I watched, camera poised, as my then four-year-old crossed the stage in his miniature cap and gown.
The preschool teacher handed him his diploma. "And what do you want to be when you grow up?" she asked.
"A doctor," my tow-headed son replied readily into the microphone.
The audience obligingly applauded, and my little boy grinned out at the crowd, seeking his parents' approving faces. I smiled back and nodded, though I was confused by his announcement.
"A doctor?" I questioned him later. "What happened to wanting to be a policeman?"
He shrugged. "Well, I told that to the girl who was behind me in line. She said policemen get shot. So I said doctor instead."
A young boy's dream crushed, just like that, by the insight of a fellow four-year-old.
After attending a writers conference this weekend in Myrtle Beach, I witnessed more than a few dreams dashed. Many attendees were newbies, with a limited realm of writing experience, let alone any knowledge of how to get published. Others had a full portfolio of manuscripts under their belt--or in a box under their bed. And they were just waiting for that lucky break.
A few of them got that break this weekend. Business cards were exchanged. Queries and proposals were requested. A handful of hopes and dreams were fueled by positive words and uplifted eyebrows.
But others went home rejected. And dejected. Perhaps they will give up writing altogether, after the honest yet subjective words of an agent or editor. Or perhaps they will simply walk away from the experience with a glimmer of insight that will help them hone their craft, and will push them toward success on their writing journey.
The strongest dreams--whether stoked with skill or merely sparked with the kindling of hope--will linger. The strongest dreams, ultimately, will persevere.
Yes, young boys' aspirations may end when they learn policemen get shot. Writers' dreams may end, too, when their story ideas are shot down. Any lifelong goals, for would-be doctors and astronauts and actors, may encounter multiple setbacks along the way.
Dreams may appear elusive, and dreamers may lose hope.
What each needs to understand, however, is that one shot, even if seemingly aimed at the heart, doesn't always prove fatal.