For the past three years, whenever we visit Jake’s family in Tucson, we drive past what appear to be pastel bird cages off the 1-10. For the past three years, I’ve said to myself, “I wonder what the heck is up with that” but done nothing. This year, on our trip down for Christmas, though, it came to my attention that my husband now owns a smart phone, and voila! Family Fun World.
Family Fun World was one man’s dream to bring an amusement park to Eloy, Arizona. Richard Songers was a construction worker with a dream—to open a park on the land he purchased outside of Eloy in 1995. Initial plans included a drive-in theater, wild animal zoo, race track, and concert venue. Songers apparently ran out of money before the park could open, and well, Family Fun World became a skeleton of unfulfilled dreams. Nothing remains, beyond these bird cages (originally part of a ride called “The Galaxy” from the Magic Mountain Amusement Park in California) and, from what I’ve read, a very angry guard dog.
What became of Richard Songers? I guess he still lives near Eloy, since one Family Fun World visitor claims to have met the guy. What does he do with his days, I wonder? Has he moved on to the next dream, or does he mourn the loss of the dream unfulfilled?
It’s a new year, 2013. I’m not going to get into my goals (they’re not “resolutions;” they’re goals). I look toward this new year with joy and excitement, because so much can happen in a year. So much can happen in a month! However, there’s been an unfamiliar feeling, too—an invisible finger itching the back of my brain. This feeling woke me up almost every morning when I was home for Christmas in Ohio. This feeling wakes me up at 2 AM sometimes, too. The feeling is fear. Now, I love horror movies. I love haunted houses. I love dark walks with no flashlight. Fear is a feeling I usually embrace, because, like the time I swam with sharks in Belize, fear makes us feel alive. This fear is different. This is the fear of never amounting to anything.
This is the curse of the “artist.” I’m not talking about the movie, The Artist, although the theme fits, as we watch George Valentin sell off his possessions and sink into anonymity. Fear of failure is the curse of anyone with a dream, although artists generally are more susceptible, because we rarely have anyone tell us “good job,” “here’s your promotion,” or “you need a raise.” I live behind a computer screen in pajamas, and although I have a couple essays published, the accomplishment is not enough. I want my novel published, and as I try to sell the one from last year, I work on a 2013 manuscript and hope, because the doubtful voices get louder every year.
What if your book is never on a shelf at Barnes and Noble?
What if you never become that smiling author on The Daily Show?
What if professionally, you never become anything but a marketing copy writer?
What if? What if?
I have crushing days of failure. I have days when I pay my career no mind at all. I have days when I don’t want to write and days when I can think of nothing but writing. So here we are, in 2013. What will this year bring? Will that long-awaited call from a literary agent arrive, or will I be crushed beneath the weight of my own terror?
I bought something while we were in Tucson, after passing Family Fun World and spending a good half-hour thinking about poor old Richard Songers. My recent purchase was an ornament from a coffee shop: a painted picture of a skinny girl like me with three words: “create (tell it).” The ornament sits on my desk, because that is what I do. I create and I tell it like I see it. I can acknowledge my fear, but I must also acknowledge a tireless drive to dream. Not even fear can blow that candle out.