As a kid/young teen, I had three pipe dreams.
1. To be a catcher on the NY Mets.
2. To be a professional ballet dancer.
3. To be a glassblower.
I knew pretty early on (like, before I was 9) that due to a number of physiological issues, Number 1 was never going to happen. I had slightly more (but not much more) hope for Number 2. That dream of being a dancer lasted a little longer, but had pretty much evaporated before I hit the teen years.
The glassblowing dream, though, behaved in strange ways. (You can read about its origins here and here.) It sort of popped its little head in the doorway every once in a while well into my young adult years. It took years-long sabbaticals, only to re-appear all refreshed and well-rested, tanned and toned (bastard) and tease me with thoughts like, “Man. If I won the lottery, I’d open a glass studio.” Or “I could have a glass studio on one side, and Rachel (my sis) could have a flower shop on the other…YEAH! That’s it! People can watch me making the vase their flowers were gonna go into!”
While glassblowing is expensive and unusual, I sensed if I could really study and practice, I just might have the ability to do this professionally. However, unlike the first 2 dreams, I was only vaguely aware that this was a real aspiration of mine until I spent a week in an intensive glassblowing class in Pittsburgh when I was 42. As you’ve probably read, though, it became clear to me over that week that this dream, too, was unlikely to pan out.
It probably goes without saying that putting a dream to bed at 42 is a lot harder than at 9 or 12 years old. My parents weren’t there to buffer the blow, like they were with ballet. I had to deal with this myself. I dealt with it by staying as far away from the glass studio as possible. Not thinking about it, not writing about it, nothing.
In the meantime, though, I did something else creative. I continued blogging on Catonsville Patch. I started my own blog. I wrote about bullies, truck-drivers, gender, politics, you name it. I started having breakfast with a friend whose writing I LOVED and we started talking about ways to get our writing out there more. In fact, it was she who pointed me towards an essay contest in the Bethesda Literary Festival. Here was the topic: “Who or what has influenced, motivated or inspired you and how has it shaped your outlook on life?”
Oh, this was too easy. Mr. Andros, of course. My childhood ballet teacher – I had written what was essentially a love letter in the form of a blog post to him last August! All about how he influenced and inspired me! I really had fun capturing his attitudes and mannerisms in prose – it was perfect for the contest! Except for the second half of the topic. I hadn’t written or thought about how he shaped my outlook on life. I had to do that (along with editing it down to 500 words…)
When I tackled that task in January, it came really easily, too. While most teachers help you succeed, Mr. Andros taught me how to fail. Rather, he taught me that limitations do not equal failure. That I was valuable as a dance student, even though I wouldn’t be a professional dancer. That it was possible to let go of that dream and keep my dignity and sense of self-worth. That accepting my limitations didn’t have to mean rejecting the art form. (Does anyone else see where I’m going with this? Who needs help with the analogy?)
If that wasn’t enough to make me glance sideways at the glass studio again, there was this. A tweet from my friend, Billy – and old buddy and music geek from camp. That’s right. Buck’s Rock camp, where all this glassblowing began. He tweeted the following: “Your biggest fear should perhaps be ignoring your true voice’s true calling. The trick is: it might be different than you think it is.” Now, he wasn’t writing to me – he was just having one of his many Oprah moments. But boy, was he speaking to me.
Enough layers for ya? Through writing, I discovered I could go back to glass. Maybe my true calling is writing, not glassblowing. Glassblowing can and should take its place with dreams which are now beloved past-times and activities in which I still engage with great joy. I mean, crap – I already know how to write well…and getting better at it is a helluva lot less expensive than getting better at glassblowing.
Don’t worry, though. I’m still getting better at glassblowing. Here’s proof. And if you didn’t feel like watching the video, here’s more proof.