I can tell you something about this picture of me when I was four years old. Despite my smile, I hated that dress. I thought it looked like a doilie, crocheted lace that people once used to decorate tables or chair arms. The early shots show me pouting.

This picture was taken after the photographer had jollied me up with puppets and squeak toys. To my mother’s everlasting relief, he helped me move past my resentment of wearing an itchy dress. I finally smiled.

Here’s something else that was true about me in this picture. I’d already decided what I wanted in life—a nice husband, a sweet daughter, and a published book. Although I had no idea how to make those things happen when I was four, I knew they were my destiny. Decades passed. There were boyfriends here and there. I taught hundreds of people how to write. I wrote for newspapers and the radio. While I never lost sight of my early plan, things weren’t quite right. Everything itched.

Then my life began changing as I learned to get out of my own way. Door after door opened until all three pieces were mine. I found the husband in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I found the daughter in Maoming, China. I found the editor in New York City. When I look at this picture now, I never see the dress. I see my bright eyes, eyes that already knew plenty. My determination was far more important than starched cotton. I just had to let it happen in its own way.