Advice from my seven-year-old self
When I was seven, someone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. “Write books?” I said. Then I discovered theatre and for the longest time I wanted to be an actress. My big moment came during high school when I got the lead in the school play. But something unexpected happened. I thought hearing the opening night applause would complete me. Instead, I felt empty. I actually cried. I knew my dream of being an actress was over.
During college, I studied political science and eventually got my PhD in US history so that I could become a professor. But then another unexpected thing happened. I had a baby. As soon as I had that baby I knew that I wanted to spend a lot of time with her, so I put most of my professional ambitions on hold. Then I had another baby, and I wanted to spend a lot of time with her too, so I put most of my professional ambitions on hold some more.
I did manage to do some writing. I published Selling Suffrage, my history of the US Suffrage movement, and I published articles in places like FamilyFun, LA Times, and Salon. Then the most unexpected thing of all happened. My older daughter started having seizures. I was so scared for her and for my family, but writing helped me feel better. It gave me focus and joy when I needed it most.
I eventually got back to teaching college students—which I love—but I still write whenever I can, both for young people and adults.
I’ve learned that you need to trust seven-year-old you. Seven-year-old you knows exactly what gives your life meaning and joy. Seven-year-old you is pretty brilliant that way.