This weekend, I packed my beat-up pink suitcase and asked it to go on another adventure with me. It’s a small suitcase, but I stuffed it with fancy clothes, too many shoes, and dreams that I would not yet give voice to. That beat-up, pink suitcase followed me to Charlotte, North Carolina for the She Speaks conference, a gathering of 800 women fiercely chasing dreams of speaking and writing. I layered funky-fresh jewelry on top of professional dresses and slapped on secure, sassy heels. I packed a messenger bag with a journal, and those dreams. I’d kept them small enough to fit— they’re travel-sized.
At brilliant breakout sessions, my pen flew, capturing copious notes as I tried to drink in the precious wisdom of the writers and speakers. “This is how you create a platform,” “This is how you land a book deal,” “This is how you market your work,” “This is how you become successful,” they said.
And it reminded me of my childhood. How many acting classes have I gone to in my life? How many auditions, informational meetings, and casting director sessions? How many agent appointments and final callbacks? I’ve marched forward in the face of rejection since before my eighth birthday.
“Why didn’t you quit?” someone asked me.
I put Time on hold and thought.
I never really considered quitting. I’d thought about it, but never really considered it. I’ve placed my hopes and passions in front of the Lord and asked him to take them away if they weren’t a part of the calling He’s put on my life. I tried to change my theatre major after a semester in Africa in the face of the hurting and the broken, asking, “How can I possibly make a difference with my stories?” But since, I have realized that I cannot possibly make a difference without my stories.
They are what keep me human, keep me laughing, keep me humble, keep me motivated, keep me honest, keep me passionate.
“Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take.” (Jeremiah 31:21)
My stories are my guideposts.
The stories where I failed. The ones where I won. The ones where I backed down where I should have stood my ground. The ones where I realized the big picture was far bigger than me.
The time I made it to the final ten girls for the lead in a brand new musical and failed miserably, but decided to get back up and grow stronger. The time I flew to New York City for a final callback and didn’t get it. The time I booked that role on that one TV show. The time I lost the lead, but made incredible friendships in the ensemble. The time I lived out my dream role with my dream cast and we fought injustice and won an Ovation award for it. The thousands of times They said, “no.” The hundreds of times They said, “yes.”
Each of these stories are like lampposts. When I question my path, I check behind me to see what my past would advise for my future, and there they are: My stories, illuminating my “has been,” and encouraging my progress toward “will be.”
What are your stories? The ones that remind you to keep going, or to slow down? The ones that keep you from quitting, that boomerang you back around when you turn around?
This weekend, my beat-up pink suitcase and I planted another guidepost in place. I had two great meetings with fantastic people who might help me put my story on shelves in bookstores. I have no idea where we will go from here. But I do know that regardless, the miraculous stories of those meetings will stay with me, speaking truth, reminding me that my dreams don’t have to stay travel-sized. I will look back on these stories, and they will encourage me onward toward bigger, braver ones.