Did You Ever Know That You’re My…Jim Bowie?

Once upon a time, Jim Bowie was a mortal man, or so the story goes. Since then, he’s become a “folk hero” which means that separating out truth and fiction is a little tough, and mot people don’t really want to do it, in the first place. Make no mistake, I’m talking about the legend, here. A little fact, a little fiction, and a whole lot of whisky and temper.

Bowie was one of the defenders at the Alamo. That would be Texas vs. Mexico, for those of you who are just tuning in on our International Channel. Bowie and the Texans were massively outnumbered, and more than that, Bowie was sick as a dog.

He was can’t-stand-up, confined to bed, crawling around the fort on his hands and knees sick. Yellow Fever? Cholera? Late stage cirrhosis of the liver? Whatever it was, Bowie was in bad shape to begin with, and winds up giving up command.

There’s a point in the siege when things go from bad to worse. It becomes very clear that the men who stay to defend the Alamo will die. The commander (whose name was Travis, by the way) calls the guys together, and tells them the situation is bad. He gives them the chance to leave while they can.

He draws a line in the sand, and tells the men to cross it, if they are willing to die with him for their cause.

Bowie demands to be carried over that line on his stretcher.

Legend has it, anyway, and plenty of good, sensible people will defend this truth, as if they were there, themselves.

And legend also says that when they found his body, he was propped up against a wall and out of ammo, with a knife in his hand, and surrounded by the many bodies of the enemy soldiers he had killed.

There are plenty of people out there who will use circumstances to explain why they didn’t fight for their goals. I’ve seen that. Sometimes, I do that.

I have friends who don’t. I have friends who amaze me, and keep me on point, and who inspire me.

New baby in the house? Three kids? Elderly parents? Health problems? Learned English at the age of 83 and wrote a book? Became a marathon runner, despite having only one leg, and retrograde amnesia?

No excuses. They do it, anyway. They play through the pain, they fight through it, and they become that person. The one you look at, and you’re amazed that they can do it, and stunned that they can do it that well.

They look at that line in the sand, and pull themselves over it. They’re in. Even if it looks like impossible odds, even if it is impossible odds. No excuses.

And suddenly, my excuses all look so much smaller. Ridiculously small, in fact. They start to look like the kind of things that someone who didn’t want to write a novel would say, not something that someone who can’t write a novel.

And I want to write a novel.

So, suddenly, I’m over the line, and all-in, too.

You Are Supposed to Be a Cup of Coffee.

I’m not the only person in my peer group who had dreams, once, but I’m slowly creeping toward being the only one still actively working on achieving those dreams. Some dreams go fast. If you’re twenty-five, and just starting to dance, you’re never going to be a prima ballerina. Not every kid gets to be an astronaut, and most kids are too smart to want to be the President of the United States.

Maybe I’m lucky my dreams have a longer shelf life than most. If you had to be a writer by a certain age, or you’re done, I’d be in trouble. I made up most of my own deadlines, and then, I pole-vaulted over them. Not everybody can do that. Football (too late.) Gymnast (too late.) Mutant Superhero? (Still waiting on that reactor melt down.)

I still have a real chance. And, if you’re like me–if you’re one of the artists, the creators, the intellectuals, dragging people back into your own head–you still have a chance to grab your dreams, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re eight, or eighty.

Even so, I knew other kids who wanted to be writers, poets, artists… and they’re not.

They moved on to more practical things. More linear career paths.

At some point, they got out of high school, ran out of electives in college, and decided their dreams weren’t worth fighting for. Maybe they were pressured.

Parents like stability. So do romantic partners and future children. And society. We’ve all heard the jokes about “I’m a writer” being a euphemism for unemployed. And out here, in the real world, you’re going to be surrounded by people who gave up, or whose dreams timed out, or who never really knew what their dreams were in the first place.

And creatives are smart people. They’re absolutely capable of the doctor/lawyer/accountant path. So…. a lot of them turn.

Keep trying. Keep working. Keep your dreams close. I know it’s hard. I’m right there with you, thinking about selling life insurance to hamsters. I know the temptation to walk away, and do something that looks good on a resume and impresses people at the high school reunion.

I think you should keep chasing your own dreams.

But if you don’t…

Don’t be a doctor or a lawyer to make your mother or father happy. It won’t make you happy.

Be a cup of coffee to make me happy.