“I dreamed a dream in times gone by
When hope was high and life worth living”
Let me be incredibly honest with you…
I am not where I planned to be at my age, and I’m not very happy about it. This is just a fact. It’s not a cry of pitty or self-loathing. In some ways, this life is much better than I ever dreamed, and in other ways there were, and still are, good dreams, dreams full of my passions, my words, my hopes, that I have not reached yet, despite the strict (and slightly impractical) time-table I set for myself years ago.
There are a lot of things I can point my fingers at to blame for the fact that I am where I am right now if I really wanted to. It’s easy to cast blame on trials. It’s easy to cast blame on the people around you, and the people you’ve networked with, and the people that you truly thought had the power to influence your life to get you where you wanted to go. It’s easy to cast the blame on decisions, the wrong decisions, and being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Most of all, it’s easy to cast blame on yourself. It’s easy to see the places you compromised and to forget the valid reason behind these compromises. It’s easy to see the places you failed, the areas that you should have worked just a little harder.
“I dreamed, that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving”
I had no grace for anyone in that story. I saw everyone as a victim of their own decisions. Don’t steal. Don’t sleep around with a man who might leave you and your child. It all seemed common sense to a naïve teenager.
The story was about grace, and all I could see through my close-minded goggles were dreams wasted by people who were too lazy to achieve them.
“Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted”
I, as a millennial, grew up hearing that I can be whatever I want when I’m an adult. The movies, the New York glamor, the rich lifestyle of the powerful woman professional, I could have it all if I worked hard enough.
And I hate to crush the souls of any teenage demographic that I might reach, but it’s not always true.
No matter how hard we work or what luck we strike in this life we will all wake up one day and recognize some dreams that are behind us un-lived. Some of these will be for the best and the obvious reasoning that they did not work will be right in front of our faces.
However, some dreams will hurt. Some will stab every time you are reminded of your failure to reach it. You’ll continue longing for that soccer championship, or the college scholarship, or recognition, despite the fact that you know that opportunity has long passed.
“But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame”
Unfortunately, there are more things that affect our plans than just our abilities and determination. Life has a solid say in what happens, and it says it in some hard ways.
Life might take charge through mental illness, or physical illness, or death, or those you love, and your dreams might be swept up in the destruction at times. And in most of these moments, there is nothing you could have done to hold them in place.
Sadly, I have spent years hating myself and aspects of my life that didn’t go as planned. I’ve been angry at the dreams I have outgrown, and I’ve placed ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself to reach the dreams still ahead before those too are behind me.
This is a psychological storm, and if you feel you are currently caught in it, then you honestly might need help from someone way above my paygrade. But as someone who knows this fight, who has felt the grip of compromise suffocate my dreams, I truly believe that the root of this, the way to escape this storm, is to love yourself more than you love your dreams.
Keep dreaming, beautiful girl. Keep wishing on your stars, keep working hard, study, network, put in those overtime hours when they’re needed, but know who you are today, and be okay with the fact that you might still be her tomorrow, and the next day, and for the next few years.
Love those around you more than those who might be here one day.
Love your studio apartment more than you love the mansion in your future.
Love you plump and lumpy body better than the six-pack you plan to have by the summer.
Love the Taco Bell dollar burritos better than the $100 steaks you plan to feast on one day.
Love yourself more than you love your dreams.
You will dream a dream, and you might dream more dreams, and some of these will come true and bring so much joy.
But one day, I woke up and I related to Fantine. I reread the book, I rewatched the movie, I even bought tickets to watch this performance by the Broadway Theater League, and in all instances, I’ve cried the whole way through.
I woke up one day and recognized that I was singing of the dreams I dreamed and I was wondering where they were and where along the line I messed up to miss them.
And to be honest, I know I have many more of these moments ahead of me, moments of dreams that have clearly passed.
But I’m going to keep dreaming, because what is a life without goals?
And you should keep dreaming too. They might come true, and you might find everything that you’ve ever wanted. There is nothing wrong with that.
There is no shame in being a dreamer if you are a dreamer who loves yourself enough today to show grace throughout the journey.