There are some things that I wanted to do in my life that I realize more and more lately I am never going to do. If you’re like most of society, or at least the society that I know, your first instinct is to reassure me in some way. “Now, now, you never know what the future will bring.” “Never say never.” That sort of thing. These platitudes are meant to encourage me to follow my dreams, to not give up on the things I wanted to experience, to do, to be. They’re almost always said with affection, a verbal hug of friendship and hope. We say these things to each other because we want to let our friends and families know that we believe in their possibilities. We say these things to each other because if the people around us give up hope on some of their dreams, that might mean we should too.
I wonder if we are doing our friends a disservice when we continue to encourage belief in a goal or a dream that realistically is just never going to happen. I wonder if, instead of encouraging them to have faith and hope in the future, we are instead discouraging them from having a healthy affection and esteem for the person they have become.
When our life choices lead us away from what we thought were our dreams should we believe they can still come true, or should we dream new dreams that better fit the person we’ve actually become? If we understood more fully that our choices can, in fact, change our dreams, would we be more careful in making our choices?
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to live in New York City. I’ve been enchanted by the city from afar, overwhelmed and inspired by it the few times I’ve been there. I’ve always thought I would spend a year or two in the hustle and bustle of that city, of that life. Sometimes I add to the vision. I see myself in crisp business suits and towering heels, hailing cabs with authority and juggling phone calls with the dexterity that comes to the very busy and important. Other times I can see myself at night, singing in a club, surrounded by a laughing crowd of diverse people with funky clothes and hair. In both of these visions of mine I am beautiful, the city is beautiful, my life is beautiful.
Lately I’ve come to understand that it’s simply not going to happen. I’m not going to be either of those women living in New York City. Every time I confess that thought to myself I want to encourage it away, “Never say never,” and the like. But to what end? Why should I perpetuate a vision of a life, a dream that once was, into a goal that doesn’t fit the reality of who I am anymore?
When I think with enough clarity to be honest with myself, I am able to understand that I am no longer the person who first dreamed the dream of living in NYC. I have made a decade or more of decisions that have shaped me and formed me into the woman that I am today. I am no longer the girl who romanticized being a CEO, and I never did learn to play an instrument. I live my life slowly and peacefully these days. I value agriculture and self-sustaining environments over bright lights and busy sidewalks. As much as I hate to admit it, I barely even put on a pair of towering heels anymore. I’m having a baby and I can’t imagine raising him or her anywhere but right here. I love my life. I embrace the woman I have become. It’s time to let go of some of the old dreams and make room for some new ones.
It’s bittersweet, of course. There is a taste of mourning for what might have been and won’t be, but with the letting go there is also a new surge of excitement. There are new dreams to be had, ones that are attainable and beautiful to the woman that I have become, not to the woman that I was. My life is still beautiful.
I wonder, are we doing ourselves and our friends a favor when we encourage the belief in dreams that are not only unlikely but incompatible? Is there a better way that we could build hope in the future that also recognizes and applauds the people we have become? Is it possible that when we hold ourselves to the possibilities of dreams that have grown old, we are keeping ourselves from embracing our real future? Are we preventing joy and peace in our present day? Have you examined your dreams lately to be sure that they are still a real part of who you are? Are you brave enough to do so?