I’m pretty sure you peaked at age three. Eating, sleeping, playing and making it to the potty on time were your only goals, which you completed on your own schedule. You didn’t care how much you weighed, how hip your wardrobe was or how much money you had in the bank. Everything was new, beautiful and (remotely) innocent. At the risk of being a tad controversial, I’ll go so far as to say that you learned your greatest lesson in the very same year. That is, of course, if three is the age you were first introduced to the classic children’s story “The Little Engine That Could”.
I first heard the tale as a toddler, but was reminded of it in the 3rd grade. Shockingly, this had little to do with scoring my first Benetton rugby and training bra combo. It was the year my class was encouraged (read: required) to enter a statewide competition for young writers. Each of us would write and illustrate a hardcover book to be submitted for the chance to win and do something cool which I now have almost no recollection of. I told myself, “I Think I Can.”
My book was called “Floating Hearts & Stars” and was about a girl who was miserable while home from school with a nasty case of the chicken pox. Then (SPOILER ALERT) a friendly group of floating hearts and stars show up to bring her on a fun-filled adventure and save the day. Obviously, I won. (No really, I did.) I was one of several students selected to attend a stuffy luncheon with other young writers and just one of their parents. I wore Laura Ashley as I was introduced to children’s author & poet Lee Bennett Hopkins, which was an even greater highlight for me than being excused from school for the day to attend.
That was the day my knowledge peaked, but Shakespeare, Homer and Plato nothing to do with it. I learned that I could be original, that I could achieve, that I could write. Looking back, the story was terrible. I wrote myself into a corner and basically used a predictable dream sequence to escape, as I couldn’t dream of re-illustrating my first several pages.
I no longer have a hard copy of the book. I was only eighteen when we lost my Dad and I sent the original book and a copy of my college acceptance letter along with him. I did keep a transcript of the story, although it’s value isn’t in the miracle achieved by the floating hearts and stars or in the smile they brought a sad young girl in need of an oatmeal bath.
I overcame the challenge. I imagined. I empowered. I told myself “I Think I Can” and I did. Sometimes, all we need is the reminder.
Follow Karri-Leigh Mastrangelo on Twitter @karri_leigh.