What I Owe to My 5-Year-Old Self at 23

Now Brewing: Starbucks’ Iced Coffee. ‘Bux is trying to take away my gold card because I haven’t earned my 30 stars this year, so I figured I’d cool off with one of my faves since it’s 85 degrees here in Washington D.C. and I’m from Wisconsin (where it’s still somewhat dreadfully cold) and I didn’t pack entirely appropriately.

We’ve heard it before, from our grandmothers, our teachers, our parents, and our most nostalgic friends—“time flies.” Well, somehow I blinked and now seven months went by and I’m 23 years old, getting paid to do what I thought I loved, and realizing just how right all of my grandparents, teachers, parents and friends were.

I do love to write. I am one of those lucky (hateable) people who has known what makes their heart pump pretty much from the get-go. For me, my passion for writing stretches all the way back to when I went to school for three hours a day, ate animal crackers and drank out of juice boxes. When I was younger I had this curiosity about words and people—I wanted to learn everything I could through written words (at that point I was really into The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series) and also about the people I spent my days with. This curiosity got me into a bit of trouble growing up, especially during the animal cracker and juice box phase of kindergarten. At 5, I had no interest in sleeping away precious time I could spend talking with my teacher, which made my less than stellar marks in the nap-time category of my report cards a constant pain point for my parents during teacher conferences.

Somewhere though, packed away in a childhood memory box, in between truly abominable attempts at artwork, softball trophies and a couple discarded baby teeth, sits the first “book” I ever wrote. I penned and illustrated the six-pages during one of the afternoons that 5-year-old Katibeth spent awake instead of napping. In my (still) remarkably poor handwriting, I wrote My Teacher is Not an Elf in true Bailey School Kids fashion, and instilling in myself the desire to be an author when I grew up.

I have an issue with boredom too and that’s also been true about me for much of my life. I’ve always needed to keep myself engaged and at 5, when my peers were learning how to sound out words in their easy-readers, I was bored. And this past year, somewhere between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, I got bored. I thought that writing—of any kind—was going to be enough to keep my dreams satisfied. But, just like how my dreams have shifted in the last eighteen years, I’ve realized in the last three months that just writing to write is not enough for me. I’m still unsure of what the magic answer or combination of activities is that would be enough for me.

But what I do know is that I still love to write. In the last three months, I’ve worked with some truly delightful and inspiring people on the marketing side of our company. Working on tasks outside of my normal technical writing duties opened my eyes to I’d been missing while “blinking” in the months since my last blog post. Without even realizing it, I became complacent and stagnant in my growth as a creative writer. I poured myself into learning to better my technical writing craft and didn’t even realize I neglected my inner creativity, which lingered beneath my surface, begging to be heard again. I didn’t notice how far I’d drifted—not until my company CH2M started infusing a more fun and human tone of voice into our messaging. We’ve started bringing more excitement and optimism to even our most technical proposals and engineering reports. It’s all part of our refreshed Brand and Culture Program, which is truly awesome—just look at our new website.

Getting to work with the brilliant team behind this transition reignited the same spark that I lit inside myself back in kindergarten. So, I’ve come back to Weast of Eden as a result of this and for a couple other reasons:

  1. I need to fulfill my desire to reach people through my written words and I think deep down I know that I can’t do that solely through my chosen career as it stands right now
  2. Someone I quite admire told me I should be bolder in chasing my dreams

So I’m back, with a refreshed commitment to get published, wherever that journey requires me to go and whatever I’ll need to do.

This week, I read an enthralling book called All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! I connected with much of what the author, Paul Angone wrote, but these lines really resonated with me:

Maybe our twenties are not about things going as we planned, but about how we adapt, change, and grow when they don’t. Our twenties are about failing, tweaking, and then trying again. They’re about building a plan based on who you are, who you’re not, and who you’re becoming.”

At 23, I realize I have plenty of my life ahead of me to write in the same way that my technical writing career requires me to—but there’s also plenty of life ahead to work out a plan to reach 5-year-old Kathryn’s dream of being a published author. On my birthday this year, I promised myself to make this year all about doing what I have to do, so that I’m able to do what I want. We’re a month and three days in and I wouldn’t be honest if I said I was satisfied with my progress towards that goal so far. So, I’m going to tweak that goal a little for the remaining eleven months: This year I need to adapt, and fail, and grow until I find the right balance for myself so I’m able to write for a living but also write for a meaning—and fulfill my purpose and my dreams.

For my friends and colleagues figuring out your places in the world and shifting your dreams to fit into your jobs or even to just feel comfortable in your new adult lives, try this: think back to how you were at 5, when society hadn’t told you that your dream for the future might be too big, too unreachable, too strange. Maybe if we all chased our dreams with the kind of passion that we had at 5, our lives would become more about living for meaning and less for a paycheck or things to post on our social media pages. At least, I think it’s worth a shot and I owe it to that little 5-year-old troublemaker to try a little harder to reach my dreams.

IMG_7763After all, I think it’s about time I get an updated author bio, dontcha think?

Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator,

Kathryn E. Weast

3 comments

  1. Hi Kathryn. I’m so glad to know I have a fellow employee-blogger! I’m at a different stage in my career than you are (this year I celebrate 25 years with CH2M, longer than you’ve been alive!), but it sounds like we have similar types of enthusiastic personalities.

    I was just remarking to my husband the other day that when I was younger I didn’t know I loved to write–or was that good at it. It wasn’t until I took an Advanced Comp class in college from a terrifying prof that I realized, through his prodding, that i had talent. He encouraged me to change my major to English (from education).

    I’ve been blogging for years, but haven’t been as active as much. I really miss it though! Reading your post makes me think I need to develop a more consistent practice. It’s such a great creative outlet.

    Here’s my blog: http://marie-everydaymiracle.blogspot.com/

    1. How great that now we can keep each other motivated to write and post more consistently! I didn’t realize how much I missed blogging until I started writing this post on Tuesday and couldn’t stop. I look forward to reading your blog and I’d love to chat more with you about what sorts of writing you enjoy. 🙂

  2. […] call came for me when I realized I have only a few more than 100 days until I turn 24. I made some big promises to myself for my 23rd cycle around the sun. I knew I needed to make some adjustments if I wanted to accomplish […]

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