In his poem Harlem, Langston Hughes poses the question: What happens to a dream deferred? In my case, it festered.
This March, it’ll be 10 years since my middle son was in a horseback riding accident that changed all of our lives. It was a devastating experience, but one that I believe God worked for our good. The story of Blake’s accident and of my dream are intertwined, for it was after I left my corporate job to care for him that my publisher found me and my dream of being an author came to life.
The next few years had their share of hardships, but in many ways, they were my happiest. We were living on a little homestead in the Missouri hills. I was in the thick of raising my boys—my greatest joys have come from being their mother. I was writing full-time, my books were doing well, and I was working for my publisher.
I’ve actually been pretty blessed with my career. Not so much with moving up the ladder or making tons of money—I move around too much for that—but I’ve had some amazing experiences and made true friends along the way. But with Booktrope and my books, I was in my element. It was that beautiful thing where you work really hard and a lot, but you love it so much you don’t even notice. With Booktrope, I found my people.
So it was devastating to me on so many levels when they folded in 2016. I lost my job, my friends were scattered, my books were delisted, and it was the final nail in the coffin for my marriage. I went back to corporate life because kids like to eat (the divas). I self-pubbed my books on Amazon so they wouldn’t go away entirely, and I didn’t publish again for five years. The books became little more than an interesting conversation piece at the random meeting.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had some pretty cool jobs since then. As before, I had amazing experiences and made true friends along the way. But it was always there—that deferred dream festering in my soul.
I have journals filled with ramblings. A hard drive full of book ideas and partially finished stories. Every now and then I’d put forth a burst of effort. I’d make a promise to my readers and promptly break it because life always got in the way. But really, down deep, it felt like my dream had passed me by.
And that ate at me.
I truly believe I did well for the companies I worked for. I gave them my all, drove revenue, and learned much. But that didn’t change the fact that as long as I wasn’t doing what I was created to do, a piece of me was missing. The longer it wore on, the more miserable I became.
And then COVID happened, and I found myself at a forced crossroads. I no longer had the corporate job and I had a choice to make: scramble to find a new one or return to my books. My kids aren’t little anymore; they no longer depend on me quite like they used to. Number one is grown. Number two is moving out in the spring. Number three has a year left. I talked to all three of them and we made a family decision that it was time for me to revive my dream.
As it happened, a couple of friends who are still deeply immersed in the book world reached out because they knew of a successful women’s fiction author who needed a second set of hands to keep up with her platform. Introductions were made, friendships formed, and one thing kind of led to another. Ultimately, two big things came from that meeting.
The first is that I launched my own small business putting my knowledge of publishing, editing, and marketing to use so I could keep my head above water (and a roof over it). Dolittle Author Services got its name because friends jokingly call me Ms Dolittle and it lent itself to the tagline “Because sometimes you just need a little help,” which amused me.
The second is that my existing books got cleaned up interiors, reorganized to better align with their various genres, and they got gorgeous new covers. They’re being relaunched (this week, in fact!) in hopes of breathing new life into them before the launch of my next book.
Last week, my editor and I met to put together a game plan to get the next book done on time (I’m not making that announcement until I’m 1000% sure we can meet the goal; I will not do that to my readers again!) But it is coming. Soon. I actually have a full publication schedule mapped out for 2021.
After a five year drought, there will be new books. Lots and lots of books.
Because I do not want to defer my dream any longer. I don’t want it to dry up or fester because the damage done to me when that happens is too much to bear.
So, wish me luck. And, you know, buy my books.
“No but seriously. Normalize finding love in your 40's. Normalize discovering and chasing new dreams in your 30's. Normalize finding yourself and your purpose in your 50's. Life doesn't end at 25. Let's stop acting like it does.” - @mermaidmrym
I read the above tweet shortly before my 40th birthday and it spoke to my soul. I have never feared getting older. Not when it comes to wrinkles or gray hairs. I am perfectly happy going gray. I just found my first few gray hairs and was actually excited. Weird, I know. But I was. I earned those hairs. I earned these years.
Turning 40 wasn’t scary in most regards. But there was a brief moment in my late 30s where I started to feel like I had missed something. I found myself with regrets. I regretted not starting my writing journey sooner. I wondered if it would have been better to have had kids a little earlier. I questioned if I was too late to the game because approaching 40 was the first time in my life I felt like I really knew who I was and what I was doing and why I was doing it. Why couldn’t I have felt that way at 25? Couldn’t I have accomplished so much more in my life if I had started sooner?
The answer I came to was NO. I needed the years of trying. I needed the years of failing. I needed the years of learning. I needed the years of stretching and growing. I wasn’t ready at 25.
At 40 I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I am more confident in the person God has created me to be. I have more grace and more grit. I have thicker skin and a softer heart. I have the maturity needed to uphold the dreams I’m chasing. I also have a lot of life left in front of me.
Why do we feel like anything over 30 is the end of everything? Why do we worry about being “over the hill”? Why does there even have to be a hill? Why can’t it just be a path?
I choose a path. I choose to walk that path at the pace God has set for me—even if it feels slower than someone else’s. That choice has brought freedom and peace and renewed passion for my life. I released my regrets. I doubled down on my dreams. I trust in God’s timing in my life.
I do not fear getting older. I fear getting lazy. I fear getting boring. I fear becoming irrelevant. I fear feeling like life is almost over when really it’s just getting good. I didn't miss anything. I wasn’t late to anything. At 40, soon to be 41, I feel like my life is just opening up fully. Maybe I’m a late bloomer. Or maybe 40 is the new 25.