"I'm going to play in the NBA. When I'm not playing I'm going to go on tour with my band and also be a vet," said my 10-year-old son.
"Awesome," I replied. "Just make sure you hook mom up with a cottage on a beach in Maine."
"Yep, and I'll get you five bulldogs."
"Perfect, you'll have to start working pretty hard if you're going to achieve all that; you probably want to put down the iPad, go outside and start shooting hoops and maybe join chorus this year."
Dexter paused, threw his shoes on, then headed outside to practice his jumper.
I watched him out the window.
As a child I wanted to be a writer, play soccer at the University of North Carolina and compete in the Olympics.
One out of three isn't bad. I did play soccer in college, but it was at Norwich University. The Olympics, that still hasn't happened.
It took me years to start writing because I was scared. I was worried I wasn't good enough and instead chose a path doing something where I knew I would find success.
From the age of 15 I coached and worked with kids. I worked at summer camps and eventually became a youth and family director at a non-profit.
Then I had my babies. I took seven years off to be home with them. During that time I really started to re-evaluate my life. I felt incomplete, that something was missing. I couldn't quite put a finger on it, which made it even more frustrating. Outwardly I had it all -- a boy and a girl, a dog and two cats, a cute colonial in a family-friendly neighborhood. My ex-husband had a good job that allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom. Yet I still felt antsy.
One day I saw an ad in the newspaper for a reporter position. When I saw it a voice inside my head asked, "Why aren't you writing?"
So, I applied. I had been a newspaper reporter out of college and felt the call of the pen drawing me back. Once I started writing a lot of my doubts started to vanish. I felt euphoric, and that I was on the right path. Over the next six years a lot of things started to shift inside of me. I didn't feel as if I was living an authentic life. I got divorced, left our sweet little house and moved into a rental home.
After making all of those tough decisions I find that, once again, I'm experiencing fear. Did I make the right decisions? Writing doesn't pay a lot, unless you are Stephen King, and the financial stresses of life have been crushing.
Other than having limited funds though, I feel okay. I'm okay being alone and know I don't need someone else to complete me. I know I'm on a clearer path, even though I find I'm often tripping over roots.
But there are days when I start to lose my faith. How will it all fall into place when you get whacked with a $155 speeding ticket when you've already worked your part-time job, are leaving your full-time job mid-day and racing to get your son to his appointment on time?
Then, when you are leaving your son's appointment they tell you the co-pay has increased from $15 to $25 and there is a $50 balance?
How do you know it will all be okay when you find out, after being approved for an extension, that you owe $3,000 in taxes because you didn't have enough withheld the year before when you were transferred to a new position.
You reach out. You ask for help. Which is what I did. I needed emotional support to get me through. I asked my friends for love, prayers, and positive vibes. And they came through.
My friend Hannah sent me a box from Omaha Steaks full of enough food to get me through a week. Friends left me comments and inspiring words on Facebook to remind me that "I've got this." I received private messages of people sharing their own struggles reminding me to believe, that we all struggle at times, but the important thing is to KNOW it gets better.
At the bus stop my friend Sara handed me an envelope and gave me a kiss on top of my head. Inside was an arrow and this note: "An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards. So when you feel like life is dragging you back with difficulties, it just means you're about to launch into something great."
With humility and joy, I cried.
Maybe Dexter will achieve all his lofty goals. Who am I to tell him no? Too many times we squelch our children's aspirations out of our own fears and limitations. Too often as adults we let fear dictate our choices.
I hope Dex, and my daughter Vivien, find their true paths in life. Will it be smooth sailing? Probably not. But if I can teach them one thing it's to find a good support group of friends. Lean on them in the hard times. When you think you can't take one more step, your friends will be the ones who push you forward.
And maybe, just maybe, I'll use Sara's arrow and start practicing archery. That's an Olympic sport, isn't it?