I am sitting here in my studio on Halloween. It is a gorgeous day. It is also a surreal day. Today some money was deposited into my business account. Quite a large sum. More than I have ever earned all at once (not counting a year’s salary) They are from sales from my books and my Whatif Monster plushie. I can tell by the numbers, the next check will likely be double this one. I saw that…and cried.
And right after that? I got this email:
Just want to thank you for your time and influence with the children at ChIS. My son, Colin could not stop talking about you! Your energy and positive influence radiated through him the day you visited the school. The way he spoke about you I was curious to see if he had spent most of the day listening to you, he said, “No, but I wish I could have”. He was so excited to tell me the story when your mom found out you were an artist. It made me so happy to hear everything he shared with me about your visit. Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working. You are so blessed.
And then? I sobbed.
Let me tell you a tiny bit about my presentation. I tell the children of my struggles to get published, but that is of course, a somewhat abbreviated version of my true struggles. I don’t tell the kids ‘adult problems’ I have had, but I do tell them I have experienced heartbreak and failure and overcame it with hard work and perseverance. That is true.
I don’t tell them about having to pawn every piece of jewelery I owned the day before my son was born because we didn’t have food in the house and my parents were coming and I was mortified to let them know how little we had. I don’t tell them about The food stamps I had to wait on line downtown to get, wanting to cry and feeling so ashamed of myself but knowing I had a responsibility to feed my child more than I needed my pride. I don’t tell them about the time my son had a diaper rash so severe and I could not afford to buy diapers AND the $9 ointment the doctor told me would clear it right up, so I stole it from a grocery store. I hid it in my son’s carrier, under his blanket. Oh, that one hurts my chest just writing it. Oof. I don’t tell them about the clearly, young 20-something bill collector on the phone demanding the money we owed and telling her I didn’t have it. She yelled at me and said how irresponsible I was. I told her I had to buy food and pay (part) of the electric bill to keep the lights on. She said I didn’t deserve to have children if I couldn’t afford them. I don’t tell them about walking to the electric company a mile away to pay a bill with a bad check to get the lights turned back on so the computer would come back on so I could finish the freelance job I had so I could get paid to put money in the bank before the bad check I wrote cleared. Ah, check roulette, good times. No, horrible times. I don’t tell them about having no car when Sophie was born and taking a taxi to the teaching hospital (we had no insurance) where she was born. I begged them to let me pay something, anything for their services, but they said we were so poor we qualified to pay nothing. They would not take a penny from me. I don’t tell them how one of the doctors said outside my hospital door (that is NOT sound proof) that women who didn’t have money needed to learn how to keep their legs together. He then walked in and asked if I wanted to get my tubes tied. I don’t tell them about any of those things. I don’t tell them about getting a job when Sophie was 18 months old and how it broke my heart in two that I could not stay home with her like I had with Noah, but we so very desperately needed the money and I knew I could make what we needed. I don’t tell them about a divorce that took 2 years and was so ugly and awful and gut-wrenching it tore me up from the inside out. And still does.
But I do tell them about how I have never, ever given up HOPE. How even when the times were hardest, I knew I could get through it. I knew my dreams were on the other side of it. I tell them how I have always listened to my heart even when my brain SCREAMED otherwise. I tell them that my life is more amazing than I ever dreamed possible – and even in those dark times? I dreamed BIG.
And I tell them how I believe in THEIR big dreams. Even if they don’t know them yet.
I only ‘thought’ I was supposed to write and illustrate books for children, but once I started doing school visits, I realized my true calling was to to talk to kids when they are young. I am desperate to let them know they can have ANY life they want if they are willing to look for it and work HARD for it. And I believe in them with all of my heart. We are a nation filled with so much opportunity, yet so many do not go after their dreams. I am on a mission to create a world of dream-followers. I know that I don’t get through to every child, but if I get through to even one, like Colin, it is worth every tear and struggle it to took to get here.
And I cannot believe I get paid to do any of this. Grateful is not a big enough word. Another word needs to be invented to express what I am feeling.