What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Dream Deferred - Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
What of the dream that is plucked before it has sprouted, before you dare to whisper it, even to yourself? Do we have to thin out our dreams, like thinning out seedlings in the garden to give the strongest ones a real chance to thrive? I don't know. There are days when being thirty-two feels like its half, full of sixteen year old optimism and possibility. But there are days when thirty-two feels like it's too late for dreams.
A few months ago, my husband completed his "credentialing" process. Basically, it's a confirmation of his position as a minister in the Mennonite Brethren church denomination. As an aside, while I love many things about this denomination - our focus on peace-making, disaster relief, and social justice, I think it would be refreshing to update the name of our conference to be gender neutral. Sidenote to my aside, it would be even more fantastic if there was a word in the English language that was the equivalent of "Brethren" pertaining to the female persuasion. We couldn't even change it to a feminine form if we tried, given the current state of language. Mennonite Sistern? Mennonite Sisterhood? Alas, a gender neutral form would be the way to go.
Before the interview component of the credentialing process, my husband had to write a substantial paper, answering numerous theological and practical questions. I also had to submit a comparatively brief written response to several questions. After seven years of being a "pastor's wife," I'm accustomed to the drill of being "vetted," so to speak, in relation to my husband's ministry positions. I've been interviewed by his prospective employers, albeit informally. I'm sure that there are other positions in the world that require some kind of assurance from prospective employees that their family members are decent people, but my involvement in these processes is surprising to some who learn of it. Sometimes, it's still kind of surprising to me.
For this particular credentialing process, the list of questions was fairly standard, along the lines of determining whether I have any concerns about our life in ministry. One directive, however, caught me a little off-guard. "Discuss some of your personal goals and plans for the future. (Dream a little)." The first sentence magically transported me back in time to my grade twelve self, constantly bombarded with the question du jour: "So, what are you going to do after you graduate?" at which point I would cue the chirping crickets and try to devise an acceptable way of saying that I have no clue what I want to "be" when I grow up. Actually, I'm still trying to answer that question. However, paired with the permission to "dream a little" in parentheses, I abandoned my self-conscious lack of career direction and typed the first thing that came to mind with a jolt of giddiness. "I want to be a writer."
I made a mental note to return to that question after finishing the whole questionnaire to think of something more plausible for my future. A month later, sitting beside my husband in the interview process, I chastised my month-ago-self for not doing so. I didn't realize that the interview process would be quite so...formal, important, board-room-and-leather chairs as it was. Of course, when you spend your days with a two year old and four year old, and wearing jeans is "dressing up," it doesn't take much to feel formal. There were about nine people there to interview my husband, mostly pastors and professors, men and women, plus myself and the lead pastor from our church.
Although I don't always relish being interviewed as a spouse, it is definitely a unique opportunity to watch my husband in action. Instead of asking "How did the interview go?", I get to be there. We complement each others' strengths and weaknesses in many areas, including thinking on the spot. I'm always amazed by his ability to respond thoughtfully, intelligently, and quickly in situations. He's kind of a rock star in interviews. I am admittedly a slow thinker. When my turn to answer a few questions inevitably came, the representative from the seminary opened with:
"Andrea, I'm interested to see that you want to be a writer."
Me: Silence. Mona Lisa smile. Inner cringe. Why didn't you erase that part? WHY? Of all the times to reveal your implausible, secret dream, you chose this?
Him: What kind of things do you like to write?
Me: Combination of sigh/nervous laugh. Pull it together here. Well, I have a blog. I silently will him not to ask for the name of the blog as I recall writing all the glorious/gory details of my kids' birth stories. And some short stories. What?! Where did that even come from? Please, brain, tell me I have written at least one short story since high school so that I'm not a complete liar.
Thankfully, nobody asked me to elaborate on the spot, and my blood pressure returned to its normally low state soon thereafter. The conversation mercifully turned to other matters, as I recovered from the shock of revealing my secret dream to a roomful of pastors and theologians, most of whom I had never met before.
After the interview was over, Dave and I waited in the hallway while they discussed amongst themselves. We returned to the room and learned that he passed, of course, probably with extra points because he's so witty and refreshing. It was neat to watch him be affirmed and encouraged, because pastors don't always get much of that on the job. To my surprise, my feelings of being a writer-imposter all but disappeared when they turned their attention to me once again, and encouraged and prayed for me in my interest in writing, wherever that may lead. The truth is, I have no idea where it will lead. Perhaps it will simply remain a creative outlet here in this blog, or perhaps, one day, it will be more.
It is, in any eventuality, sheepishly exciting to admit to myself that I still have dreams, and to realize that I'm not too old to dream. Perhaps we are never too old to dream. Then again, every time I tuck my boys into bed, or walk hand-in-hand with my husband, I realize that I'm kind of living a dream already. Now to remind myself of that during my two-year-old's next tantrum about changing his clothes...