Did you ever give up on a dream because life got in the way?
It seems like everyone is talking about dreaming lately. I suppose it’s fitting; we tend to examine our lives more closely every time January 1st comes around. From a talk I recently attended at my church on helping women to achieve their dreams, to several blogs on my blog roll, to talking with my best friend about whether we have the right dreams for our lives right now, having dreams is on the brain. The most common lament I hear, especially from other women, is that they don’t even know how to begin to figure out what their dream is. Either they don’t know how to look ahead, the future is too big with too many options, or they’re just not used to thinking about their own desires anymore.
I’ve had some amazing responses to my 30 before 30 list since I made it public. Friends have shared their own lists with me that they dreamed up a long time ago, others have started lists of their own. I’ve had more than a couple of my (crazy, loveable, absolutely fabulous) aunts ask me what I thought about them making a six before sixty list, or other some such integers, which I told them was an amazing idea! I never thought when I published my little list that I would get to hear all about others’ dreams, both the ones they look forward to and ones they’d given away. Which got me wondering: how do we keep dreaming when life keeps on coming?
When I starting writing down what I wanted to accomplish before I turned thirty, I surprised myself by thinking about all the things I’d ever wanted to do instead of shooting blindly into my future. For example:
When I was a kid, running down the street to ask the neighborhood kids “want to ride bikes?” was the highlight of my Summer’s day. I stopped riding sometime around junior high – I must have outgrown my bike or something – and haven’t been on one since. But I always looked wistfully at the kids cruising the strip down Huntington Beach while I was on vacation and envied the bike messengers streaming down the streets in SF when I lived in the city. So “Own and Ride a Bike With a Basket and a Bell” went on the list.
I love school, I’m good at school, I was happy when I was in school. I stopped going before I reached my personal academic goals, so ‘Go Back to School’ went on the list.
Since turning 21 I’ve been invited on approximately 50 wine tastings trips. Due to consistently poor timing I’ve been able to go on exactly none. I’ve dreamed of going wine tasting on a gorgeous Spring day, wearing a sundress and sandals, laughing with the man I love while sipping a wine that will remind us of this perfect day months later when we open a bottle to compliment the perfectly prepared meal I set on the table. So that went on the list as well.
Every time I tried to imagine what my life might look like years from now, and what sort of goals I’d have to set to get there, I got so hopelessly overwhelmed that my potential dreams quickly drowned in the sea of possibilities. The future is large and nebulous, but my past? My past is set. My past is a vast ocean of memories – times I was happy, times I was inspired, times where I felt like I was doing exactly the right thing for myself at the time. Our pasts are a veritable field of dreams, ripe for the harvest.
Jon Acuff wrote a brilliant post on what he calls ‘dreaming backwards’, and he had this to say on dreaming:
Instead of asking forward-facing questions like, “What do I want to do with my life?”, we dream backward and ask, “What have I done in my life that I’ve loved?” And the answer we get is not a bottomless, faceless list of options that could apply to anyone. It’s a personal, small, uniquely tailored to our hearts and our souls, handful of life experiences that made us feel alive.
It hurts my heart when I hear people say they don’t know how to dream anymore. So this is my antidote to being overwhelmed with possibility and not knowing where to start: start by thinking about times you were happy, when you were doing something you loved, when you felt needed. Think about what you might have done if no one ever said “you can’t.” Think about what you were working towards once upon a time, before life, finances, relationships, and busyness got in your way. Think about it, and then dream big. Because life’s too short to live it halfway.
What dream might you dare to revisit?