When I was in high school, one of my teachers asked us to write about who we would like to be. I wanted to be a combination of Einstein and Santa Claus — Santa Claus because he could give everyone what they wanted and Einstein because he was the smartest person I had heard of and he could figure out how to give everyone what they wanted. I have been granted this wish in a way. I have had so many mental, spiritual, physical and emotional experiences that I seldom meet someone I cannot understand or to whom I cannot be helpful. This I now call my work.

The second time I made a wish was when I had been tired and wanted a rest. I wished I had a lot of money. I thought it would be easier to serve others and take care of myself if I were rich. However, I didn’t qualify the wish — just like in the old story about the genie. The money I received was part of an insurance settlement from being hit by a car and losing my leg. I got about $66,000, tax-free. But it changed nothing. I was amazed. I could eat better, travel to my heart’s content, set up businesses to help my friends, and watch them blow it just as they had before without my money or my intervention. The whole experience cost me nearly all the friendships I had at the time, and netted me much food for thought. I don’t know if rich is better but I know I won’t spend my last wish on money.

And what will be my last wish? If I get one more, you can bet that I’ll make it a good one. I’ve studied the wisdoms of this world and have learned a bit from them. But I’m not ready yet. One day I will see it clearly and then I’ll wish my last wish.

It’ll be a secret, of course. One doesn’t go about messing up the wish circuitry by telling them, you know.

Jim Welborn
Austin, Texas

As a child my wishes were much like those of my own children now. An endless supply of money. Enough candy to last forever. Toys of every size and shape. My favorite wish was for as many wishes as I wanted. That seemed the most logical solution to happiness.

My wishes now seem to merge with reality. A dream of closeness with a mate. An improved relationship with my children before their last days of childhood disappear. A desire for financial independence still exists but not a dream of millions — only enough to pay the rent on time, buy the requisite clothing, and rid myself of the worry that the electric company has a personal grudge against me.

An inner voice tells me to go beyond myself — to wish for world peace, an end to famine, and brotherly love. But one of the greatest things about wishes is that they can change and grow from day to day — they can be down to earth or floating in the far reaches of the universe.

Gaile Brenner
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The first thoughts I remember about growing up revolved around three wishes. My first wish was to be an artist, mainly because my aunt Alice was an artist. She had so much enthusiasm. She was kooky, and got away with it. My second wish was to own a bookstore. As a child I loved books, the smell and feel of them. My third wish was to own a restaurant. I enjoyed experimenting with food preparation and, later on, to be Alice of Alice’s Restaurant was THE wish.

Being an artist seemed the least likely wish to come true, but the one I wanted the most. I was told by my mother that a career in the arts was impractical, and furthermore I’d have to be very good, as the competition was so keen. The implication was that I was not or could not be “good enough” to make it. In college I majored in biology and on to Bowman Gray School of Medical Technology.

During my twenties (the Sixties) while raising two daughters and trying to figure out marriage, my greatest wish began to cry for attention. The first symptoms were unhappiness and a feeling that life was passing me by. I realize now, after 15 years making a living as an artist, that my earliest wish was not so much because I liked to draw and paint, but because I saw in my aunt the wholeness of her life. In my rush to “make it” and be successful, I discovered I had lost track of what attracted me to this life choice. For the past several months, I have been getting back in touch with the real wish — not so much being an artist, but finding out what it means to be a happy and whole person.

Nancy Tuttle May
Durham, North Carolina

I wish my car had a radio.

I wish I had a car.

I wish I was driving through Wyoming in the snow.

New York, New York

Unlike many of my friends, who are constantly engaged in life crises and questioning where they are going, I’ve known since I was in high school exactly what I wanted. I’ve known my wishes. I haven’t achieved them yet but I’m moving in that direction. The first thing I’ve wanted was a woman who loved me as much as I loved her and had a passionate devotion to her art or calling as strong as my own calling for my art. The second thing I’ve wished for is to pursue my own art — the writing of poems, plays, stories, essays, novels — and not to have to do other jobs, like teaching or typing or selling books, in order to survive. In short, I’ve desired to live off my art. The last thing I’ve wanted is to contribute, in some way, to making this a more perfect world — to do something to end hunger, economic exploitation, and the lack of freedom.

I’m 39 now, and I know we don’t live in a free world — there are limits to what “they” will allow you to do, in spite of what the facile “affirmation gurus” tell you. And yet paradoxically, the main reason I have not achieved my own full realization and selfhood has been my own lack of courage. I’m conservative. I hate walking off cliffs. Yet I need to walk naked. I need to be a man and walk through the fire of initiation — that’s my only chance to get my three wishes, or I should say, my last two wishes. I got my lady by walking through fire, running off with her seven years ago while married to another. To get her I had to throw off houses and cars and a fancy, cushy job — but it was real easy. Walking through fire naked is great drama, great blood sizzling adventure. That’s how you get those wishes, you grab ’em, take the risk like the kid grabbing, leaning off his horse as it spins and goes up and down on the merry-go-round. Grab that wishing ring! Grab it.

Chuck Taylor
Austin, Texas