“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Is what they always asked us.
I wonder, how many of us are actually living, today, in that role we once aspired to live in.
For as long as I can remember I have been told to “follow my dreams” and “do what makes me happy”. My parents have instilled this in me. Life has always been about working hard, doing what makes you happy and being an overall good person. I was also raised with a kernel of competition. “There is always somebody out there who is working harder than you” is what my dad would tell my brother and I. He has created strong leaders in us, I think, teaching us the importance of charisma and people skills. My mom has instilled a sense of pride and overall smarts into my brother and I, always teaching us to look at obstacles from all directions in order to solve our problems, and to use communication as a very strong tool for success. I am so thankful to have come from two people who not only have worked so hard to build an amazingly sturdy life foundation for us, while simultaneously always telling us how proud they are, no matter what we are doing. As long as what we are doing makes us happy.
I often wonder, as I sit here, at 24, waiting tables and attempting to create this life where I plan to see the world, if my mom and dad kick themselves for telling me I could do essentially whatever I wanted. Maybe they meant, I could have any career I wanted; a lawyer, a doctor, a journalist etc. Maybe they did not understand that my dream has always been to be far from ordinary, far from a simple and predictable life with a career. The dream has always been to go, just go. Everywhere.
I do not remember exactly when I realized I had a huge sense of wanderlust in me, but I do remember that day in class when we “had a million dollars” and instead of wanting to spend my money on TV’s and big houses, I wanted to use my money to go places, see things. At summer camp, I had no interest in the different cliques that were forming, rather I decided to be the only camper who could successfully swim two miles back and forth across the lake. I thought the experience of doing something out of the ordinary was more fulfilling to me than being just like everybody else. My last AP english paper in high school was written on the book Catch 22. I wrote a five page paper on how me not reading the book and then writing the paper would be a Catch 22. I got an A. Before I moved to Colorado I was going through old notebooks, because I have about a million of them. I found journal entries and pages upon pages of me writing, even at a young age, in middle school and early high school, about how all I wanted to do was see the world. How I did not want to finish school, but I knew I had to. I can remember countless car rides with my mom telling her I just wanted to drop out of school and buy a plane ticket to Australia. I have always wanted to take a different route, yet I have always done my best to make me parents proud, and most importantly get an education. In middle school, I started off getting all A’s, and then some B’s and then in college, I realized the importance of not focusing solely on classwork, and that extracurriculars and leadership were far more worthwhile for later life, and I let a couple C’s slip by. Constantly learning and appreciating all different aspects of life became so important and absolutely necessary to me.
It is funny how life changes, and how our mindsets can change as we age. In elementary school we wanted to be firefighters, ballerinas, athletes or doctors. When we were young, we did not know the hard work that we must put in to attain our dreams. We were unaware of how many years of school we must finish, how many fancy degrees we needed to becomes doctors or dentists or lawyers. We also thought we could sustain our whole life by playing our favorite sport, writing books or racing cars. Of course, the world is filled with people like this. But, that percentage is not huge. We did not understand the unrealistic goals that were in our heads, when we were so young. We were wide eyed dreamers, and unfortunately that would go away for many many people.
The dreams to become basketball players, ballerinas or world travelers begin to seem impossible as we get older. The majority of people will give up on their big dreams as they age. People will settle for “normal jobs” and have families or just become lazy and eventually forget about those wide eyed dreams they once had.
What is it that causes us to give up on our dreams?
Is it because we don’t know how to go about attainting these dreams or is it because we run out of time? Is it because people tell us we cannot be an athlete or a writer for the rest of our life? Is it because we find a job we like better, or a better paying job? Do we get lost in the game of buffing our resumes and going about life the “normal way?”. Does the ideal life image get stuck in our head and we begin to believe there is only one life option for us? Do we finish school, get a certain job, start a family and continue on this route forever? Do we just get stuck? Are we afraid? Are we stuck in the mindset that our job defines who we are, how we sustain our lives and how we will sustain and create a life for our loved ones?
Maybe all of these reasons are true. And maybe they are not relevant at all. I am no genius, I do not have all of the answers, but I am fairly confident that the reason we stop chasing our dreams is because we lose desire.
When you want something so bad, dreaming is not enough. It is the strength behind the desire that will push you to accomplish what you truly want to do. So, dream big, or dream small, but no matter the size of your dream, it is the power of desire that will make any dream become reality.