It’s Sunday morning, and my family and I are saddled up to the counter at the Waffle House. I’m seven years old, watching our waitress in silent wonder. I love the spotlessness of her crisp, white outfit, amazed that there are no stains on it given the mess of food she’s surrounded by. With every order she takes, her smile doesn’t leave her face, and with every order she expertly serves, her gracefulness never seems to waver.
When she places our food in front of us—waffles, of course—she looks at me, her eyes twinkling.
“Y’all enjoy your food now, all right?”
I smile back at her and nod, thinking about how kind and pretty she is. I think about how happy she must make people, serving up filling, comforting food for their hungry bellies.
In that moment, I decide that when I grow up, I want to be just like her.
* * *
As a child, aside from wanting to be a Waffle House waitress, I had quite a few other lofty goals for my future. I wanted to be a cashier at the grocery store. I wanted to follow in my mom’s footsteps and become a teacher. Since I spent most of my spare time coloring and drawing, I also fantasized about being an artist, spending my days covered in paint and surrounded by color as I worked in a sun-drenched studio that was big enough to hold all the art supplies my heart desired.
These childhood dreams came and went over the years:
With the invention of self-checkout lanes at the grocery store, I was able to scan my own items, fulfilling that lifelong dream of being able to wave a bag of chips over a glowing red line and hearing that satisfying ‘beep.’ When I went to college, after a few education classes, I discovered art classes, and I became less interested in becoming a teacher, wondering if I really could make it as an artist. And then, after I had a handful of art classes under my belt, I realized that I should probably be responsible and decided to focus on graphic design since that seemed it might help pay the bills of my future a little bit better than, say, painting or jewelry design or—my favorite—printmaking.
And that dream of becoming a waitress at the Waffle House? That never really panned out either, but when I see my daughter’s face light up on the weekends when I serve her pancakes, I feel like I’ve come pretty darn close.
But there was also another dream. And it wasn’t one made up of perfectly-placed barcodes or paint-stained brushes or weekly lesson plans or syrup-drenched breakfast sweets and piles of scrambled eggs.
It was a dream made up of words.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. When I was little, I dreamt of becoming a published author so much that I created pretend reviews of my future books. I walked around with hundreds of story ideas swirling around in my head. I had scraps and pieces of paper and pages of journals filled out with half-thought-out paragraphs and words I didn’t want to lose.
And over the years, as the other dreams came and went, this one stayed.
So last year, I finally decided I didn’t want to wait any longer to try to make it a reality. I started small by creating this blog, and then, after a while, when I became more confident that more people might like my writing, I started submitting my writing to other sites, and then, suddenly, it started getting accepted, featured, and syndicated.
If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that it is so important to listen to your heart. If you really want your passion to become your reality, you shouldn’t let anything stand if your way of making it happen.
Because these dreams, the ones that stick with us, are the ones we need to follow. They’re the ones we need to work toward. They’re the ones that we need to not let fade away. They’re the dreams we need to say yes to every single day.
* * *
“What color should I pick next?” I ask my daughter, Zoey. My eyes scan over the box of crayons in front of us. I can’t decide which shade seems to be missing from the Christmas stocking the two of us are coloring.
Zoey scoots closer to me so she can help me choose.
Next to me, my phone buzzes, notifying me that a new deposit has been posted to my bank account. Since it wasn’t one I initiated, I’m a little confused. I set down the forest green crayon Zoey has just handed me so I can swipe right on my phone.
After my account information loads, I see the amount pop up.
“Oh, Zoey,” I whisper, but before I can say anything else, I stop. It seems they are the only words I am able to speak.
“What is it, Mommy?” Zoey asks curiously.
I keep looking at the numbers that are staring up at me from my phone. The amount is far from substantial—only $25—but to me, the small amount doesn’t lessen the magnitude of this moment.
Because there it is, the payment for my first paid writing piece. And to me, since this means I can officially say I’m a real writer, I realize that $25 is worth so much more than just $25.
So much more that it is, in fact, priceless.
* * *
“What is it, Mommy?” Zoey asks me again.
So for a moment, we stop our coloring. I pull Zoey into my lap, and I tell her a story. I tell her the story of a little girl who once had a handful of dreams. How there was one that stood the test of time because it was never far from my heart. And how, finally, I started making it come true.
“I have dreams, too, Mommy,” Zoey says.
“Tell me about them,” I encourage her.
And she starts listing them off: An artist. A writer. A ballerina. A mommy. An art gallery owner. A baker. A veterinarian. An engineer.
“So how will I know, Mommy?” Zoey asks after she finishes telling me her list.
“Know what, peanut?”
“Which ones I need to follow,” she says.
“You follow them all,” I answer, without any hesitation. “And the ones that are meant to be will never fade away. Ever.”
“I know what I’ll do,” Zoey says as she taps the space on her chest that protects her little life muscle. “I’ll just listen to this.”
She climbs off my lap and starts coloring again. I sit there and watch her a while before I pick my crayon back up. In this moment—this one I want to remember for so many reasons—her face is filled with light and hope and determination, and suddenly I know she will do just what she has just promised.
Because after all, I once was her: A little girl with dreams to spare, letting her heart lead the way.
* * *
Let me know: Are you living out the dreams you once had as a child? What passions will you choose to pursue today?
Corey is a writer, graphic designer, and mom to her amazing daughter, Zoey. Here at The Nostalgia Diaries, her goal is to simplify, enhance, and engage people’s lives by helping them focus on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.