dream on, dreamer

Over at my personal blog, I’ve been blogging about how I’ll be turning 30 in 15 days. I’ve been blogging about how that feels like a huge milestone for me. How I never imagined I’d get to thirty. How I hardly ever really imagine, or dream, about the future at all.

When I realized this, that I don’t truly dream about the future, I was sad. I felt like I was missing out on something that most people love about life – the ability to dream big, work toward that dream, and (hopefully) get there one day. I thought about why I don’t do that.

Part of the reason is that I grew up with a mentality of never counting your chickens before they’ve hatched. Or, in other words, you can’t count on anything until it’s right in front of your face. That means money, people, promises, anything. Hopes, dreams, wishes – if you don’t got them now, well – dream if you want to, but you are generally wasting your time. Dreams to me were always things that happened to other people, not to me. When I dreamed, nothing happened. When I worked, things happened. So the closest I came to dreaming was wanting something that I knew I could work for, working for it, and getting it. It wasn’t a dream. It was a certainty.

I still have this mentality, but it doesn’t bother me because a) I’m confident about the things I can work for and b) I don’t want a lot. And I’ve also come to realize something else: I don’t dream because I’ve really learned how to live in the present, to appreciate today.

See, for me, if I dreamed, I feel like I’d always be in tomorrow, in the future, chasing after something. I don’t have a 3, 5, or 10 year plan because all I know is that I want to be in a safe, healthy, and happy place in 3, 5, and 10 years and the only way to get there is to be there now. I never dreamed about getting my PhD or my JD. I fell into this path because it felt right at the time. I’m not dreaming about getting my PhD or my JD because I know how those things are going to happen – they aren’t dreams; in my mind, they are certainties. Do work today that moves toward that goal and I will eventually get there.

People say all the time that you should dream big; “if you can conceive it, you can achieve it.” And I wonder about this when I think of what to tell my children about dreaming. Sometimes they get so caught up in the future – are we going somewhere on the weekend, is there going to be a playdate on Friday, are we going to this place next week – that they seem to miss what’s happening now, right now. Many times we just don’t tell them about future plans for this reason, because they get fixated on them, and cannot come back to the present. I understand that for many people the future is a motivation, and delayed gratification is all the buzz.

But the absolute truth is the future is not guaranteed; only right now is. We need to get this across to our children. We need to understand this ourselves.

One thought on “dream on, dreamer

  1. Despite your completely rational explanation for why you don’t dream, you mentioned that failing to do so makes you sad. Why? Is that you initially felt sad, but after you thought about it weren’t sad after all? Or does it still feel like something is missing?

    From your description, it actually doesn’t seem like you don’t dream. It seems more like you go after your dreams; in an orderly way, and in a way that keeps you in the moment. I want a PhD. What do I have to do now to get that PhD? What needs to be done today? That’s a gift; many people don’t know how to break down into single steps the path that will get them to a desired end-point. Although I understand that you haven’t necessarily been day-dreaming about things all your life (i.e. I used to fantasize when I was a child about being a mom, or an academic), it seems to me that once your brain sets its sights on a future goal–a dream–you come back to the present and figure out how to get there.

    Whether we call it goal-setting or dreaming, you are right–we can only get to the future by being fully in the present moment.


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