As a young girl, inclined to daydream, I filled the pages of my diary with all the plans I made. I wrote late into the night under the tent of my blanket, working by flashlight, chewing on the end of my pen between bursts of intense scribbling.
I spent hours writing down the things I wanted to be when I grew up, places I wanted to see, people I wanted to meet. Or, marry. I named the sons and daughters I would have. I sketched the clothes I would design, the houses I would build.
The imitation leather book with the flimsy brass-plated lock on the front and a tiny key on a length of string, was was full of contradictions; full of possible and impossible things. At the time it didn’t occur to me that Broadway actress/arctic explorer or pediatric surgeon/French chanteuse might be difficult career combinations to pull off. Or that marrying a nice boy and having a house full of children might make it difficult to live alone in a cottage in the woods where I would write all day long. I was a girl filled with with longing, driven by the wideness of the world and dizzy with possibilities. I didn’t dwell on boundaries. I just wanted to try it all. I wanted a taste of everything.
Growing up and growing older changes a lot about us. And not just on the outside. Adult life reminds us daily that we are not always free to shift from one reality to another. We eventually learn that work, relationships and day-to-day responsibilities claim us. Bind us. We focus more on what we have to do and less on what we would do if only we could.
I used to think I could have it all. Now, I know better. But I hope that until the day finally comes when I’m done, when I can’t go any farther or try any harder or stretch any further, the little girl who wrote all night in a cocoon of blankets and light will step in from time to time and remind me that the world just outside the edge of my little world is still wide open. And that if I work hard enough, and want it badly enough, I can always be just a little bit more.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org