Since kindergarten, we were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The question has followed us through our schooling years. We were always expected to have an answer. By high school, we were expected to be working towards that goal. A goal we would be achieving for the rest of our lives.
But some of us never had a clear answer. Some of us thought we would want to be someone else or do something different until we discovered our original dreams are not what we wanted at all.
I recently watched a Ted Talk by Charlie McDonnell titled, “How to unfollow your dreams.” Charlie discusses how dreams can change and that’s okay. He describes how our current chain reaction of dreams to happiness works like this:
Find a dream → Follow dream → Achieve dream → Achieve happiness.
This flow chart has some flaws. One being that it is a flow chart. There is no direct path to becoming anything. There is no step-by-step guide to happiness.
Another flaw in the above thinking is that dreams can be unrealistically positive. There are always going to be downsides to whatever profession we choose. For example, I wanted to be a writer. (Well, I still do but the aspects have changed, which we’ll discuss later).
Realistically, this is an achievable dream; all I have to do is write. But what comes with writing? Negative feedback. Rejection from publishers and agents. Running out of good ideas. Becoming a one-book wonder. Hate mail. People prying into your private life. Dreams are mostly thought of in the most positive sense without consideration for the baggage that comes with it.
There is also the possibility that the reality of the dream won’t provide the same feeling as the actual dreaming of it. This is a dismal thought, but it should be pondered when thinking of a dream to follow. Don’t expect dreams to bring eternal happiness.
In addition to the misleading positivity, dreams are sometimes picked from a list of those already available. What I mean is, when picking a career, it feels like being handed the Career card options from the game of Life and being asked to pick one. But not all possibilities have been created yet. People are creating job titles for themselves everyday. In McDonnell’s case, being a vlogger on Youtube wasn’t a job even when the Internet was first available. It’s a very modern position, but it exists now just the same because people began to do it.
There are options to create the life you want without following standard societal rules or guidelines. Thinking of what is out there already can limit your dreams, your true potential. There are so many things you can do to contribute to society that can’t just be plucked from a hat on a neat little folded paper.
Not only are already existing dreams limiting, but so is the idea of legitimacy. When chasing a dream, people nag about making sure you find “a real job,” something that makes sense, makes you money. Something traditional. Nine to five.
But what if traditional makes you unhappy?
This goes back to limiting yourself. If I want to be an author, who says I have to be published through print? Is this any more legitimate than an e-book? Any more legitimate than sharing my writing on a free platform? Does any of this make me any less of a writer? Does my art need to make money to be legitimate and appreciated?
Of course, from kindergarten to high school, our career options might change. I wanted to be a veterinarian, like so many hopeful children. Then I realized you had to put sick animals to sleep and deal with blood. So my dream rapidly changed.
Sometimes we pick dreams at a time that won’t suit us later. McDonnell quotes Hank Green, “You have no obligation to your former self. They are dumber than you, and they don’t exist.”
People change. Sometimes we pick from the hat because people want us to. And years later, that thing we picked doesn’t mesh with who we have become today.
Dreaming is important. We need something to work towards, a fantasy to chase. But it’s important to consider that as we change, our dreams change. We cannot say switching dreams is failure. We are allowed to change our minds.
Since seventh grade, I have wanted to be an author. I wanted to write poetry. I wanted to create such amazing stories people would be inspired. People would know my name. Realistically, however, I don’t have the drive or the focus to live off of my writing. It took years to have the guts to share any of my work with anyone else.
Does this make me any less of a writer? Blogging is writing. Writing poetry for myself is writing. I’m currently working on a novel, and who cares how I decide to distribute it? I write for myself. I decided I wanted a desk job so I can be freely creative without the pressures of deadlines or audience expectations.
I want to be a secret author. We will see how this pans out.
I am not a failure. I’m a dreamer.
What are some of the dreams you have had? What are your current dreams? Share in the comments!