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When What If...Isn't.

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

We all have a childhood dream. Something we longed for...beg, pleaded, prayed for...

My first word was horse. From the first moment I pointed up at the furry, four-legged animal and firmly said its proper name, my mother knew she was in trouble. Once I was smart enough to know what a horse needed – food and a place to stand – I pointed out the vacant parking space in front of hour Virginia townhouse. It was all very logical to me. I wanted a pony, and we had a place to put one. So I asked my parents almost weekly and prayed to God every night to bring me a pony.

I can remember long road trips down the east coast to Florida and across toward the Midwest to the outskirts of Kentucky, passing thousands of fields with horses grazing, running, and playing. I would daydream I was with them on a wild adventure, and quite often – especially in math class – “The Black Stallion" would come charging up to the school window and whisk me away to the fantastic worlds in my imagination. And, despite the fantasies I dreamed up, I always believed I would one day have a horse of my own. My “what if I had a horse” was a real and tangible idea. I firmly believed it was possible.

Though my parents promised to one day purchase me a horse, at the age of sixteen I became very entrepreneurial and applied to be a stable hand at the barn where I was taking riding lessons. Shortly after starting my work, one of the lesson horses came up for auction, and with the $375 dollars I had saved from working, I purchased the thoroughbred mare aptly named for adventure “Calamity Jane.” My dream became reality; my “what if” was now real. I could tell everyone that C.J. is my horse. She was all mine. And she knew it too.

C.J. was “privately-owned.” Dressed in all new hunter green tack, she pranced around the paddock like Queen Bee and chased all the other mares away so she would be brought in first. My greatest day was when I went through the tack trailer, threw open the back door near the mare’s paddock, heard C.J. whiny when she saw me and come galloping up the field. Everyday afterward, as soon as the back door opened she’d come running. We had great adventures together, just like I dreamed, and my horse was my best friend. She’d listen when I needed to vent and quietly munch her hay; she’d nip at my coat when she wanted attention, and nudge me we I needed to “snap out” of a bad mood. C.J. was everything I ever wanted in a horse. But the dream only lasted a year.

What parents don’t tell kids about dreams coming true is that all [good] things (and dreams) will come to an end. The next summer my adventure with C.J. abruptly ended with the news that my horse, along with a few others in the barn, had a [then] fatal disease called “Equine Motor Neuron Disease”, a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease in horses that attacks the muscular system. There was very little I could do. I didn’t have the fortune it would take to keep my horse alive through veterinary care, so when Cornell University offer to take C.J. (as a donation) to upstate New York for further study on the disease, I couldn’t refuse. The last six months of her life, C.J. lived in rolling fields of green grass and grazed to her heart’s content. I like to imagine she would run the wild fields and feel like a foal all over again – a horse’s heaven.

This experience has stayed with me throughout my life. And most recently, in chasing new dreams, I have begun to ask the question – not just what if? But what if the what if simply...isn’t? Perhaps some dreams are not meant to come true? This idea is difficult to process in the midst of a world that proclaims, “All things are possible.” The truth is something things aren’t possible. So, what then do we do with all our dreams?

My current dream is to be a full-time writer and maybe someday a film director too. I’ve had this dream for over a decade now. In many aspects I am a writer, a playwright, and a screenwriter – just not full-time. And why? Because life has led me down many paths, all leading up to the time now, when I still want to dream big. I still want to believe in the impossible being possible. So what stops me? The question of: What if this dream doesn’t happen? What if this dream simply isn’t meant to be? What if I try and try and I never make it as a full-time writer despite everyone insisting that I can do it? This stirs in my mind like a constant vortex.

But then I remember something a friend said to me just the other day. Over some classic Hollywood fish tacos she said, “You know you didn’t just come out here to [Hollywood] to be a writer. There’s more to it than that.” My internal mental filter screams, “I didn’t?!” And I thought hard about it. Hard enough to want to write about it so could tell others fighting for a dream like me that if the what if...isn’t that is okay. The point in the answer then becomes if the current dream isn’t meant to be, then there is something among your dream that is.

Let me take you back to my childhood dream of having a horse to make my point. My dream became real, but when it was birthed it didn’t have an establish end, only the possibility of becoming something. Life would form it, I would live it, and circumstance would dictate how it ended. The dream was the experience of it. I had the extraordinary experience of buying and owning my own horse, which taught me to love, care, take responsibility for someone other than myself, and then let go, trust, and grow up.

My new dream, my new experience, in wanting to become a full-time writer has led me to live and work in Hollywood, meeting amazing people, developing all my talents, and allowing my dream to widen to more than just being a writer; to more than just living an adventure, but also a desire to experience everything around me to the best of my ability no matter the outcome. To go back to the belief, when I was a young teen and lived in the fulfillment of doing what I love and having what I most desired, to the time when I didn’t know dreams could come to an abrupt end, but just that they could be wonderfully real. Then, and only then can I truly live free to embrace all that can be possible, because I just don’t know what tomorrow will bring or a childhood summer could have brought. I only know that something will come from 'what if' when I chose to embrace my experiences despite my current circumstance. A new dream with all its possibilities will always come to light. The end of one dream will always be the beginning opportunity for another. Just keep asking what if until it is.

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