At 11, I wrote about 3 books in my mind about a girl who goes to the library, and the lion on the steps comes to life. At first she was afraid, but then the lion took her on a journey through all of the classic children's literature I had read. I not only imagined what would happen in these stories, but I generated the key phrases, chapter titles, and book covers. I had no idea what publishing a book was like, but I was pretty sure I had it all set in stone such that I would have all 3 books published AT LEAST by the time I was 12 and a half.
Now, sometimes I worry when I'm awake at night. I've always been good at worrying, but I'm something of an expert at this point. Not to brag or anything, but I'm pretty sure I got my doctorate in worrying alongside my doctorate in psychology. That makes me pretty much a pro.
Sometimes I write in my mind. I come up with lots of great ideas for blog posts. I write poems. I write letters. I generate ideas for books I want to write one day. I come up with research ideas I'll probably never execute, and I write sermons on the off-chance that I ever one day fulfill that distant dream of being a minister.
Sometimes I come up with treatment interventions. I come up with REALLY great treatment ideas in the middle of the night. They're always my most creative. I write social stories for kids in the middle of the night, too, including a good one about "inside" vs. "outside" thoughts, and one about how some kids have parents who are in prison, and that's okay.
I've always been a pretty big dreamer. I'm not talking about dreams while I'm asleep - although I have really vivid sleeping dreams, too -- I'm talking about my waking dreams. The dreams I have surrounding where I'm going, what I'm doing, what I want to do, the things I want to change, the mark I want to leave on the world. In a journal somewhere, I have a plan for an autism center drawn out with everything from the clientele, to the building we're going to be in, to who is going to be on staff, to the color of the walls in the different rooms and the types of sensory toys and equipment will be where. I don't have anything written about how I'm going to fund such a place, but the rest of it? It's all written out.
However, I also have plans for at least three other nonprofit organizations I want to start. One is an organization for parents who have developmental disabilities that offers parenting classes, a lending toy library with educational and developmentally appropriate toys for young children, behavior therapy services for children, assessment services, nutrition classes, assistance with accessing resources, and support groups for parents. One day, it will even have a half-day preschool/ECI class attached to it where the parents of infants and young children attend with their little ones to learn through the modeling of the teachers in the classroom. I dream of big, comfortable, home-like atmospheres for treatment with interdisciplinary teams of caring professionals that respect the autonomy of all people and families and work together to create interdisciplinary treatments and support plans.
And I've been dreaming about things like this since I was 16.
So in spite of the fact that I know that I have the opportunity to make a direct impact on multiple lives every day, and in spite of the fact that I can't even count how many families and individuals I have had the opportunity to work with over the past several years, I still always feel "you're not doing enough."
You're not changing the world enough.
You are so privileged...you're not using it to do enough good.
You aren't tackling all the issues you should be challenging. You're not having all the conversations you should be having. You're not making enough of a difference. Is the world really a better place because you're in it? You have all these dreams...when are you going to actually do something with them?
It feels so futile sometimes, and so overwhelming. Not in a depressed or depressing way, and not in a "I might as well just give up" sort of way. Just in a "the world is so big, and there is so much I care about and want to change, and there is so much that I want to run out and touch that my whole body feels its going to explode with passion, and hope, and ideas, and love for this whole freaking messed up world" sort of way. It feels hopeless, but hopeless in the sense that all we have left is hope and one another, and I don't know what to do with that but desperately want to find out.
So I lie awake at 3AM and plan crowdsourcing research projects on teaching compassion and empathy to children, and I write antibullying bystander intervention compassionate communication curriculums for elementary and middle schoolers.
And then I go to work, and I meet with one child, and then another, and I pray that -- somehow -- my presence makes a change that ripples out to touch the world.