I know you feel invisible. Less than invisible. You look in the mirror and ponder how the real you could ever be noticed, hiding under an extra ten – no twenty – pounds, disguised by random white eyelashes and long mole hairs.
I see you. I see your bright shining dreams bigger at forty-four than any at twenty, because they are dreams of experience. In quiet moments alone, your eyes sparkle and your laugh lines deepen imagining what is possible. You are stunning.
I watch you lock up your bike, hike your pants over your muffin top, and stride into graduate school. You aren’t always the oldest in class. Fearlessly answering questions, asking questions, challenging the professors, you earn perfect scores. Do the girls in your class roll their eyes at your middle-aged bravado? I don’t care. I admire your bravery.
Like a conductor you keep your family fed, healthy, and loved. You enable their own dream chasing. Your dreams? You fit them in. You isolate yourself with an open laptop at soccer practice, shunning the parent chatter. They think you standoffish, but if you don’t multitask there will never be enough time. Yet, yet you chide yourself, this method of dream building isn’t effective. I want to shake you and insist that you matter too. Make your dreams a priority.
You think no one notices as you submit story after story to people who casually reject you. For a moment, you feel anger and disappointment. Have those critics even lived? Have they miscarried, drug their spouse from the depths of depression, or fished a dead kitten out of a toilet? How dare they judge you unworthy? Then you feel ashamed and assume that of course, they know better. You need to work harder. I notice your perseverance. Your words are luminous in mid-life and my heart fills with hope after every submission.
I hear you speak your dreams, “I want to be a professor,” “I want to make maps for authors,” “I want to publish my book,” and I believe in you. I am in your corner pom poms waving, singing inspirational songs, and doing stupid dance moves. You can do this, you can do it all. I see the awe of crowds around you, the pride your daughter feels, the disbelief of your friends because you are living your life: every second of it.
Late at night, when the dreams and the burdens converge to overwhelm you, I wipe away your tears. When your knees ache and you hate yourself for, once again, not taking care of your body I stroke your hair and tell you to rest. With a deep hug I look into your soul. You are not yet halfway through your life. Now is not the time to settle. Now is the time to grasp your boundless potential.