During a phone call with one of my sisters recently, I was reminded of who I was before I lost my dreams. The loss occurred over time, a slow chipping away of self by events, people, and circumstances, in addition to the natural wearing down of time and age.
Who I was, my sister reminded me, was the curly-haired spirited child with a quick laugh and a curious nature. As a toddler, my mother would take me to meetings of the various volunteer organizations she was part of. I would sit quietly under conference tables with a plate of scrambled eggs and a picture book, entertaining myself. There was much cooing and adulation from adults.
My three older sisters were often tasked with my caretaking which they did with joy. They still talk about fashioning my unruly hair into something they called a “ducktail ravish” – curls slicked back with Dippity Do into well, a ducktail. For those not familiar with Dippity Do, it was, for a time, the ONLY hairstyling product around, with a wet consistency of aloe and a dry consistency of papier mâché. I felt safe and loved.
Moving out into the world, to school, friendships, relationships, and jobs opened up opportunities – for learning, success, and love. It also exposed the harsher elements of life: criticism, disappointment, betrayal, violence, depression, fear, isolation, and addiction to those things that brought me comfort and escape – food, work, alcohol. Milestones for lost dreams.
My world became increasingly dark, caution signs, potholes, and red lights everywhere. The longer and harder I looked at that road, the darker the path became. I was comfortable living a chaotic life. I plowed forward through sheer force of will moving point-to-point with no real destination other than survival and trying to maintain control. I thought I would know when I “arrived”. But my tank was empty, the engine sputtering along on fumes. I hid the tumult masterfully under the hood of a shiny job and title and my social media highlight reel. Fortunately, my friends and family kept me tethered to life.
I was eventually led to the conclusion that living life this way was untenable and began a process of self-examination that saved my sanity, and, I believe, my life. Pick a name for whatever or whoever it was that led me here; I just know I didn’t do it on my own. This trek was not easy but it laid out a path to recovery that continues – because we never really do “arrive”, nor should we. But it does lead back to the possibility of dreams, of reclaiming those parts of myself that had fallen by the wayside, of drawing closer to the adult version of who I was before I lost them.