What did you want to do when you were a kid? Think about it for a moment, what was the thing you wanted to do that you just couldn't make happen? Did you want to dunk a basketball, swim across a lake or have chocolate cake for breakfast? Once you have that, ask yourself another one. When you became an adult, did you do those things? Or did you lock them up as silly dreams of a child and move on somberly into adulthood?
Malia Schofield has a wonderful smile, the kind that makes you realize this person has found at least a shard of happiness. It's contagious, you can't help but smile back, and still she wonders about all of those dreams we had as kids, all of those things we put away when we became adults and moved on to a more banal world.
She first contacted me at the end of what seems like another life, for business. It probably would have been easy to leave her message behind with the scraps of paper and file folders that made me miserable in that world. It would have been incredibly tragic as well. I have heard people described as "shining stars" and "rays of sunshine." Malia really is, there is just an energy about her you can't quite explain, like she knows the answer to a riddle she doesn't even know exists yet. As though someone whispered a secret to her long ago and you just have to wait to find out what it is at the same time she does.
Malia left a job in corporate America because she was miserable at it. She had come to realize that she was doing no good for anyone, for the company and least of all for herself. She knows what she likes and she knows what she doesn't. How many of us can say we are honest about that? Her new line of work is very fulfilling. I'm not kidding, she loves it. So much so that she often finds herself diving deep into it because she enjoys it so much. We talk about West Ashley, where we both live, about how it should stay a burough with its own identity and mourn the absence of a good chili dog in Charleston. We talk about her fiance', about Charleston weddings and about reading more than one book at a time because we both get a bit bored with too mush personal development. Sometimes you just need a good novel.
We talk about dreams.
She is fascinated by the story of how I decided to do this, by the idea that I decided to live this dream, by the idea that I even know what mine is. I ask her what her dream is. She doesn't really know. That's the way dreams are though, elusive. We sleep and wake, all the time dreaming, yet so rarely remembering where we have been in our dreams, what mountains we have climbed, oceans we have swum, what fantastic places we have seen. When we are kids we keep those barriers lower, our dreams and reality. We know rules like the flight capability of a blanket cape and the protective qualities of the covers. As we get older we just forget more. Still, we all dream, we just need to remember them.
Malia and I reminisce about the enlightenment that can be found in the movies Hook and The Land Before Time. About how long it takes you to truly find yourself and the bitter irony that you never really stop learning, so you never really catch that elusive construct. We talk about kayaking and my former workplace. She asks why I settled in Charleston after the military. It's because of the magic here, the magic of a place of transients and travelers, the mystical quality of a port with a long history. She smiles, that same riddle answer-bearing smile, and agrees.
"Who has been your favorite person you've met so far?"
That's a hard question to answer, and I dodged it a bit this afternoon. I'm spoiled. I have gotten to meet some great people from all different walks, to learn and hold their stories in custody, to see, as my friend Derek would say, the fine china of their lives. So this is a really tough question, but I should answer it since she let me get away from it.
My favorite person is the person I meet each day. The luminescent collection of loves, fears, hopes, dreams and stories I get to share some time with. Every smile, every teary eye, every parted curtain showing me the works behind the stage we show everyone throughout the day. A person who I meet with a handshake and part with a hug making plans for the next time.
Today that was you, Malia.
Favorite Dinosaur: Brontosaurus
Why: No matter how many times she watches The Land Before Time she cries. Littlefoot just speaks to her soul. They're not here to hurt anyone. We should all take a page out of their book.
(Malia asked me what my favorite was, you will all find out in 75 days.)