Keep Your Dreams In Check
Dreams can be incredibly powerful things. They can give direction. They can be equally inspiring and motivating, keeping us holding on or moving forward during truly trying times. And then there’s the satisfaction that may accompany the fulfillment of our dreams. That euphoria, that rush. When you think about these aspects, it’s easy to see why we let our imaginations run wild.
But dreams can also be incredibly limiting. While we’re busy focusing on our desires, our dreams can keep us from seeing the opportunities lying right in front of us. They can distract us from all that is happening here and now. And if we don’t meet our dreams, there’s the possibility that we end up feeling like complete failures, regardless of whatever else we may have accomplished.
I knew a girl back in college who wanted to be a medical doctor really badly. I hate to be unsupportive of someone else’s dream, but I didn’t see how she was going to make it. She had a lot stacked against her and would be challenged just to get an undergraduate degree.
But she was fixated on her dream. It was all she could see.
One day I asked if her life would be a failure if she didn’t reach her goal of becoming a doctor. Firmly and without any hint of hesitation, she answered yes. I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I felt something in the same vein as pity. I ultimately don’t know how her life has turned out, but I hope she was able to find contentment in the absence of a life she had deeply desire. In all fairness, for all I know, maybe she did become a doctor.
But that possibility leads to another thing about dreams, because reaching your dream isn’t a guarantee of happiness either. I realized this after I got what I believed to be my dream job a few years ago. Aiming for this job had dictated so many of my career decisions, including a relocation or two. There were times when I’d considered making a career change, but I kept the dream in mind, imagining my eventual happiness and seeing myself standing on top of the mountain and crying a big loud victory cry. In reality, it didn’t take long to realize I didn’t really understand what I was aiming for.
In the end, I have no regrets because acquiring the dream job was part of the process that got me where I am today. Sometimes things work out even when they don’t really work out, I guess.
There’s one thing we’re often not conscious of when we’re dreaming — dreams are what happen when we’re not doing. In a dream, everything works out perfectly, because, well, it’s all a dream. In this fantasy world, there are no obstacles, and even if there are, you’re not worried about them because they’re solved so easily and quickly in your head. And even if the solution is timely, who cares, because you can just fast forward your mind to the resolution.
But when you’re doing, things aren’t that smooth. Things aren’t perfect, but you learn how to make do because perfection is unattainable and at some point you just have to keep moving. You have to ship. You just hope that your situation is good enough and you make the best of it, kind of like how you react when you finally realize that Prince Charming (or Princess Charming) isn’t coming along.
And then there are the dreams you know you need to abandon before you even have the chance to fulfill them.
Back in my elementary school days, writing was a big part of my life. I wrote all the time. Short stories. Essays. Embarrassingly bad poetry. This was back when I surely identified as a writer. And I identified as such all the way through high school. I kept the dream alive until the end of the first quarter of my freshman year of college, when I dropped journalism as a major.
For quite a while later, I still held onto my biggest dream— the dream that I would write the next great American novel.
But I’ve finally realized that it’s never going to happen. It’s not so much that I can’t do it (though I’m definitely lacking the practice and the discipline to do so), but it’s more that I don’t truly want to do it. I now realize that for me, writing isn’t about creating something new as much as it is about expression. It’s all about me putting myself out there in the best manner I know how.
Now that I think about it, maybe that’s just another reason that I dropped out of journalism.
And so I think I’ll put away my fountain pen and keep the laptop keyboard nearby as I kill the dream of being a best-selling novelist and accept my fate of being another humbleblogger on his own Ghost blog. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll get that sweet memoir book deal. A guy can dream, can’t he?