Sometimes they are crushed, trampled, broken, ignored, forgotten or ridiculed. We may think they die, but that’s because we often we confuse our dreams with expectations we think others have of us. Don’t believe me? Look at the dreams you’ve had throughout your life. Have they changed over time? Is there one in particular that seems to stay with you, perhaps something you always thought you’d like to be or do if you ever got the chance? Something that has remained hidden in the recesses of your mind, but you never could quite shake? That’s your real dream, the one that cries for attention and without which you feel lost, unfulfilled and alone.
Let me give you an example. When I was a child I had a variety of dreams, things I wanted to be when I grew up – an astronaut, a veterinarian, a writer, a ballerina, a pony. As a teen and young adult, my aspirations changed somewhat to include artist, writer, musician, millionaire. Moving into adulthood, I found myself drifting toward athlete, writer, dancer. At midlife, those priorities changed to writer, homemaker and businesswoman (yes, you can be both). Now that I’m well into the second half of my life, I realize there is a distinctive pattern in those dreams. Do you see it? Notice the one thing that has remained consistent throughout the list, the only change being how much closer it moves to the front.
When I was small, I remember watching the first moon landing on television and spending many hours playing with our family dogs. Thus, my ideals focused on astronaut and veterinarian. However, upon entering the teenage years, my natural inclination as the oldest child was to follow in the footsteps of my mother who was then establishing her career as a freelance artist. So it makes sense that the first item of priority on my dreams list at that time would be artist as well. When I met my husband, it truly was love at first sight and I felt an instant connection with him that has never wavered in over 13 years. My soulmate and greatest source of encouragement, he is also a talented athlete, and it is no surprise that early in our relationship I jettisoned athlete to the front of the aspirations list.
Despite all these transformations in my list of dreams, however, one thing has remained constant. From my earliest memory to the present moment, I have always steadfastly wanted to be a writer. In fact, I have always believed I was a writer – something I can’t honestly say about any of my other dreams. Oh, Iwanted to be an astronaut. Or an artist. Or even an athlete. But I never really believed I was any of those things. I have forever yearned to be a writer, though, and felt empty and lost when I couldn’t, for whatever reason, put pen to paper.
And I believe that is what separates a dream from an expectation. You must believe in your dream and know that it always has been and always will be a part of you. It has to reside deeply and permanently in your heart, independent of what else is happening in your life at any particular time. Most importantly, it should inspire you, motivate you, refresh your spirit and give you a sense of being alive. No matter what else anyone may expect or demand of you, your dream must uplift you with a joyous sense of wonder and awe at this amazing creation that is you.
But understand that your dream cannot survive without nourishment. You must cultivate and encourage it if you want it to thrive. I keep a promise to myself to write for at least ten minutes every day, without fail. Sometimes it’s more. In fact, often it’s more. Just like an athlete trains her muscles or a musician perfects his scales, I practice my writing. It’s a gift I give myself, freeing my creativity and encouraging my Muse to visit often and linger just a bit more each time. Once you discover your dream, cherish and nourish it. It’s your gift and it’s worth treasuring.