In the trenches

I am sure that this happens to everyone: the disappearance of childhood dreams. Remember when you were a kid and you would think about what you would do when you “grew up”? It seemed like anything was possible. I wanted to live on a ranch with horses and dogs. I wanted to be a veterinarian and a teacher.

I loved to sit around and draw, just because I liked to draw. When did those things end for you? I don’t remember exactly when they ended for me, probably around 12 years old.

I didn’t want to ask Mom and Dad for anything, because I saw the challenges they had in providing for the family. I stopped drawing and writing, because I was afraid I would get in trouble for using too much paper, or too many pencils. I was being selfish, I should use as little as possible. The end of the school year was great because I usually had extra paper with which I could use to draw during the summer.

I didn’t have many books, and we didn’t have much time to go to the library. When we did I would gobble up the animal anatomy books. The only books about animals in the school library were the books written by James Herriot. These books are a veterinarian’s stories about animals and their owners. I read each one multiple times. I wanted to be that veterinarian.

I also loved working with my dad. He had his own woodworking business. My next dream was to become a designer so we could have a woodworking and design business together. I had a name picked out. Dad’s business, “Willsie’s Woodworking”, would become “Willsie’s Woodworking and Design”. I felt this was the most realistic dream. I would sit around and draw my own version of floor plans. I looked at his notes and learned as much as I could. When I became a teenager I was not allowed to be alone with my Dad. Because I could not be alone with him, I could not work with him either, and that dream slowly died.

I am now in my 30’s, attending art school, and I am having these dreams come back to life. I no longer yearn to be a veterinarian, but I do long to work with architects and designers. I want to practice my skills and become a professional artist, and I believe I am on my way.

However, many times I know that my skills are not where they should be. I see much younger students that have more talent and knowledge than me because they had more opportunities and resources than I did.

And to be honest, sometimes the ‘inside me’ gets really fucking pissed off. Partially toward the circumstances and partially toward myself. I could have kept writing and drawing, but my fear stopped me. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents by using too much of the family resources. They never told me to stop doing anything. Every time I asked for something I could see the thoughtful, questioning look on their face seeming to say “how are we going to pay for that?”. I worried about things that did not need worrying. My mind was in a constant state of anxiety, and didn’t know how to categorize, so everything fell under the worry blanket. I tried to avoid problems, whether they existed or not. I knew that I could not handle the heartbreaking look on my parent’s faces when they realized that they couldn’t pay for something that I wanted. So I stopped asking.

Now I’m creating, learning, growing. I’m doing my best to look forward. I’m struggling, agonizing, and working.

I see my children, growing and dreaming. I am supportive of them. I don’t want them to experience what I went through. I know they will have their own struggle, this is okay with me. We all have challenges, I just want them to know they are not alone. I will go through the trenches of life with them.

I am humbled.

“I don’t think he ever gave a thought to other people’s opinions, which was just as well because they were often unkind”
― James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small


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