I remember being young and hearing, ‘Follow your dreams. You can be anything you want to be.’ Then I grew up, and the sentiment seemed to change to, ‘You can be anything you want to be… as long as it’s stable and economically viable.’ I am not sure when the American Dream became sitting in classrooms until you can wallpaper your living room with diplomas or whiling away the hours in an office cubicle. Perhaps it has to do with the recession, or possibly this age of technology has taken the romantics out of us. Whatever the reason, I was not exactly expecting my family to be thrilled with my decision to work a dead-end restaurant job to pay the bills while I try to break into the extremely competitive and (for most) less than lucrative picture book market.
However, when I saw my extended family this past weekend, my oldest cousin came up to me and said, ‘I think you are doing exactly the right thing.’ Even my uncle’s new girlfriend mentioned that she was sure they would see my books on the shelf some day. I was floored. For several months I had been following the advice that the first step to becoming a writer is calling yourself one, but when I did, I was sure I came across as naive, eccentric, and irresponsible. But I realized that, whether or not I am all of those things, what I am doing is also admirable. I am sure that the cubicle-sitters living the American Dream would agree.
So when you tell people that you are a writer, do it with pride. And when you tell young people to follow their dreams, mean it.