Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Trouble with Dreams

I blame Walt Disney. He started it. Generations have grown up listening to the words, "When you wish upon a star. Makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come true."
Oh boy, if that isn't a prescription for disillusionment and feelings of personal failure I don't know what is. We hear it all the time. It's the Disney theme song. Schools picked up on it and tell kids everyone can go to Yale and Harvard, anyone can be a doctor or a lawyer. All you have to do is dream it and you can be it.
No wonder so many people are on depression medication. When the world doesn't work that way, we think there is something wrong with us personally. We feel cheated and as if we failed at something that should have been as easy as trying harder. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you can't have dreams. I'm not saying you can't follow your dreams. I'm also not saying you are stuck in the class or world you are born in-What I'm saying that it is harmful to teach our kids that they can be a multimillionaire "star" if they only wish it.
Look at American Idol. Last week two boys who were sweet, nice looking and fun came in for an audition. They couldn't carry a tune in a bucket and were told so politely by the judges. Go out and find your true talent, they were told. But no. The boys answer was. "We'll work harder. We know we can achieve our dream if only we persist." Wow- I find this sad. I think that the world will miss out on their true talent because these boys will be off in a corner working on their Disney Dream.
If you read my blog regularly, you know that I encourage persistence. I encourage everyone to tell their stories. To improve their craft. To keep going.
At the same time I realize there are a lot of people out there who are living in misery because they work hard and can't achieve their dream. The misery boils over into their entire lives. No matter what they achieve they can't help but feel they failed because they aren't published. I say stop the madness. Life is too short to be that miserable. We're not all going to be CEO's. We can't all be rock stars or neurosurgeons. Yes, it is disheartening and a bit of a shock when you realize that perhaps singing isn't for you. Perhaps nuclear physics or gaming aren't for you. Perhaps publishing isn't the business for you. So what! That's what I say. So what if one dream isn't for you. There are so many dreams out there. We each have our own unique talents. Go find a new dream.
What would the world have missed if Einstein had thought he could be an opera singer and threw all his energy into that? Never letting go of his "dream." What about your doctor or your kid's teacher who helped them "get" math for the first time. What would your life have been like if they had spent their time wallowing in self pity because they didn't make it on stage and screen?
Dreams are wonderful tools for finding your place in the world. But they aren't easy. You can't just wish it and be it. Life doesn't work that way and we are doing a disservice to others when we encourage them to keep putting effort in places where they don't shine. Find your shine people. There's no shame if you excel at taking care of dogs. If you excel at tutoring children. If you excel at keeping lawns green or raising children or making your friends laugh. Life's too short to be wasted making yourself miserable because you can't achieve Disney Princess status. Let's stop the madness and teach our children and ourselves to shine with the talents we have. Food for thought anyway. Please discuss in comments below. I'd love to hear what you think. Cheers~


Charlie said...

Thank you. This is an awesome post! Why didn't you write this thirty years ago? huh? huh?

I long gave up the rock star dream. I still write music because it feeds my soul, and that is truly enough. I discovered writing only a few years ago. I've said many times that the actual learning is doing it for me. Sure, being published and the acknowledgement justifies all the work, but writing is fun. When I feel my work is stellar, I'll take the next step and I will be persistent, but until then, I will have fun.

PS. If I would have read this post thirty years ago, I would've thought it was for the other guys!

Judy Croome said...

This is a thought-provoking post. I believe we must have dreams to aim for. Because if we start off in our life having no dreams, then how dismal the world will be for us.

However, you make a valid point, Nancy: what if we're so busy chasing a dream that takes us away from our true talent we miss our true path?

I would like to think that's part of our soul's journey to maturity. At some point maybe those boys will have to discover they can't hold a tune in a brewery; but perhaps they'll find that their passion for music makes them brilliant agents..or sound mixers that help create beautiful music. Or perhaps they'll just waste their lives striving for an impossible dream and becoming bitter when they can't reach it.

How they choose to react to the particular challenges of their particular dream is all part of their particuler growth path.

I had a dream of being a writer since I was 12. It took me 30 years to start following that dream. I often wonder how much closer to achieving that dream I would be if I'd believed a little more in myself and my dreams.
Judy (South Africa)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Charlie, thanks for the comment- you made me smile.

When I first started writing I read an article written by a published author who said it took her ten years to get published. I thought-huh, it won't take me that. And it didn't-it took me 15. LOL

Yes, have fun pursue but don't let dreams make you miserable. Cheers~

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Judy,
You make a very valid point. Pursuing dreams fills the soul with hope and happiness. And you may discover that you are a really good agent or music producer or you may become a fabulous publisher.
But when the dream makes you miserable and bitter-as I've seen in several people. Time to let it go and go have fun following another dream.
I'm not advocating not chasing dreams. I am advocating having fun, feeding your soul, finding where you shine. Bitterness and depression are signs you're not after the right dream.
As for you, my good friend, you truly shine when you write. I hope it makes you as happy writing as it makes me reading your words.

Linda Kage said...

I’m pretty much reconciled to the fact I’m not ever going to be able to quit my day job and write full time. But it can still be a bit depressing to know the thing I love to do most in the world isn’t really New York Times Bestseller quality stuff and probably never will be. Still, once I learned to settle for what I could reach, I've become quite content (mostly anyway). It's really exciting to be able to hold my books in my hands and read my name on the cover.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Linda, I don't know how you do what you do- write, publish, work and new baby. You are amazing and a role model.
You never know about the New York Times- it really is a matter of luck and circumstance-but then again, in this changing world that NYT list might go away.
The best way to live a dream is to be happy, keep learning and as you say, enjoy the thrill of holding your books in your hands. Cheers~

Meg said...

Very true! dreams are great, but you can't be split in a bunch of different directions. had to focus on one thing. only so much time in the day, LOL. Great post!!