The biggest regret to which most people admit as they get older, is that they made the mistake of choosing to sacrifice their dreams for the security of normal.
They convinced themselves, “there’s always tomorrow.”
Today there are bills to pay and kids to get to school and college educations to save for...noble responsibilities indeed! But at such a cost! Especially when normal explodes and becomes anything but and all that security they’ve worked for goes up in smoke. The truth of the matter is that there is no better time to begin making your dreams come true than NOW.
Three quick quotes and then I have a short story to share with you...
First, the quotes...
It was the famed artist Pablo Picasso who said...
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
It was the great Leonardo da Vinci who said...
“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”
And it was the obscure and little-known comic genius Judy Tenuta who said...
“My mother always told me I wouldn't amount to anything because I procrastinate. I said, “Oh yeah...well just wait!”
OK...here’s the story!
Diana and I have wonderful neighbors who have moved to Italy from Great Britain. They are a delightful couple. The best thing about being neighbors with them is their little girl. Her name is Scarlette.
Scarlette seems to have taken quite a liking to me! Well actually I don’t think it’s me she comes to see. Truth be told, it’s probably the crew out in the barn and Diana that draw her attention. But I will say that she does spend a good bit of time staring at me while I am writing.
Scarlette is four years old, soon to be five she tells me. And she is just about the smartest four-year-old soon-to-be-five-year-old I’ve ever met. She is the textbook definition of precocious! The child is definitely an old soul and wise beyond her years. She is sweet, adorable and precious and I love her to the moon and back. But...and I say this lovingly, she can be a real handful!
I don’t know what possessed me to ask, but when I’d realized her parents had added an ‘e’ to the end of her name, I was curious. One day while she was visiting with me, she bumped me out of the way at my computer and with her two stubby little index fingers, she opened the internet and pecked in the letters to her name...s-c-a-r-l-e-t-t-e! This is what came up!
“Scarlette. A very independent, hard-working, loyal girl. A Scarlette will never let you down. She will always be there for you no matter what. She is someone who knows what she wants and will get it. She has a most charismatic nature. She will be your best friend, but make no mistake, if you get on her bad side, she will be your worst enemy. She is very capable of making your life a living hell, so do not cross her. But if you do manage to get on her good side, she will be the best friend you will ever have.”
Truer words have never spoken...or written, I should say. So far, I have managed to remain on Scarlette’s good side, and we have become the best of friends...
“Whatcha doing?” she asked me quite matter-of-factly in her little British voice one day as she was bothering me while I was writing.
“Writing,” I answered, matter-of-factly back at her.
“Whatcha writing?” she asked again.
“A book,” I answered again.
“What’s it about?” she asked.
“It’s about an old gray-haired man who locks up a precocious little four-year-old, soon-to-be-five-year-old girl in his basement because she keeps disturbing him while he is trying to write his book!” I answered.
When I looked up from my computer, she had vanished! Dear God, what had I done!
Scarlette’s mother called me a few days later. Expecting to be chastised for my insensitive comment to her precocious daughter, I began by apologizing the moment after I said hello and realized who it was.
“I don’t know what you said to my little girl,” Scarlette’s mom began, “but she has been talking about nothing other than writing a book since she came back from your house the other day! I don’t know whether to thank you or come over and sock you in the eye! The child is driving us crazy every night now before she’ll go to sleep...demanding I make up bedtime stories for her. Before she will close her eyes, she insists upon telling me a made-up bedtime story of her own. She plans to write a book! Is this any of your doing?"
"Um...well...er," I stuttered. It was all I could answer.
Another day a few weeks later, I was again working in my writing room when Scarlette again suddenly appeared in front of me again. I am never sure how she gets into the house...the doorbell doesn’t ring. I don’t hear the door opening. Meg never barks...who knows!
She sat down beside me at my desk with a handful of papers and a fistful of crayons...
“Look Mr. Giacomino,” she announced, pushing my papers out of the way. “I am writing a book. Just like you! I am starting out with my drawings and then I tell a story about what I drew.”
“That’s wonderful!” I said. “I am very proud of you Scarlette. I have a dear friend in America who tells wonderful stories too. She is very, very talented...just like you. But I can’t convince her to write. Maybe once she sees your stories, she’ll change her mind.”
Then without asking if I might be busy, Scarlette climbed up and plopped herself down on my lap, proceeding to show me her drawings. And I will admit, for a four-year-old, soon-to-be five-year-old, they were very good! Remember...I told you she was ahead of her time!
Pointing to a drawing that had a lot going on in it...fruit, dogs, rain, thunder and lightning, a castle and even a tiara, I hesitated to ask, but I did...
“Will you tell me what this one is about?”
Scarlette, in her sweet little four-year-old, soon-to-be-five-year-old voice, proceeded to tell me a most elaborate story...
“Once upon a time there was a girl named Amelia who ate an apple from a tree like this."
Scarlette began making a chewing noise to let me know how the girl was eating her apple...
“Nom, nom, nom!”
Then she went on with her story...
"Amelia was born. And she had a dog who got an orange, and she took it to the castle. The dog, not the orange. The dog wanted a crown, but the girl said, “NEVER! NEVER! NEVER!” Then there were no green apples, and everyone almost dies.”
“Oh...OK!” I said. “I think I’m following so far!”
“Then she walked along and there was a great KABOOM on the path,” Scarlette continued.
“What was the KABOOM?” I asked.
“Well, I’m glad you asked,” she answered. “It was the thunder. And she died. So, there were no apples for her.”
“Hmm! I see,” I said. Before I could ask what the apples had to do with the story, she let go of another KABOOM!
“KABOOM!” Scarlette shouted, this time waving her arms in circles. “The thunder was loud again and VERY SCARY! The girl was all alone and dead, so the dog ate her ice cream.”
I made the mistake of interrupting to ask where the ice cream came from. And oh my goodness...what a look I got! I quickly deduced the origin of the ice cream was not germane to Scarlette’s story! She continued...
“Then she heard a great big BOOM! Then she had an idea! She tried to write her name, I think. Other people were sad and they didn’t like when they were dead because they just like to be happy.”
I remember thinking to myself...
“I thought Amelia had died.”
But I was not going to make the mistake of interrupting her again. I’d learned my lesson with the ice cream question!
“All the dogs were gone because it was too late,” she continued.
Then the expression on her face had turned quite serious...
“All the oranges flew away. They flied really fast. They didn’t know what to do because they were just oranges, so they got on an airplane and went ZOOM! That’s the end of my story.”
“That was incredible,” I said. “Wow! I have absolutely no doubt you are destined to be a bestselling author.”
“Yes, I know,” she answered, lacking any and all humility whatsoever.
“Will this story be in your book?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered quickly. “But I’m going to need your help. My mother says books have to be typed, not written in crayon. So, I will make the pictures and you can type my stories for me. Deal?”
Scarlette’s little chubby hand shot straight out at me. Obviously, she wanted a commitment from me. So we shook hands and sealed the deal!
Scarlette comes over on Saturday afternoons with her drawings and crayons and the energy of a super nova! I’ve been tasked with writing down her stories, exactly as she tells them to me. She retains proof-reading and editing authority. She quite literally makes my day.
“Scarlette,” I asked the day after she finished her story about the Boy Who Eats Worms, “I’ve noticed that everyone dies in your stories. Maybe we should lighten things up a bit. What do you think about that?”
“I don’t know what lighten up means,” she answered. “But if you think it’s a good thing, then yes...we’ll lighten up!”
How can an old gray-haired guy argue with that?
Now here is my advice to my reluctant friend in America. I will let her remain anonymous but she knows I am talking to her...
One day, you will muster the courage to go after your dreams and the fear that holds you back will take a back seat to your creative spirit. When that day comes, you will give wings to the stories that live inside you and that you have been wanting to tell...some you didn't even know were there. In that instant, something about you will change. You will be born into the spirit of a writer!
This is not to say the fear and worry and second-guessing will go away. They won't! They are a part of you and all writers have them...take it from me! But you are a wonderfully talented and creative woman...you will learn to deal with it. You will see that negativity does not have control over you. You will see that you have the power to shape and change people’s lives with your words and your thoughts.
Mark my words...a strange thing will happen to you when you get a glimpse of what’s inside you. A child-like zeal, not unlike that of my dear friend Scarlette’s, will possess you. You will discover your voice. You will realize that what you think and what you have to say truly matters.
There is no such thing as the right time, right situation or right place. There is only NOW! You have all it takes. Just dig deep inside yourself. Find all the greatness in there and say...
“Basta! Enough of these limitations! Enough of these fears. My time is NOW!”
And to anyone else reading this who is being held back by fear and procrastination...know this. Every moment you are not going after your passion, making your dreams a reality or defining your purpose, is time you will never get back.
Is what you're doing right now, this day, this moment, getting you closer to where you want to be? If not, maybe it’s time to readjust your focus. The present moment may only be an inch wide, but it is infinitely deep! Your future is waiting...go get it!
In closing, I want to say this...
Let the vision in your mind get ahead of the sight in your eyes!
Dream beyond what you see.
Never let your fears determine what you can accomplish.
Dream about what does not yet exist and believe with all your heart that it is possible.
Go and do it.
Go do it NOW!