Dreams Delayed

Me Graduation

In the spring of ’03 I had just finished up the third year of my writing degree at Linfield College. My fellow students were planning their summer vacations, jobs, going home to a family.

I was raising one.

One morning my professor handed me a piece of paper with a circled ad.  It was for an internship at a publishing house in Portland.  ‘Apply for it,’ he said, emphatic.  And so I did.

I can still smell the copy and bindings, slick sheets of creamy paper heaped on desks, shelves to the ceiling, books and boxes piled high.  I wore borrowed slacks and stumbled through my first, and only, real interview at thirty-two years old.  They hated me, I just knew it. Before I got home there was an email waiting, asking when could I start.

I came from my computer elated, floated into the living room excited to tell the news.  I remember this moment like it wasn’t eleven years ago. People always remember the moment their lives changed.

But I remember the moment mine didn’t.

Because when I walked into the living room all seven of the children who lived with me sat. Sixteen, fifteen, twelve, ten, nine, six, and four years old, all flopped down on the floor watching Blue’s Clues, heads turning to me because that’s how we were, them and I.  And I knew. I knew I couldn’t take it.

Forget that over half of them were special needs. Forget the diagnoses, the histories of some of my kids. Discounting the DD, FAS, ODD, RAD, SID and every other acronym bombarding them.  Forget the caseworkers, the visitations, the court cases and eminent reunification or adoptions. Forget the turn-of-century house remodel and the husband who already carried me. Heaving that heavy load aside…I could have made it work.  Maybe I could have anyway. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the forty hours a week, unpaid  internship that I couldn’t accept…would have changed the course of my life. I would have walked away with an education college couldn’t offer and the experience to maybe land the job of my dreams. I would have walked away with connections. I would have walked away with a different life. Better? I don’t know. Maybe just different.

It’s the proverbial fork in the road where we are forced to choose a path and sometimes we have to take the paved route. Not easier. Certainly not easier. But smoother…for those along for the ride.

And you will say, ‘Oh,Keri…but look at the lives you’ve changed with your kids…and how you’ve built a family…and how they love you. Blah…blah blah…” And I know. Life is about choices and at that moment, those kids needed me more. I know this is true and I pat myself on the back when nobody is looking but sometimes… I just want it to be about me.

Sometimes I want to climb to the top of the laundry heap and scream, “When? When is it my turn?”

Oh, but if I’d chosen that rutted, twisted path through the woods, how different things might have been. And most days…honestly…I’m tempted to trade a kid or two for the chance to find out.

And the husband says to me, “We’re almost there…hold on…” But I fear, in the deepest part of me, that he is wrong.





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9 Replies to “Dreams Delayed”

  1. “Life is what happens while you are making other plans” Yes, I understand what it is like to change diapers, drive mom taxi, pack lunches and the other million things we moms do and all the while wonder, when is it my turn? This is especially true of us young mothers who became mothers before xxx that was part of our dream. What I have learned though at the other end as the nest is rapidly heading toward empty is there is a lot of truth to the the adage> the grass is always greener on the other side–the other side of up to our ears in responsibility. But the truth is life is what happens in the meantime and yes, I have a lot more time to follow my dreams now but the trade off is I also do not have the times that while challenging did make the best memories because the best times in life are shared and there is great meaning and purpose in making a difference in someone else’s life. Even if that someone is only 3 or 13. I often heard, “be careful what you wish forx and what you wish away” and it is true. You will have your time, but it will come at a trade off for what you have now and it may not be greener in the end. And you may find what you realize is your time is now. You are living and you are writing and your writing is making an impact. The key is not waiting for your time while overlooking now, it is to find balance so that you can try to enjoy the now before you wish it away and then all you have is memories. There is a time for everything. Peace comes in accepting what time it is now.

  2. Haven’t we all been there? This is what I tell myself when my kids/family responsibility – which is a tiny fraction of yours – is overwhelming. This is intended as consolation, for the dreams that feel too far away. You are living a dream now, a different one no doubt, but still a dream of your making. It’s all consuming, but you are where you are purposefully. Each day you live this dream, it is coming toward it’s natural end. Your other dreams will have their day. You’re making that happen even now.

  3. Mr Blohm below/above is spot on. You are clearly a very good writer and you are already having the ‘internship’ of your life. I too hang onto your every word and I am pleased every time that I see that you have written something more. I don’t have kids; I live in England and work in London. I read your work because of YOU! Your turn WILL come Keri.

  4. “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau.

    Keri, what makes you a good writer, what gives you credibility, what testifies that you are real is that you have lived. Many people, whether bleeding-heart liberals or self-righteous conservatives, loudly proclaim their concern for the poor, the disabled, and the forgotten; but do nothing about it. For some reason you could not walk away from these kids. I count 12,789 people on Facebook that respect and admire you and like what you write. I, for one, hang on every word. You have a voice and you have an audience, not the one you planned, but you have one. If it is of any encouragement I understand the teenage parent thing and at your age feeling that my ship came in while I was sitting in the airport. This Friday, on my 62nd birthday a young guy is going to help me set up my first blog. If you still have breath, it is never too late to exercise the gift that is within you. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou. Write your book Keri and save one for me.

  5. Regrets and what-ifs. They build up as you get older, or at least they do in my case. But I can’t change the past. And I get through them by telling myself that those choices I regret making or not making could have been for the worst. But late at night, staring at the ceiling, that little voice in my head comes out and says ‘What if?’ And if it’s a good night, I roll over, go to sleep, and dream of a life where I made the different choice and lived happily ever after. But like all dreams they fade in the daylight. The only people who don’t have the regrets and what-ifs are psychopaths and sociopaths. Hang on to the dreams, sometimes they are all that get you through the night. But just because you don’t get to realize them doesn’t mean that the choices you made were wrong. Remember the whole road less traveled thing.

  6. Our stories may differ, but I can relate to this post on many levels. I’ve made life choices that have brought me many blessings, and some that I wonder at in times of stress and unhappiness. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but knew doing so would force me to raise my boys in a city full of crime and violence. I wanted – and still do – to follow the writer’s path, but instead I chose stability by settling for the 40-hr paycheck each week. When the kids seem to be struggling, I wonder at my choice to work. When the day job gets under my skin and on my last nerve, I wonder if I’ll ever know what it’s like to follow my dreams instead of doing the safe and logical thing.

    Hang in there. I have to believe our chance to do the things we’ve dreamed of will come, even if we have a few more gray hairs and a lot more wrinkles when we attempt them. 🙂

  7. You’re choking me up here…. Man can I relate….. but you got a kid who is a Designated Driver? What a score!

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