Hold on Tight to Your Dreams

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all your life spend your days on the end of strings that somebody else pulls.” -Howard Thurman

 The first memory I have of myself painting was when I was in kindergarten. I was working on a profile of a woman with blond hair, wearing a red dress. My teacher was so astonished at the level of my skill she brought the rest of the faculty in to watch me. When I ran home and showed my creation to my mother, she barely gave it a glance before she discarded it. Today, I believe she had a personality disorder and didn’t have the capacity to be supportive. I really struggled searching for the courage to live my dream of being an artist. Part of me believed I was gifted, and the other half thought I was delusional.

Preparing for college, I informed my high school counselor that my sights were set on a career as an artist. She assured me that wasn’t realistic. No, my future had teacher or nurse, stamped across it. I was heartsick. Even though I didn’t argue her prediction, my mind still whispered, “Someone is going to do it. Why not you?” That thought is was what lead me, at 17, to begin reading books by Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking. His message fueled my longings and gave me the determination not to abandon them. Holding on to my gift is one of the triumphs of my life. I could have so easily accepted what the adults in my world told me. As time unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear – authority figures don’t know everything.

When I became a parent, my joy couldn’t be contained. The love I felt for my children made my mother’s lack of interest in me even more obvious. One thing was certain, I would make sure my kids knew they mattered.

The girl in the illustration is my daughter, Bridget, when she was 21. She sits on a moon composed of her dad’s chagrin. Yes, that is his face embedded in it, and those are her words waltzing across the sky. Bridget was born with a sense of entitlement. At 3 years old, when I told her I was the boss, she exclaimed, “I’m the boss too!” At that moment, I made a pact with myself to protect that fire in her. I wanted her to believe she could do anything. I wanted her to know that her hopes and aspirations where important, and nothing could stand in her way of achieving them. When she was in junior high, I took her and her cousin to the Oprah Winfrey Show. We were in the audience for an episode on girl’s self-esteem. I hoped they’d make the connection that Oprah and her staff weren’t so different from them. Knowing that regular people do amazing things makes what we long to achieve more attainable. This first occurred to me when my children’s friends looked at my illustrations and couldn’t believe I had painted them. I saw the significance of understanding that the extraordinary always comes from the ordinary. Knowing that is what gives credence to the words, “Someone is going to do it. Why not me?” And why not you? What gifts were you born to share with the world?

I do what I want- photo I snapped the above photo of Bridget to base my illustration on. Under my direction she sits on a “picnic table moon,” holding a martini glass.

Today Bridget is is still doing what she wants as a local television news anchor and reporter. Once she got the bug to be on TV, she never even considered it wasn’t possible. She is a born communicator and loved being on air from day one. Diane Sawyer and Bridget ShanahanBridget’s role model is Diane Sawyer. So in 2010, when the Oprah Winfrey Show requested recommendations for a “Harpo Hook-Up” show, I sent an email (okay, 33 emails) to her website telling her staff about Diane’s influence on my daughter and how inspiring it would be for Bridget to meet her. Sure enough, the Oprah Show hooked her up. Bridget got to sit in on ABC’s World News as Diane’s guest. It was one more opportunity for her to see that big things are accomplished by ordinary people. Most of all, what I yearned for Bridget to take away from that experience was that dreams do come true. And they do.

Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.


18 thoughts on “Hold on Tight to Your Dreams

  1. Wow! You must be full of Helium to rise so high above the forces that tried to hold you down and didn’t. Your daughter gives me hope for my daughter. As always, thanks for sharing and giving me food for thought.



  2. LOVE this story of encouragement, Sue … and love that you gave your daughter the gift of encouragement. You’ve allowed Bridget permission to believe that huge dreams are attainable.

    As you know, my thesis of DIVINE ALIGNMENT is that when we step out in faith … BELIEVING that all things are possible … God begins working in our lives, causing GODWINKS to “just happen” … we bump into the right person, at the right time, to move us where He want us to go on His vast GPS. God’s Positioning System.

    As a former TV guy, who brought you Good Morning America, I’d love to know where Bridget can be seen? Where does she anchor news?

    Good Wishes for godwinks.
    SQuire Rushnell


  3. I absolutely love what you wrote. GPS – God’s Positioning Position. That’s really good. I am going to download your Divine Alignment book on my Kindle right now! I will email you a little more about Bridget. 😉


  4. Thank you for sharing. I can relate. There are moments in our lives that help define us and I’m thankful everyday for the day I really started to learn about Gods amazing grace. Looking back I know it was there even before I was born. It was learning about grace that help set me free of the past hurts and wrongs.


  5. I see you Susan, and you’re every bit as beautiful as the lovely illustrations you produce! I too had a mother who looked right through me, and I remember all too well the feeling of abandonment her lack of interest bestowed on my heart. Pouring those hurt feelings into my art and sharing my gifts with the other people in my world, truly saved me from the loneliness a rejected child must deal with.

    As you did with Bridget, I make sure that the children in my life know just how much I love and cherish them. When they walk in the room, they can count on my face lighting up every single time, just for them! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, and reminding us that we are all creative, beautiful beings, loved by God.


  6. This was such a good post. Very inspirational. It encouraging to hear about perseverance and doing what you love. On a personal note, I found out that the college I work at was cutting hours and I was going to lose a lot of those hours. I thought of giving up on art all together and taking a full time job that was offered to me but not in my field. At the same time American Greetings offered me a job in the print department. It is a position for as needed bases. My wife, she is so great And supportive, told me I should take it instead of the full time gig. She said getting in that company is what I have wanted for so long. I worry about the hours bit know that with more hard work I will one day get to my dream. I inch ever so closer. That is why I enjoyed your post and thank you for your message.


  7. I was born an artist, like you. And I didn’t have the support to pursue my dream at an early age. I still remember my high school teacher saying, “Missy, you are better off getting a business degree first, so you aren’t a starving artist.” And I did. I got a finance degree which I hate finance! It took me to have my first child to finally pursue who I am. I started to paint at a studio. And when my twins were born, I got a vision of childrens characters which I’ve written, illustrated and published! I’m happy.

    Your story is an inspiration to all children. And I pray each has the strength like you to pursue their dreams sooner than later. Self-awareness and confidence is key. And that is two ingredients I strive on incorporating in all my books.




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