I’ve been thinking about dreams and disappointments lately. How does one balance the two?
I was listening to a song by Hedley the other day, “Anything”. Here’s part of the chorus:
Everybody said boy don’t go any higher
(uh, uh, forget that) I can do anything
Never push the limit and don’t play with fire
(uh, uh, forget that) I can do anything
I think there’s been a shift in our society and I see it expressed in pop culture: “follow your dreams – you can do anything”. To a certain extent I agree with this. I believe that it’s important to follow our dreams and that too many people (including me) have been told our dreams are not worth chasing, they’re impractical, irresponsible, and so on.
However…life does not happen exactly how we plan it and sometimes those dreams are never realized. I admit that I’m jaded in this area. I grew up in an environment that told me to be responsible, to play it safe, and that my dreams were irrelevant. AND…my life has not happened how I planned it. I had many dreams I wanted to share with my husband and then he passed away. Part of the grieving process was learning to let go of some of those dreams and learning to fulfill some of them without him (like taking my boys to Legoland).
So how does one balance their dreams with their disappointments? IS there a balance? Or is there a different angle to this? I’ve been thinking about this in the context of my own life but more importantly I want to ‘wrestle this through’ for the sake of my children. I don’t want to pass on my jaded upbringing to them where their dreams are not important. At the same time I don’t want them to grow up believing life is going to go how they plan and then they’re unable to navigate the disappointments that come.
I was talking to a friend about this and she said sometimes we have to revise the plan. Our dreams are still worth pursuing but sometimes there’s a different way than we envisioned to get to those dreams. I think there’s wisdom in this. We need to learn to be flexible.
I’d also add another dimension: we cannot let our dreams define who we are. My worth is far beyond the fulfillment of my dreams. When my worth is wrapped up in my dreams and then the dreams don’t happen, it’s a disaster because unfulfilled dreams mean I am worthless. And that’s when it’s really hard to swallow disappointment. If I can keep my dreams separate from my sense of worth I can take risks and pursue my dreams and even if the dreams aren’t realized I can still be ok with it, knowing that at least I tried. I think it’s worse to avoid pursuing our dreams in order to play it safe and live with regret never knowing if my dream could have happened because I never even tried.
This is a lesson I’m learning slowly. Taking risks always seemed too scary for me because the thought of failing was paralyzing and kept me from trying. And I would feel so annoyed with those people who seemed to freely pursue their dreams spouting that “they could do anything”. I wanted to yell back, “So what happens when you can’t do anything?” These people never seemed to live in reality like the rest of us who had to deal with the disappointments of life. But maybe I was so negative because my dreams equaled my worth and it was better to avoid them than risk failing and being worthless. And yet I wanted to follow them and I was annoyed with the people who seemed able to do that where I couldn’t.
So for me, the first step was to accept that I still have worth…even if I fail. Mind you, I haven’t completely learned this yet. But I’ve learned it enough to be able to take some risks and try things I’ve never done before. To actually acknowledge that I have dreams and that they’re worth pursuing, even knowing that disappointments will come. I am realizing that I am worth pursuing my dreams.
As I said I’m still ‘wrestling this through’ so I’d love to hear what you think about all this. Feel free to leave a comment.