It’s easy to leave your passions in the back of your mind. It’s easy to discount them, neglect them, even call them unreasonable and lofty.
It’s easy because no one will hold you accountable to your secret dreams. No one will stand up for them.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” —Henry David Thoreau
When I was younger, I built castles. I made them out of picture books, opening them up and stacking them upon each other. Then I’d sit inside my book castle, reading for hours.
In grade school, I hid from the line-up to go to recess, because I preferred sneaking into the library to help shelve books.
In high school, I worked at a bookstore, and converted a non-reader into a regular bookstore customer.
I entered college with an application essay about a picture book, and, a few years later, graduated with an honors research thesis on Peter Rabbit.
Despite all these clues, I decided I “should be” an ecologist, so I began a PhD program in that. Three miserable years in, I broke the news to my advisor that I was ready to leave his lab. The catalyst? Discovering the overwhelming joy of working with graphics and text while creating…a picture book.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” — Steve Jobs
Since leaving graduate school, I’ve dug deep into graphic design and writing, but I haven’t done more with children’s media. It’s felt like a normal thing to have an interest in, and I haven’t taken it seriously.
It took a few major events in my life this year to help me see that all of this, these lifelong dots that are connecting, this is not normal. And it’s not fading. Like a true love, perhaps.
Today, I’m prioritizing this passion, and tapping it to fuel good. I’m setting a goal to read 1001 children’s books in a year, using this tome as my guide. More than that, I’m on a mission to track the themes and structures of stories that last, to examine how illustrations combine with text to communicate powerfully, and to investigate how stories reflect and change the contemporary culture.
I hope that through this research, I’ll see how I can offer something needed in this rapidly changing world of visual storytelling that I’ve cared about for my whole life. I want to do something that matters here, something that will empower and inspire others to learn courage, and curiosity, and integrity in our modern society. Stories have the power to do this, and more.
I’m not sure what change I will make yet, but I’ll start by building the foundations under my book castles.
If there’s something you love that you’ve held onto in your mind, today’s a great day to start tapping that passion to fuel good. Create something with your love, because you can. Figure out what the world needs from it and serve generously. It’s possible that the world needs it from you as much as you need to give it to the world.
P.S. If you have any suggestions for people/companies/books/films/stuff I ought to consider with my work on children’s media and visual storytelling, please poke me @MayaPLim on Twitter. Thanks, friends.