When I was 11, I had a paper route, delivering The Times Herald in the Pennsylvania community of Whitpain Hills where I lived. It was my first job. I was excited about folding the stack of newspapers and placing the bundles in a white cloth bag that I slung around my shoulders as I made my rounds through the subdivision of about 200 townhouses. I wasn’t the best paper girl. Sometimes I would toss the paper in the bushes or forget which customers paid what. Then I ended up double charging them or would be too afraid to collect money at all.
Thus began my tenuous career in the world of print.
But I did have a sense of pride in the stack of dollar bills accumulating in the blue bank on my dresser. One time, I counted $35 whole dollars and thought I was rich. My parents were divorced, and when my father came to pick my brother Lamont and me up one weekend, I urged him to take some of my loot. After all, I had plenty to spare.
Yes, I was delusional about money from a young age. I know.
But one thing I was absolutely sure of, even as a tween, was my independence. My friends were sporting calluses on their thumbs from playing Atari and ColecoVision (I’m dating myself; yes, I know), and my fingertips were blackened with ink from the mound of papers I folded and tossed — but I was earning money, not collecting an allowance.
This same spirit of independence has carried me throughout my life, the pride that comes from doing something different or on one’s own. I never won any awards for being a paper girl, but I did feel a sense of importance as I scanned the day’s stories, knowing I was a conveyance for other people’s dreams and hopes.
They say life comes full circle.
On Christmas day, the newspaper I delivered as a shy 11-year-old presented a gift of its own. My mother, Lola, and I were profiled in The Times Herald, a two-page spread that chronicled our cross-country adventures, as well as my journey from full-time employee to full-time author. I wonder if those neighbors whose paper landed in the bushes have read it.
For the holidays, my friend Princess J gave me a beautiful picture frame inscribed with the words: Every great dream begins with a dreamer. It’s never too late to dream. It’s never too late to pursue your passion, because you never know what miracles are around the corner if you just step out on faith. Take it from a former paper girl who once scanned headlines and is now making them.