by Craig Harper
Last year I had a phone call from a guy that I had gone school with but had not seen for twenty plus years. He had heard me on the radio and decided to make contact.
As he talked I struggled to recall exactly who he was. Don’t you hate that when someone talks to you like they’re a long lost buddy and your like.. “who the hell are you?”
Anyway, he kept chatting and it eventually dawned on me who he was. We hadn’t been best friends but we were in the same year and hung out occasionally. I remembered him as being a creative, dreamer with an amazing imagination who could draw beautifully and write incredible stories. A good guy. Kinda cool.
He was always talking about all the amazing ‘stuff’ he was going to do when he left school and all his grand plans to write and illustrate his own series of books. In class he would write and draw his own comic books and us kids would sit around and read them while we were meant to be doing something far more academic.
Compared to me, he was kind of eccentric but I always marvelled at his great ideas and plans, and the clarity he had about his future. While I was struggling to lose my fat identity he was dreaming his dreams and preparing himself for the opportunity to turn his passion into a business, or at the very least, a career. I remember him winning awards at school for his art and our English teacher encouraging him to study literature at university.
We spoke for only a minute or two on the phone and arranged to meet for a coffee and chat the next day.
As I was driving to meet with him I wondered what the seventeen year-old optimistic dreamer with the long bohemian hair looked like a quarter of a century later. I wondered if I’d recognise him. The first thing I noticed as he walked towards me in the cafe was his lack of hair. His head, once home to a long, flowing mane now resembled a barren wasteland.
I must of been staring because his first line was, “not what it used to be, is it?”
“Er, no…aah, er… you look great.”
‘Gee that was smooth’, I thought.
I lied; he looked tired, old and totally un-inspired. Different.
He sat down and we started to chat. I was excited to learn about the books he’d written and his career as an artist and writer. It didn’t occur to me that he could have done anything else.
“So, how many books have you written?” (he laughs). “Let’s see, including my most recent one….none!” “Really?” “Yep.”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to offend him.
“Wow, if there’s one person that I was sure I knew where they’d end up, it was you.”
“Life happened, my wife happened, kids happened, bills happened, divorce happened, stress happened.”
“And here I am; simple really.”
“So what do you do now”, I asked.
“I sell cars.”
“It’s not great; it’s crap.”
For about half an hour we had some incidental, almost-meaningless dialogue but the seventeen year-old dreamer with a sparkle in his eyes, excitement in his voice, dreams in his mind and hope in his heart, had well and truly gone.
I felt sad for him. He was so talented. What a waste.
“Where’s the seventeen year-old creative dreamer gone”, I asked him. “He got his dreams and creativity beaten out of him by life.” “They got replaced by reality.”
While he wasn’t really bitter, he was ‘defeated’. His dreams and plans were ancient history to him. It was like the years had sucked the creativity energy out of him.
“So why don’t you write your book?” “I’m forty-two.” “So?”
“Man, I have three kids, I sell cars and I own less than half of my house.”
“Don’t tell me about your life situation, tell me about what’s in your heart?”
“If your life situation was different, would you like to write?”
“So write… even though it’s not different – yet.”
“Initially, for you.”
“And then hopefully, for everyone else.”
I told him that I write professionally. He was shocked. “Really.” “Yep, and I have less talent than you!”
I had an idea.
“Why don’t you start writing your book, I’ll read your drafts, give you some feedback and when you’re done, if you and I think it’s good enough…I’ll do my best to get you a meeting with a publisher.”
Sixty minutes after we met, we stood to our feet to say goodbye. He gave me a hug that lasted just a little too long and I detected a glimmer of hope.
The seventeen year-old creative was coming back to life. The dreamer was waking up.
One week later I received an email with a thirty thousand word document attached; the first three chapters of his book.
It was good. Real good.
I rang him. He was a different person. “You were right Craig; I needed to write for me.” “I feel amazing.”
That was six months ago. The car salesman has now finished the fifth (and almost final) draft of his first fantasy novel. It’s nearly 200,000 words!
The dreamer is dreaming again and hope has returned.
Craig Harper (B.Ex.Sci.) is an Australian motivational speaker, qualified exercise scientist, author, columnist, radio presenter, and owner of one of the largest personal training centres in the world. He can be heard weekly on Australian Radio SEN 1116 and GOLD FM and appears on Australian television on Network Ten’s 9AM. http://www.craigharper.com.au/
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