“The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle.”
– Anais Nin
It’s the month of the 2010 Olympic Games, and most of us have tuned in to watch as world athletes pursue their dreams of gold. Have you noticed it’s not the win, however, that engages us, but rather the stories behind the medals? The sacrifice, the repeated attempts and failures, the time running out, the family members in whose honor the athletes compete – all of these reasons draw us in and make us root for particular individuals.
And yet, dreams are not relegated to just athletes. All of us have had our dreams. And many of us have failed at these dreams. It is one reason the struggle of these athletes resonates with us.
When I was a very little girl, my mom took me to ice skating lessons. As I twirled around the ice, I dreamt of growing up to be an ice skater like the Olympians on TV. As I got older and took writing classes in school, I dreamt of being a world-class journalist or an award-winning novelist. In college, I went to film school and dreamt of being the next Steven Spielberg. Later, my dreams resided closer to home – finding a knight in shining armor and having a family of my own. Unfortunately, none of my dreams came true.
If you fail at your dreams often enough, it’s very easy to give up trying and to feel your life has been a failure. But dreams are made of hope. And as President Obama pointed out, hope is an audacious thing. It doesn’t let go easily. So what can you do if it’s obvious you won’t fulfill the dreams you had earlier in your life?
You have two options. You can incorporate elements of those dreams into your current life. For example, did you want to be an actress? Then perhaps you can act in local community plays or direct a children’s theater production. Did you dream of being the next Annie Leibovitz? Then turn your photos into art to hang on your walls and give as gifts. Did you want a house full of children but have none? Volunteering at a children’s hospital can surround you with the love and fulfillment you miss while helping others who desperately need it. And bringing those dream elements back into your life can help you feel strong and confident again. You may not be famous, but you’ll be doing something you’ve always loved. And that’s a wonderful validation of yourself.
In the event that incorporating your dreams into your current life is just too overwhelming, or seems too much like a lost cause, then pick a new dream. The tricky part with this solution is that you need a dream you can fulfill, or else you’ll be left feeling bereft again. The solution is to break the dream down into achievable steps so you feel an accomplishment each step of the way. For example, you’ve always wanted to make documentaries. Go get a digital recorder. Buy the necessary software for your computer. Write an outline. Do some research. Get going. You may decide to take filmmaking or editing classes. You may just post your results online. But along the way, you may find the happiness you’re searching for. And isn’t that why we have dreams in the first place?
So in this month when dreams will come true for so many others, isn’t it time you reinvested in your own dreams? While you may not win a medal, you could find happiness shining softly in your life again. Your soul could feel validated, and your spirit could be lifted. You could even find some small part of yourself you lost along the way. Isn’t that almost as good as a medal? If you think so too, then I’ll see you back on that road to where dreams reside.