Saturday, July 2, 2011

portrait of an artist as a young girl…

I want to be a Writer,

I said.

Then, an English Teacher, because that sounded good, too.

Then, I said,

I want to live on a farm with a farmer, and have two Porsches, one white, one black!

That was a good dream.

Then I said,

I'll train guide dogs for the blind.

Then, Teacher again.

And then, Actor. Then Artist. Then Writer. Then Actor, again. Then

inexplicably, I went to law school

(sorry, what?).

And all through law school, those crackle-dry years, there was art. Always there was writing. Always, I was creating.

I never lost that yearning, imaginative, hopeful spirit.

Until I said, Forget Law.

I said, Writer, again.

And ran away to America to become one.

Everyone asks you when you are young: "So, what do you want to be, when you grow up?"

It seems to be the only question some grown-ups can think of when they meet a child.

Who will you be, little girl? Down there in the distant future, in that faraway space you haven't lived yet?

Who will you be?

It becomes one of the most important questions in the world.

As I grew Up and Up, I thought,

Almost there.

I traveled, studied, married, gave birth, became a parent, then a homeschooling parent, and…waited to become the Who I dreamed of being as a child. The who I ran off to America to be.

I have thought, Almost, but not quite. Nearly there, nearly there, but not.

I have waited. I have realised certain writing goals, then made up new hurdles to make the Dream nearly impossible to achieve. Because reaching that elusive goal, it's everything isn't it? And actually arriving, that's when you can finally tell everyone you're there, right? That's when you can stop searching, reaching out. When you finally Are. 


And when you finally Make It, isn't that when the light shines down on you; isn't that when the Hallelujah chorus begins? Doesn't the ticker tape come raining down then, and doesn't the crowd go wild?




My future looks nothing like I planned, and everything like I hoped.  

I am a dream left, and found. A sweater unravelled and knitted at once. 
I am unformed, forming and formed.
I am a thinker, dreamer, mother, wanderer, lover (of words, people, nature, life!). I am not the 'Writer' I thought I might be by now, but I am (and have always been) a writer. And so many other things besides!

quite simply,


Which gets me to thinking.

Our education system seems centred on creating Future Whos.

Built on building the Grown-ups children will become,

not the people they already are.

Kids learn what they are supposed to; they study and take exams; they prepare, prepare, prepare. Tick off the checklist to make sure they are getting closer, ever closer to the Goal of Becoming.

It is all a journey Towards.

Who will you be, little girl? A firefighter? A baker? An accountant? A photographer?

Hold up your dreams now. Tell me what they are, and we'll pin them, here, and here. Hold them up against you, so we can see what your future might look like.

Then the squinting. The tilting of heads to the side. Then the um-ing, and the ah-ing. The, hmmm, maybe? Then, Ah, yes, that looks about right!

Then the Who You Will Be is placed

some distance away,

with hurdles placed here, and here.

So the Becoming feels like an accomplishment when you get there.

Who will you be?

Tell me now so we can get you ready.

Tell me now, so we can chase your future down.

I love dreams. They are beautiful. I love the potential that tomorrow offers. So much to do. So much to Be.

But when can we turn to the children and say?

You Are.



You are a poet. An artist. A woodworker. A musician. An inventor. An actor. A mathematician. A stuntman. An athlete. An entrepeneur. An astronaut. A superhero.

You ARE.

You, are.

You are.

(I'm linking this with Stephanie's
Saturday's Artist,
and Owlet's Unschool Monday
 both places are just lovely)


  1. Beautiful. It's all so true. There is a difference between dreaming because someone told you you should, and dreaming because you know you want something more than anything. And when we realize that dreams are about enhancing who we already are and not about becoming somebody completely different, suddenly the dreams are about joy and life and living. And less about making a name, making money, being number one, pleasing others. It has taken me years to understand this. Your children are so fortunate to have a mama like you. I can see your children thriving so beautifully and wholeheartedly. Congrats Mama, on such a lovely post and raising children with such joie de vivre. :).

  2. There are so many parts of this post I just want to drink in and savour. You write it all out so beautifully.
    I feel like we as people, children and parents are on a journey of becoming. Our dreams unwrap and unfold us as we do them.
    I can relate so much to what you say about following your dreams only for them to take you in another direction altogether. Only to find out that you found a dream that was an even betyter fit.
    I love your girls artwork.The beautiful drawings and the sweet stitching.

  3. "But when can we turn to the children and say?

    You Are.



    exquisite post. You are a writer and so much more.

  4. For some reason this reminds me of the musician biographies on Pandora Music. I was reading them one day and I was taken with the fact that these wildly successful people like Jason Mraz never even went to school for music. Like you they must have thought along the way that they would be something else but destiny led them to their true calling.

    I think it is vital that our children understand that they already ARE and that what they ARE will in some way shape who they will BECOME. There is a huge distinction that is lost on many people.

    I love your introspective posts Helena. They always make me think. There are days like today, when I was making dinner that I still think of your oatmeal post....

  5. Thank you, MJ, Suzy, Nikole, Jess! Thank you for feeling what I feel and hearing what I'm saying, and for expressing how my words resonate with you. Thank you.

    I love the act of Becoming. I love the way we, as humans, grow and stretch and seek and find. I think discovering who we are, finding what drives us, is beautiful. I love seeing where the Who we already are takes us tomorrow.

    What I think bothers me is that sense that, at a very early age, kids are supposed to Decide their future, who they will Be with a Capital B. And then that Decision has to stick, become a set quest, and it defines you. It can mean that if you wander elsewhere, you might think of it as quitting. If you leave a path for a new one, you might see yourself as flighty or confused. If you start all over again, you think the old choices are mistakes. (I know I did, for years, about that law school business!). None of this is true. It is, simply, you, evolving; forming and already formed, both. It's beautiful.

    I love all your responses! I wish we were sitting together, having this amazing, organic conversation over cups of tea, all our ideas flowing. All of us smiling, leaning forward, interrupting each other, saying, Yes!

  6. Helllooooo! I feel like I have been out of the loop for so long. LOL Just catching up on a few blogs now. This is a gorgeous post as usual. You had me laughing and feeling all mama proudliness at the same time. Your little girl is so talented and free it warms my bones to share this journey with you. I had to laugh at the marry a farmer for a couple of porshes though. I also wanted to marry a farmer so I could have a horse. Lower sights it may seem but horses and I have a long history, a hilarious not always friendly long history. Needless to say I got over that desire long ago. I still want the farm but I don't think I really need a horse at all. LOL Big hugs and smoochies to you xoxoxox

  7. Wow. That was beautiful. In just the last 2 years or so I have gotten to that place where I feel like I am done trying to decide what to be when I grow up (I am 31) and I am just happy to be who I am right now. We encourage our daughter in the same way. When she tells us she wants to be a cowgirl when she grows up, we remind her she already is. Same for anything else she decides she would like to be.

    Thanks for helping me see what I had floating around in my head for a while now :)

  8. Oh my. This is my first visit to your blog (through OLM's Saturday's Artist) and what beautiful words to read as my introduction! Thank you, thank you for writing this. So beautiful. So true.

  9. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up! (I'm 42!!).

    You are amazing - so insightful and able to express so eloquently.

    Your daughter is amazing - beautiful pictures, writing, craft and just, beautiful.

  10. This post had me crying. I loved it, linked it and will re-read it. Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.

  11. This is really lovely. I can relate to what you've written in so many ways, not the least of which- I made it so hard on myself to ever be an Actual Writer, that I have often lost track that I have never stopped writing. Thanks so much for writing this.

  12. This is beautiful, and so well said. Thank you!!!

  13. I always love reading your posts, Helena :) They are a thing of beauty, truly, and I feel right along with you!
    There are so many pieces of this post I could respond to...
    It makes me think about our Lauren, who frequently says "...when I grow up..." and she fills it in with who she plans to be, or do, or have. I have been reminding her of who she is NOW, and how great that is.

  14. Could this be any more beautiful? You are definitely a writer dear friend. I love this, I love this. "The Who you will be"...isn't that what the whole journey is about. Just like you is the becoming. We have to always strive to 'be'. If we stop that...there is no point.

    I am seriously in love with this post Helena. Magic, wonderful words...

  15. Damn, that is some fine writing - your words take me on a ride that lingers. Your voice is becoming a roar Helena!

  16. This - "You Are. Already. Someone."

    Powerful and thought provoking. I will be thinking about that statement for a while. Thank you.

  17. Cool! Visiting after a mutual friend spotted we were blogging on the same page this week! Glorious words, thank you.

  18. This is BEAUTIFUL. I adore you, Helena. This is what I aspire to and hope to share with my own children.

  19. So, so good, Helena.
    ♥ ♥ ♥

  20. This is absolutely and utterly beautiful. You gorgeously put into words something that I'm very, very passionate about. Kids already are somebody. They have arrived somewhere and it's somewhere that's just perfect.


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.