In my last post I wrote about longing for a dream, one that feels like my life-long calling. At eighteen, after I gave birth to my daughter, I attended community college, though I can’t remember how I ended up applying, because up until the day I graduated from high school, I had no plans for my future. Community college gave me a place to be during a time in which, other than being a mom, I had no idea what I would do with my life. A year into college, I had to decide whether I’d get an associate degree or transfer to a four-year university. I decided if I was going to do two years, I might as well do all four.
It wasn’t until college that I read my first novel, “. . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him,” which lead me to have a new-found love for literature. That coupled with my 12th grade English teacher inspired me to pursue a degree in literature and go on to become a high school teacher. The more I succeeded in college and the closer I got to graduating, the more becoming a teacher felt like a dream.
I don’t remember being asked what I wanted to be when I was a kid. I don’t remember what I wanted to be. I have a feeling this is why I got pregnant so young. I found purpose in Carmen, in being a mom. And it was a beautiful experience. I wonder if I’d been exposed to many other things growing up, might I have chosen another career. Maybe graphic design, photography, journalism, film, painting, music, a travel writer, a chef, a boxer, who knows! I have loved teaching and working with youth, and whatever I do next, in my heart, I know I will continue to work with youth. I don’t know what my heart is longing for, now. Why don’t I feel the drive that so many people who have followed their dreams talk about? I have ideas that excite me, fragmented visions that come in my dreams like pieces of a puzzle for which I don’t have the complete image. Sometimes, I feel dreamless.
I have yet to find my true calling from the center of myself. I want to create something of my own. Something that allows the full expression of myself, my life and my creativity. I get to do some of this as a teacher, but it’s often modified and adapted to fit the greater structures and expectations of the education system.
“She turned her can’ts into cans and her dreams into plans.” My friend who I was walking with when the hairy caterpillar was ran over (see last post) during our discussion of dreams sent me this quote and suggested we set a goal for the week or the end of June. She asked me what was one thing I’d want to accomplish? As soon as I finished reading her message, a little girl’s voice inside of me said, “No, I don’t want to do that. It feels like too much work,” and I felt a tightness in my stomach that almost did not let me breathe. That response made me so uncomfortable; it went against all the belief systems I had functioned under my whole life.
- To be successful, one must be driven.
- You must work hard, to play hard.
- If you really want it, you’ll find a way to get it.
- You must be intentional and focused to achieve your dreams.
- Have a purpose.
The next day, I decided to hold a ceremony and ask spirit to guide me and help me understand why I was feeling the way I was feeling. I’ve been journaling as part of my preparation for a Reiki course I’ll be taking in August, so after my ceremony and meditation, I opened my Reiki workbook and there, staring at me, as if Spirit was questioning me directly, read, “What do you remember about playing as a child and who were your playmates?”
Play was always sprinkled into the adult-like experiences I lived as a child, and it wasn’t always a positive memory. There was the time I remember sitting with a little girl who lived in the downstairs apartment of our complex while she was taking a bath and pointing to her areola, or touching it, not knowing what it was called and asking her why “they” were so big. That resulted in my mother being told something negative about my interaction with the little girl, because the next thing I remember, I was being dragged down the cement flight of stairs, being slammed by my head against a metal post, and hearing my mom tell the little girl’s mom or older sister, “There, she got what she deserved – are you happy?” All I remember is my mom’s legs moving like baseball bats up the stairs, and the lady looking down at me as if I were a lost puppy. The clouds floating above. The loud music and honking of the cars passing by. The throbbing on my knees and the pressure in my forehead.
I was six when I asked the man at the liquor store if I could work in exchange for eggs and milk. I knew my mom struggled to feed us. Play wasn’t a priority.
One of the best summers was when we lived in a house on Hightree Place. It was pretty empty. We owned too little. There was an old couch in the living room draped with a faded quilt. No end tables, lamps, nor wall art, just the couch. The rooms were empty, too. One bedroom had a mattress and our clothes were in black plastic bags. The windows were covered with sheets. Still, I spent one of my best summers there. My brothers and I would fill up an empty gallon of milk with water, tie it with a rope and hang it from the stop sign that was on the corner, just like our house. We’d play tether ball for hours. There was also a large cement patio in the back yard. We’d wet it with a water hose and slide on it like a slip-n-slide even though sometimes we’d knock our heads hard on the cement. We’d also play tag, jumping the side wooden fence to go from the front yard to the back yard and vice versa. I almost felt like a kid.
Except, I also remember a van bringing lots of people to my house, at times as much as twenty. A white van would pull into our garage, and once the door closed, quietly and nervously, women and men, sometimes children, would get out of the van and all huddle in one of the bedrooms. They’d all sit on the floor with their backs against the wall, lining the whole perimeter of the bedroom. After a few days, another van would come to pick them up, before a new group of people were dropped off. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized we were harboring undocumented immigrants.
Play was something I did only when I wasn’t helping my grandma. I’d help her prep meals for the immigrants. Sometimes I’d usher them, five at a time, to come eat to the small kitchen table. Other times, when it was just sandwiches, I’d take the food to the bedroom. I’d also help with washing dishes and any other chores that were needed.
In recalling my memories of childhood play, I’ve come to realize that I never really got to play. Not as a child, and most definitely not as an adult.
To be continued in “Dreaming to Play – A Second Chance.”