I had a dream…
No, I’m not channeling Martin Luther King. Not really. I’m thinking of a different set of dreams; not the ones that we have to change the world… but the ones we had to make the world.. our little world. The one where we could do anything, be anything; before things like obligation, expectations, and fear got in the way.
When I was little, I wanted to rule the world. Of course, I thought I’d do this by way of neurosurgery; not realizing that when I grew up the sight/sound of mucous would make me hurl. (1) I was also going to have horses in a house outside of the city; and a flat in New York. My fantastic husband and I were going to vacation once a quarter; seeing important places in our world’s history, study in the Library at Cambridge, pray in the Cathedrals of Notre Dame… and go skiing every year. The point is that while there were certainly elements of the esoteric in my dreams; they were super detailed from the time I was eight… they were things I believed in and were almost plans (2) representing what I wanted at that time from my life.
I wasn’t alone; over 90% of minors report having dreams for their lives & an idea of how they want it to turn out. This spans everything from the classic “I want to be a fireman” – or in my case, a neurosurgeon – to their life partners, style of homes, cars driven… all of it.
But by the time we’re 22, that changes and a nearly a third of us (28%) have absolutely no idea what we want out of our lives. The next 67% have a general idea of what we want out of our lives; but no real plan on how to achieve it. If you do the math, that only leaves 5% – FIVE PERCENT – that still have well-defined dreams & the accompanying road map on how to fulfill them. Of that very elite club, less than 3% will report the majority of their dreams came to fruition – but 7 out of 10 will say half of them did!
At first, I have to admit that I found this slightly depressing. What happened to all of us once optimistic, hope-filled children? We knew what we wanted as children – did schooling beat down our creative spirits? Are we less happy? Or is it like Tinkerbell/Lost Boys & Peter Pan… we stop believing in them so they cease to be??
While yes, I do think the emphasis in school changes at some point from fostering the belief that we can do & be anything into helping us pinpoint something attainable; in truth, I don’t think there’s one ‘right’ answer. But here’s what I think: I believe it’s largely due to a shift in our understanding of what makes up our “Identity.” As a child, we have a somewhat myopic definition that largely centers around defined roles: ”Mommy,” “Daddy,” “Fireman,” “Neurosurgeon,” whatnot… As we age, the roles are melded with things that gain importance such as social categorization, (2) and the mish-mash of honor, dignity, pride, and sense of accomplishment. In short, what was simple as children gains complexity as we expand the definition.
As the definition expands, what we want often changes. Our preferences change, our understanding of what our desired roles entail – like in my case, where the sight/sound combination proved to be more than I could handle & I fell in love with a man who didn’t want to be married to a doctor. (3) Our priorities shift; choices get made. I think this is why nearly 70% of respondents in a Salary.com survey said their dream job changed from when they younger – in fact, only 16% of adults said they were living out the dreams they had formed in their childhood. As one popular motivational poster puts it – we “stop dreaming & start living.”
That’s all fine & dandy as long as we don’t forget how to dream.
And now we come to what prompted this post to begin with: I think I lost touch with my inner child (4) and forgot how to dream. I started a Pinterest board called “Dream Board.” I struggled to put things on this board. I almost didn’t want to let myself think of things because… well, a few reasons that can be boiled down into this:
- I didn’t want to be judged.
- Fear. Largely of being disappointed.
I had allowed those two things to impede my ability to let loose and dream.
When I really thought about it; that was kind of silly. There’s so many other over-the-top things I do that I’m probably being judged for that dreaming of wanting a column to write in & to spend a couple of weeks with the girls in Rome probably aren’t going to be the things people are going to laugh at me for… and if they do, so what?? Is the fear of striking out – with my peers or myself – really going to keep me from being in the game; to borrow the cliché?
No. So, I resolved to get back in touch with my inner dreamer; by doing the following:
1) Write down all the dreams that I can remember having as a kid.
2) Boil those down to categories/emotions (happy, successful, settled, adventurous, work, home, relationships, etc)
3) Take those categories and fill them up with 5 new things I would have/do if there were no limitations to anything.
And that’s it. Those are dreams – so now I have a new dream… several, in fact. And some of them might even come true.
(1) Also fat and I had to be double-gloved and in nursing school, I had to wear a face mask to deal with adult diapers, but anyway…
(2) political beliefs, memberships, “mean girls” in high school, the ‘cool kids’ a la “The Breakfast Club,” etc…
(3) We can discuss how insane that was at a later time – you’ll get no arguments from me whichever way you choose to slice that discussion.
(4) Though my parents might likely argue that.