Go on. Say it. Okay, I’ll go first. “I am a dreamer.” There, I’ve said it! I have now officially entered the ranks of dreamers and wanna-bes. I am one of those people who set unattainable goals and have a weak grip on reality.
My dream is to one day earn a living writing. Everyone knows that writing for a living is damned near impossible, so what is the point of dreaming about it? Wouldn’t it be so much more sensible to buckle down to a well-paying, safe job and forgeddabout those silly, inconsequential dreams? Why work so hard for something that’s never going to happen anyway?
That’s what I’ve thought all my life. I’ve thought that writing is only for the few lucky ones who are incredibly brilliant at it. I’ve always just said to myself: “you’re not good enough” and went back to scraping together a living at whichever hateful job I’ve had on at the time. I’ve hated my life, and I’ve hated myself for not being good enough to be the person that I would love to be. I’ve drowned my sorrows and tried to live up to other people’s expectations.
But now I’ve realized that this tactic isn’t going to keep me safe. It was about to destroy me by obliterating my ability to dream, to genuinely be who I am, and to believe in myself. Forgetting about my dreams, I nearly forgot who I am.
I may never write professionally. I’m very well aware that it is an extremely hard path to take that requires not only great amounts of talent and hard work, but also luck. But I know this: The mere act of trying is going to make me into a happier, better person. I get to write and be myself. I won’t have to wonder on my deathbed what might have been. Instead, I’ll have the sentence: “At least she tried,” inscribed on my tombstone. It makes all the difference.
I’m a psychologist, but I’ve never felt at home in those shoes. I tried to explain this dreaming thing once to a friend by asking her to imagine two scenarios:
- Where I work as a psychologist, and that’s all I do (which is what I’ve been doing up till recently).
- Where I’m a writer who currently works as a psychologist.
See the difference? The end result job-wise might be the same, but the slight shift in balance makes all the difference for me. Option number two means that my main focus in life is on doing what I love to do. I may not earn any money with it, but I have the chance of succeeding one day since I work at it and I believe in myself. With option number one, where I don’t even try, I have no chance.
So that’s why I am now proud of being a dreamer. I’m not worried anymore about people rolling their eyes and suppressing snickers when I tell them what I want to do in life. Let them say: “who does she think she is” and laugh. Now I know that the people who’ll call you silly for pursuing something that you really, really want are the same people who’ll sell out their own dreams and settle for unhappiness since they’re too afraid to even try.
Reach for the stars. A realist might say that the star closest to us, Alpha Centauri, is such a long way from here that even using our best technology it would take 73, 000 years to actually reach it. But I say ignore that. Reach anyway. Even if you never get there, you’ll have fun trying and you might even come up with something awesome in the process.
Those who don’t dream said it was impossible to fly to the moon. They said it was impossible to run a mile in less than four minutes. They said a black man could never be a president.
I don’t think anyone could ever achieve anything worthwhile in this world without thinking big and aiming high. So forget about realism. The realistic side of things will take care of itself. Spend more time dreaming. There is no shame to it. The only shame is in not giving your dreams enough credit to work as hard as you can to make them into a reality.
No one else cares about your dreams. Don’t fail yourself and give them up because you’re worried about being safe.
There’s plenty of time to do that when you’re dead.