This essay was for a contest (with a strict word limit) that the Hardwick Gazette in Vermont ran in 2016. The winner would get the newspaper and the old building it lived in. Things in my life were changing but not fast enough, and I never sent it in. The contest was canceled due to lack of submissions, and the paper was sold to one of the essayists.
When I was 7, I asked my father if I could grow a pumpkin patch by throwing the seeds from our jack-o’-lantern over the hedge and down the canyon from our Northern California home. He laughed and told me they wouldn’t grow.
I threw the seeds anyway.
The next spring we discovered an enormous crop of pumpkins. My sister and I made a fortune selling them at a neighborhood stand that Halloween.
When I was 9, while on vacation, I collected a seashell. But inside lived a hermit crab. My father said I would have to soak him in bleach and take his shell if I wanted it. I told him that was wrong so I would ask the hermit crab to move, because it might be time for him to grow. He laughed and said you can’t ask a hermit crab to move.
I filled a cereal bowl with seawater, a layer of sand, and put in the crab and a larger, less desirable shell from my collection.
The next morning I ran to the bowl. The crab had moved and I had my new shell. I swam him back out to sea in his new home.
When I was 11, I told my father I wanted to be a police officer. He laughed and said “You’re a girl, and they don’t make enough money.”
I entered the academy when I was 19.
When I was 43, working as a freelance editor, I heard that the national governing body of a sport I love was seeking a headquarters. I knew my adopted town of Sarasota, Fla., would be perfect. My coach and teammates laughed at me and said, “They would never move to Sarasota.”
I stared a grassroots committee, wrote a proposal, and out of 12 cities across the country, they chose Sarasota. I was later hired as their editor-in-chief and then publications director.
I’m 52 now, and ready to return to my mountain roots. I found this contest on Poynter’s website. I haven’t told anyone. But if I did, I’d hear, “It’s cold in Vermont, and you don’t know anything about New England.”
But I know myself. I’ve spent a lifetime flouting expectations and achieving the impossible. Like the hermit crab, I have a hard shell, a soft heart, and it’s time for me to grow.