New Post Self-Love

Conversations with My Younger Self: How I Let Go of Dreams I Had

I’ll be the first to tell you I never wanted to be a teacher. I never had any goals, no aspirations, to be Ms. Herzing. So, how’d we end up here? In the words of Elyse Meyers, I’d love to tell you.

In 6th grade, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I used to have my friends give me an article of clothing and I had to create an outfit around it. Patent leather heels? I got it. A black headband? No worries. Little did I know fashion designing actually meant creating and making said clothes. I didn’t want to do any of that; I just liked getting dressed.

Then, there was my “I’m going to go to Juilliard to be in the NYC Ballet” dream. I would go to my school’s computer lab and look up application dates. That ended swiftly when I got boobs.

But then, we realized we could write poems. I read a poem by a dear past friend of mine who would post her work on Myspace (yes). I read that poem she wrote and thought… why couldn’t I do that? I could write that. So I did.

I fell in love with writing poems, which should not have been a surprise considering I used to carry around a pen and paper wherever I went. Some kids collected Pokemon cards, I collected empty journals. Poetry was the way in which I could truly tell people what I wanted to say all along. I would carry around a Vera Bradley journal wherever I went, and whenever there was a free moment in class, I would write. I would write before the bell rang. I would write in Study Hall. I would leave poems for boys I liked in their desks like love letters.

I was going to be a writer. That was the end of that.

For every downturned expression, for every “what are you going to do with that,” for every practicality I was asked to consider, I wrote another poem. I just wrote and wrote and I got better and better. I begged my high school to let me take Creative Writing II and III as independent studies. I declared myself an art major pre-college so I could take two art classes a day and skip out on a science. I had my college essay written at fifteen. I knew exactly what I wanted, and in my mind, there was no reason I shouldn’t have it.

I was accepted to college in 2012, and on my 18th birthday I was awarded a Creative Writing scholarship for my talents. I took an Intro to Creative Writing class my first year at Lycoming College, and it changed my world. I started posting my poems on poetry forums. I shared them on my Facebook. In 2016 I created this website. I started this cycling obsession with telling stories. I worked hard, and once again, I thought because of that there was no reason I shouldn’t have everything I wanted.

I then spiraled down the black hole that was applying to graduate school. I knew the statistics.

So yeah… my odds were pretty bleak. But I worked really hard on my portfolio. I printed page after page to sprawl across my friends’ dorm room floors to ask “which one of these hits harder? Which one would make you wanna keep reading?” I made edit after edit. I asked every professor to read it and give me feedback. I changed course, I trusted my gut, I made the final copies, and I pressed submit.

I’m not in the business of trying to sell myself or prove anything anymore… but I do believe in celebration and giving credit where due so I will say this: I got into every school I applied to. 4/4. 4/4 mother flipping MFA programs all for Creative Writing. It was my pick of the lot.

I had a boyfriend in 2017 that was sweet, but frivolous. When I asked him what to do he said to flip a coin. When I started hyperventilating he knew to quit playing around and made me an excel spreadsheet. I lied on the carpet of his apartment, staring straight at the ceiling, and told him each pro to my con. He calculated every step until the decision was made: Hofstra University.

“I knew you were going to pick that one, but I also knew you needed to make this spreadsheet to be sure of yourself.”

I was sure of myself. Hofstra University was my one-way ticket to NYC. My thirteen year-old heart was about to burst. I was going to live in NYC? And write poems? Done deal.

I moved to NYC with $2,000 and no job. You can read all about that journey here if you’d like, so I won’t tell it again. But, I made it. I got my MFA. I wrote my first poetry manuscript and the first four essays of my non-fiction book. I walked across that stage and thought, well, here we go. Here’s to being a writer.

This is all a big prelude to tell you that didn’t happen. I didn’t become a writer.

It would be a cop-out to say I didn’t become a writer because who does anyway? It would be cliche to admit I was a starving artist. It would feel like betrayal to my craft to say I didn’t want to be a starving artist. The real reason I didn’t become a writer? I stopped believing in myself.

I applied to 90 writing jobs post-grad. This time, the statistics were right. 0/90. Not one. Not even an interview. I found myself magnetizing to the old saying “those who can’t do, teach.” I figured with my MFA, a terminal degree, I could teach at the collegiate level. I applied to those, and I don’t even want to talk about it because the applications were probably laughable. That’s when my boyfriend told me, “well of course they aren’t looking at your application; you don’t have any teaching experience. You have to leave retail and go into teaching.”

So, I applied to one of the only schools in NYC that you don’t need a teaching license for, and I got the job. That was when I was twenty-three.

I’m now twenty-seven and still teaching. And I’ve never, ever hated myself more.

I don’t think I hate teaching because I actually hate it. I think I just hate myself. I hate that I didn’t do the things I was supposed to. I hate that I’m not a writer. I hate that those people were right. I hate that it’s so hard. I hate that I spend my days talking to children instead of academics. I hate that I didn’t do the things I set out to do. I hate that I worked so hard and got nothing. I hate that it’s unfair. I hate that I can’t change it. I hate…

You hate me yet? Want to click away? I would if I were you.

Those are the kinds of thoughts that I let cloud my brain. This… expectation. This stupid, post-modern idea that I am supposed to be something when all I ever, ever really need to be is myself.

You don’t owe your thirteen year-old self anything. You don’t owe your parents anything. You don’t owe your teachers anything. You don’t owe anyone, anything, ever. You owe it yourself to let go of the doubt. You owe it to yourself to let go of the division between what you told yourself you’d become and who you are.

I’m a very good writer. I make people feel things when I speak. I tell the best cocktail-hour story. People listen when I talk. People read when I write. I have a voice, and I say things that matter.

That’s all that matters. That’s all that every really mattered; saying things when no one else would. Believing in myself when no one else would.

Maybe I won’t be a best-selling author, and maybe I’ll never be a professor. But that doesn’t mean that I did something wrong. Life changes. You get to have new dreams. You get to evolve, grow, and be a different person than you were as a teenager. I hope you’re a different person than you were as a teenager.

Forgive yourself for the things you didn’t end up becoming. Forgive yourself for hating yourself, even if it was just for a little while.

And younger Sophie, you’re not going to be in The New Yorker before thirty. But, you’ll sure have fun trying. Have fun trying.

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