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I have a new book on my nightstand. It arrived a few days ago and happens to be the first book written by my friend of 20 years, Morgen. The publication of her book reminds of the importance of passion and perseverance in chasing your dream.

As kids, we’re often told we should decide what we’re going to be when we grow up. We’re supposed to consider what the job stability for that chosen career will be, if it will provide a sustainable income, and if it will allow a lifestyle we want to live — as if we have any idea what the real world is like as children still living at home.

But, at the same time, many of us already know what we love to do from a young age. Yet, somewhere along the way we get distracted by what we’re told to be focusing on — college, careers, cash flow —and we often lose sight of the very talent we were gifted naturally.

In high school, Morgen and I made a game of writing. The rules were simple: Pick a topic and stick to it. One of us would take a sheet of paper and write our sentence, then fold over the paper so the other couldn’t see it. Then the other person would write her sentence. This could go on for pages. It didn’t matter what we ended up writing, we just loved that we were writing together. It’s a fond memory to this day.

About eight years ago when I was living in California, I got a manuscript in the mail from Morgen. It was a rough draft of a book she had been working on for fun. I was absolutely delighted to read it, and had much time to do so on the bus I rode each morning to work.

On the bus, I would pull out the hefty manuscript from my bag and become immersed in it. Since the bus I rode was specifically for those commuting to work in West L.A., I often sat near the same people. Some of them became interested in what I was reading because it was clearly a raw version of something, hundreds of single-sided, 8.5-by-11 pages stapled together.

As time went on, those curious commuters began to ask me about the book, so I told them about it. After a while, they routinely asked for updates on the characters. I was so proud to have such a talented friend and happy she would trust me with her unfinished work. But, somewhere along the way she got discouraged and put the project aside.

Fast forward to this January when she made a surprise announcement that her book is published and available on Amazon. I purchased it immediately.

The news of her book becoming a reality brings me back full circle to all the times we spent together writing, imagining, creating. It’s ironic that we are both writers who never really thought we would be. I had my a-ha moment about five years ago when I realized that in all the things I’ve ever done, no matter how successful I was, writing has stayed with me as my passion. It was then I realized it was time to make it part of my job.

But that wasn’t easy, because of the comments I heard while growing up. When I would tell people I wanted to be a journalist, more often than not their response included a statement of how the profession “doesn’t pay any money” — as if that should matter if you are doing what you love. It took me a long time to get those remarks out of my head, as I imagine the same for Morgen.

Authors, like Morgen, who want to make a living with their words, are told on a regular basis that very few will ever hit the jackpot like Stephen King, John Grisham or J.K. Rowling. But, in the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder how many people told that to Stephen King, John Grisham and J.K. Rowling.

Passion and perseverance can go a long way for any dream as long as you keep focused on your dream and not the one that others have for you.

So, for this Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to not forget that love begins with you. Love your talent. Love your passion. Love your dream. Love yourself. And even if it takes 20 years, you can be what you want to be if you don’t lose sight of who you were meant to be.

Allison Lamplugh is a free-lance writer for the Philomath Express.

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