I’m not talking about the sleeping dreams that really qualify more as nightmares from which you awaken in a pool of your own
urine sweat and feel compelled to wake someone else up and prattle on about them until you realize that person has actually fallen back to sleep on you, and you get just mad enough about that to forget your horrible dreams and be able to fall back to sleep yourself.
Nor am I talking about the dreams Brandon’s students stories end up being.
I’m talking about real-life dreams — the illustrious crap you think it’s important to accomplish in your lifetime, no matter what that illustrious crap may be.
Recently, I was talking to someone I’ve known for quite some time. Have you ever had the experience where you’ve known someone for, like, at least a decade, if not longer, and you realize that, while some of the things you talk to each other about have changed, there’s, like, this one thing that’s sort of lingered on throughout the years — some kind of unfinished business either you, the other person, or both have to address but still haven’t?
That’s called a dream. And that dream will haunt you the rest of your life.
Doubt it? Just talk to Langston Hughes.
“A Dream Deferred”
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Then ask yourself why you’re still talking about this thing 10 (or more) years later. You wouldn’t need to if it really wasn’t that important to you (i.e., really wasn’t a dream of yours after all), you’d satiated the desire through accomplishment, or you’d otherwise made peace with it through action.
This is what came out of my mouth to the person I was talking to during our most recent conversation. And, “Wow, I was not expecting that,” was what the person said in response. Believe me, I was just as shocked by my statement as the other person was and perhaps you are. I like to think that when something like this happens, I’ve just been a conduit for what that person really needed to hear. But maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better. Plus, I’ve also heard that we only say what we really need to hear ourselves, which I think might hold some truth as well (although as applied to my life, I think that comment would be more a statement of impatience as opposed to inaction on my part).
I don’t think I’m particularly special here when I say I’m aware of many people’s dreams. It’s not like I’m a mind reader or something. Anyone who has the opportunity to know a person long enough (or sometimes even a short time, actually) and figure out what that person’s conversations revolve around can decipher what another’s dreams are.
Often, they’re not even that “spectacular” — by typical “dream” standards, anyway. Most people don’t actually want to be astronauts, millionaires, or the president (although they wouldn’t necessarily turn these things down, either). Perhaps that’s why people sometimes don’t really realize that what they’re obsessing about is actually a dream.
One person I know has a dream of finding Mr. Right and building the family that person never had growing up.
Another has a dream of finding Ms. Right and for the first time having a healthy, satisfying romantic relationship.
Another has a dream of being truly loved, of finding someone who isn’t shallow and stupid — someone who will not care how time and illness has affected this person’s body.
Another has a dream of making music.
Another has a dream of starting a business.
Another has a dream of simply leading a peaceful existence.
These are what most real dreams look like. They sound ordinary or perhaps even — gasp! — boring to the rest of us.
But to the person who’s dreaming of it, that shiz is off the chain, and life is pretty much not worth living unless there’s the possibility of fulfilling the dream during it — whether this person admits that to him/herself or not.
So here’s the thing: I know some people’s dreams. I even gave you examples, for goodness’ sake. And in all likelihood, if I know these to be people’s dreams, they know these are their dreams, too. With this kind of awareness, we should all be able to easily just go out and strive to live our dreams, right?
Sounds like it should be that easy. Actually, it probably is that easy.
The problem is, people don’t actually believe it’s that easy. Another problem is that people engage in self-sabotaging behavior that makes it more difficult to achieve their dreams.
I admire the courage — well, or sheer desperation along the lines of the famous Henry David Thoreau quote — this person had to be willing to admit to me the dream lives on. I know many people have (consciously or subconsciously) given up talking to me about their dreams, mostly because they’re smart enough to know I’m going to say something like, “Your dreams will haunt you the rest of your life if you don’t do something about them.” In other words, I’m insanely impatient hearing about the same thing for more than 10 years while seeing no efforts being put forth to change it, because I want the people I love to be happy, and living dreams can make them happy. In other other words, I’m not going to let people get away with lying to themselves or to me about their dreams. In other other other words, when no one else will, I will always try to hold people accountable to their dreams.
Shock of the world, some don’t like this about me. Shock of the world, some don’t like me period.
But I digress.
Here’s the bottom line: It doesn’t matter what the dream, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of the dream, and it doesn’t matter how much you might try to go mess things up for yourself in attempt to distance yourself from a true dream; it will haunt you if you don’t try to live it.
Look around you. You can tell so, so very much about people by just watching and listening to them. You can tell if they’re living their dreams or not. I know someone who sits on a computer all day instead of trying to live the dream. I know someone who pursues degree after degree but never finishes any of them instead of trying to live the dream. I know someone who’s settled on the wrong person instead of trying to live the dream. I know someone who’s had kids instead of trying to live the dream.
So what can be done? The problem is ultimately rooted in each person’s mind. This much is clear when you hear those inspirational stories of people who have gone on to achieve greatness in spite of missing limbs, persecution, or crazy baby daddies (or mamas — whatever).
So the solution — or at least the beginning of it, anyway — must be to change your mind. You’ve got to start believing your dreams can come true. Then, you must start to build up the courage to try to live your dreams again. Courage, like snowballs, can start small but accumulate into something huge enough to bruise some neighborhood bully’s face with.
For example, want to write a book? Start with writing a word. I actually saw this hilarious journal titled One Word a Day, which was extremely tempting… until I remembered how long-winded I am. But this would be a great place to start for someone who needs to build the courage to start writing that book. You may not see how, but I do.
See, the trick isn’t actually to achieve one’s goal (and no, I’m not going to tell you, “Life’s a journey, not a destination,” because that’s really not the point, though I think it’s true). The trick is to simply do something to try to achieve it.
Because the reality is, if you never try, you have absolute certainty that you will never live your dream. What you do have to live with, however, is that decision — for the rest of your life… or until you choose otherwise. The butt clowns who tell you you can’t live your dream don’t. That’s why it’s so easy for them to say that to you. They get to go on being butt clowns completely untroubled by your unlived dream. You, on the other hand, will be haunted for the rest of your life by it. And that will make you unhappy.
So why not try? You may not get there, but so what? You can — and likely will — be happy while trying just knowing you’re trying. And who knows? You may actually get there during the process. And then you’ll be living the dream. Which would be awesome.
I do know people who are living their dreams — or at least one of them. They are happy. They may not bounce around all geeked up on Red Bulls like motivational speakers, but they are jubilant nevertheless. They may still be disgruntled or dismayed by certain things in life, but they are also still smiling through and through. So to my telephone friend — and anyone else who can relate to this — I say, why shouldn’t this also be you?