Collecting all the pieces

When I was 15 I lived in Florida. And I was miserably obsessed with Alaska.

I’d lived in Alaska from age 11-14 and in that short period of time I’d seen places so beautiful they made my eyes not want to blink. I had adventures that made my heart feel like a happy wild horse. And I’d met people who to this day I consider soul mates.

By the time I was 15 I’d lived in 7 different states and 2 countries and as far as I knew Alaska was the only place that was good and right for me. 

However, my parents had recently separated, sold our house in Alaska, and both relocated to different states.

Living in Florida was a challenge for me. I remember being very bored, very hot, and very lonely. I could not stop thinking about Alaska and getting back there. 

It occurred to me that sooner or later I’d be old enough to move there on my own. I’d need money to get there. I had no money. I needed a job. I had no job. As a 15 year old with no work experience, no car, and no daytime availability, employment opportunities were sparse.

One day I was walking home from school and something shiny caught my eye. 19 cents sparkled in scattered trail on the ground. When I got home I dropped the change into a glass jar and put it on the top shelf of my closet.

“The Alaska fund,” I declared. 

It became a game after that. Anywhere I walked, I’d look for loose change. I remember numerous times getting so excited over a simple single penny—I considered it an omen from the Universe that I should and would realize my dream of moving back to Alaska.

Other times I’d lay on my floor, writing bad poetry about the sadistic nature of time—90s rock blaring on the radio…I’d stare up at the jar in my closet and feel hopeless.

I’d think to myself, it looked so pointless, so minuscule, so not enough. I’d lay there waiting, hoping, wishing, that I could believe again in my suspicion that everything was adding up. 

Slowly, painfully, one coin at a time. One dollar bill at a time. One birthday check at a time. It did add up.

I learned to check under drive threw windows and under vending machines. One sticky quarter at a time…

I started a “ghost-writing” business in my English class—5 bucks a homework assignment. One fraudulent essay at a time…

It added up. The jar eventually got too full. I swapped it for an old coffee can.

I landed a weekend job at an exotic pet store. The owner paid me under the table. One crumpled 20 at a time…

By my junior year. I’d saved about $300. I bought a Greendot debit card at Walgreens and loaded it with my savings.

Mom flew me to Iowa to visit her for summer break. 

I’ll finish high school in Fairbanks, I told her. I’ll get a job at a bookstore (I already had the phone interview scheduled.) I’ll live with Tasha and her family for senior year. I’ll play my guitar outside of coffee shops and keep my ritual of collecting loose change. 

Mom gave me her blessing. I used my Greendot debit card to book a one-way, red-eye flight for $279 from Sioux City to Fairbanks.


Today has been slow. I’ve been feeling impatient on multiple levels. With myself, my business, my personal projects…But compared to where I was a year ago it’s incredible.

And now some chill 90s-rock playlist has made its way onto my Spotify radio—makes me think of sad poems and doubt and wading through time.

I summon my 16 year old self—It matters, I say to her…It does add up. It might not look like enough but it actually is, the littlest drops in the hat do count. Look at how far you’ve come.

And to my present self and to you I say the same. 

All you’ve done so far matters.

The rate at which you’re growing a client list, knowledge base, or skill set, is making a difference—bit by bit, it’s bringing you closer to your dreams.

If you’re just starting out it matters. If it seems not enough people are noticing your work it still counts. The smallest upgrades are worthy additions.

Treasure each simple shiny token of your effort. Delight in slow deliberate growth. Take your next step with faith and gratitude.

It’s all adding up.

Leave a Reply