make this world
a whole lot brighter
– Lee Bennett Hopkins – Been to Yesterdays: Poems of a Life
When I grow up I’ll be a …
When you were a kiddo, what/who did you want to do or be? Are you there now?
What if who and what we will be (can be) really does start in our earliest childhood days and isn’t as random as one might think?
As children, do we sometimes feel ‘where our heart leans,’ even if growing up and adulting buries that dream for years? If we’re lucky, our dream is later remembered. And honored. Nourished. Nurtured. Encouraged. We connect the dots. Embrace our True North. And grow the heck out of it.
For some, nurturing that “lean” happens throughout the formative years.
Educators and researchers who work with young children will tell you personalities are hinting at future selves early on. Temperament appears first. Personalities that reflect abilities and interests follow.
So what happens? Life. Other people’s opinions. Situations outside one’s control. And often, shoulds.
Thank you for connecting
I met Mr. Hopkins in May 1999 at a teaching conference. I was a second-year educator, thrilled to meet the people who wrote the books in my middle school students’ hands. Lee was personable and approachable— not something I could say about all of the Young Adult fiction authors I met that year. He smiled as he sat at a table surrounded by his books. We chatted as he wrote a personal message to my students. They were thrilled to receive “a note from a real writer.” I was thrilled to meet “a real writer.” My fire was stoked. Thank you, Mr. Lee Bennett Hopkins.
Twenty-four years later
I retired (early) from teaching in 2021 to grow my part-time business into a full-time opportunity to support women navigating change. My third career means I still teach, write daily, and continue to learn. Adding books to overflowing bookcases is part of the process while purging books to make room for new arrivals is both a tough and necessary task.
During a recent book purge, I ran across my signed copy of Been to Yesterdays. Plopping down on my studio floor with books scattered around me, a familiar thing happened. I cried as I reread Lee’s words, a peek at the pain that’s palpable as he describes living address to address, never sure of what’s coming next. His words feel like my own. So many addresses. So many unknowns. Upheaval. Fear.
But I discovered something different this time. While Lee’s words once again felt like my own, it took 50+ years for me to say them… yet he spoke his truth as a child.
He knew writing was his future. I, on the other hand, had no damn clue. Thankfully, words followed me, guided me, and eventually, beckoned me.
Now in my fifth decade, I connect the dots as I look back at pictures of two-year-old-me reading stories in bed with my mom. Her unexpected death has given me space to remember how words connected us, an important memory in a relationship often estranged.
The magic and power of words
Mom wanted to be a published writer but was afraid to put her thoughts into the world. She wrote them. Then hid them. But before she hid her own writing, my mom taught me about the magic and power of words. She instilled a love that would become my landing place— a way to continue serving others as I teach the magic and power of words. Through words, we find ourselves.
“To make this world a whole lot brighter, when I grow up, I’ll be a writer…”Lee Bennett Hopkins
How did you finish the sentence, “When I grow up, I’ll be a ____________” when you were a wee one? Did you become that person? If not (yet), when will you? Maybe you’re beginning to lean into who you’re becoming…
To make this world a whole lot brighter, when I grow up, I’ll be a writer (too). 😉 Becoming who we grow into is a messy, hopeful, painful, and insightful journey. Whether we say it from the beginning or find it years later, knowing who we are is core to happiness and fulfillment. And words help us get there.
Are you growing today?