Bob Ross. I spent hour after hour agonizing over those canvases, trying to make my trees as happy as his were--persistent to the point of tears on many occasions. But just wait until someone discovers me!
My dreams and life ambitions as a child and budding adult ran the gamut from olympian to professional pianist to artist to rock climber and more. I wouldn't even call myself a dreamer, I'm actually more of a realist. But there's something beautiful in all of those childhood phases, as if like little pearls in oysters, innocent and unstoppable, so far untainted by the cold, harsh world of competition and reality.
There are childhood dreams that withstand the tempest of adversity, the tests of persistence and defy all odds. Marian Anderson, Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead, Marie Curie, Margaret Bourke-White, and so many other influential women in modern history were shaped "just so" in their childhood to grow up and change the world in meaningful ways. But for most of us, our coming of age involves the realization that changing the world in big ways requires more than just dreaming, and often more than we're willing to give. One of my poignant moments of realization came sometime after my second child was born. Engrossed and wholly absorbed by the daily (and nightly) demands of two little ones utterly dependent upon me for their very survival, I found myself perplexed, and even a tad resentful, that my life of development of skills and talent now only amounted to wiping mouths and bums. But one evening as I sat in the Bolshoi Theatre watching some of the most talented and graceful ballerinas in the world, I pondered their dreams, coming true, and my own childhood dreams, left unrealized. And in that moment, my vision opened a little more clearly to see a couple of important and unforgettable life lessons. I was able to see that life is a beautiful chain--a chain of seasons and sacrifice. I was now giving to my children what my mother had given to me: a loving, nurturing environment with the best opportunities I could give them in which their own dreams and self-development could take place. My mother's mother had given this to her, and her mother had given it to her and so on. And that period of deepest sacrifice of self, when children are small and so demanding, when most of us can't find the time to shower uninterrupted, let alone pursue hobbies, develop talents or chase dreams, is actually a relatively short-lived season.
I was able to see that in this landscape of motherhood, we go through losing ourselves, finding ourselves, and redefining ourselves, over and over again. Some of my little oysters of dreams have morphed into skills that have served me well as a mother, like helping my children as they struggle with art projects or writing essays. And alongside that, new pearls have emerged--pearls such as patience, compassion, self-mastery, and acceptance--that have been formed in the pressure and challenges of motherhood. And I daresay, pearls that will get me much further in the long run than the realization of some of those childhood dreams.
Did I ever become famous, like I always hoped I would? I didn't become the next Toni Morrison or Mary Lou Retton, but I did become famous to four little humans. And that's enough for me.
Jen is a mama to 4 tiny humans (pictured above). She now focuses on sharing her favorite techniques of meditation to other mothers through an app she created called Stillpoint.
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