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  • Avery Garn

Dreaming Small

A True Story:

On a Monday in April 2020, I sat in the parking lot of an MRI Center, waiting to be permitted to enter the building. I had just given my credit card number to the receptionist, and I was irritated that I was wasting $100 on an MRI I didn’t need; I didn’t even have a headache that day.

The next afternoon, I’d taught three out of my four virtual classes for the day when my ENT called with the MRI results.

“Hi Avery. Is now a good time?”

I checked my watch. It was 12:53. I taught a class at 1:00.

“Well, I teach a class in seven minutes.”

“Ok, well I can call you back after 5:00, but static static static tumor static static.”

“I’m sorry--you’re cutting out.” I was certain what I missed was something to the effect of It’s not a tumor, as this was the phrase I had been repeating to myself, Arnold Schwarzenegger-style, for the better part of two years.

He tried again: “The MRI showed a large tumor near your brain stem. It doesn’t appear cancerous, but we’ll need you to come in right away.”

I snorted, “A brain tumor? Really?”

“Yes. I know you need to teach, so I’ll call you back this evening and we can discuss further. I’m really sorry,” and he hung up.

And that is the story of how Clint and I decided to make a "small dream" of mine--a used book cart--a reality.

We had discovered the discarded book cart by our dumpster months earlier. Clint rolled the rusty shelf down the sidewalk and back to our apartment. For half of 2019 and into 2020, the rolling shelf sat outside in all elements as we put off our project for “one day”.

One day arrived during the excruciating four hours it took for my ENT to call back. We found solace in sanding, priming, painting. Planning for the future gave us hope when the future suddenly had a lot of question marks.


Just a couple of months prior in February of 2020, I had heard a presentation on the value of dreaming small. The idea is this: before we can dream big, we must dream small. It takes a first customer to build a business empire, a first page to write a book. Liz Bohannon, founder of Sseko Designs and author of Beginner’s Pluck, wanted to start a sustainable shoe company in Uganda: her Big Dream. She decided she needed to Dream Small first. Her small dream was to make one Ugandan friend. And she did. Liz made a Ugandan friend who gave her the courage to move to Uganda and start her shoe company.

So in the spirit of dreaming small (or maybe dreaming medium?), I am pursuing my small-sized artist market dreams. In October I sold books at our first neighborhood artist market.

And now with my talented and actual-artist-friend Allie (who graciously shares her artist-street cred with me since it is, after all, an "artist" market ), and with the contributions of books from so many of you, Allie and I are working a booth at the monthly Sharpsburg Artist Market.

So every third Saturday this year I will be pursuing my Small/Medium Dream of selling used books.

Here's to making small dreams come true before quarter-life-crises present themselves and to believing that those small dreams are the first steps to bigger ones.



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