Everyone has dreams. Be they secret and hidden away where no one can see, or exposed and constantly on display for anyone willing to look, one thing is certain, we all have them. Regardless of the dreamer’s style, it can be very hard to believe that the big dreams buried or screaming inside will ever really come true.
It’s been my experience that two things happen as we get older. We let go of certain dreams and cling to other, more reasonable ones. And we decide that, rather than take the reigns of our life and follow the thing in our heart, we should be content to wait it out, hoping that we’ll be just happy enough— safe and fed and hopefully sane— to forget that dream ever existed at all.
Often the colossal dreams of our youth crumble because we realize that certain ambitions are outside our abilities or natural talents, skills, resources or control. Things like going to outer space. Or becoming a doctor when you loath science and math. Like achieving unmanageable fame, making the Olympic gymnastics team when you never really developed balance, inventing the device that will replace the iPhone. As we grow up, we hone our dreams based on who we see ourselves becoming. It is our mind and will looking to protect our ego and heart so we don’t set ourselves up for a meandering existence wrought with sadness. Or so we avoid a stunning collapse from failure.
This kind of dream modification is healthy. A good honing is valuable as you mature. It allows the true dreams, the ones polite enough to wait until the Jedi-Princess-Snake-Charmer-Married-to-Young Harrison Ford has run it’s course, and you’ve developed the ability to reason. It allows the dreamer to live on.
The other scenario, that one is much trickier. In my experience, dreams don’t ever really die. At least, not the ones that truly matter. Because once you’ve honed your dreams — and this, too, is a continual process — if you don’t follow the path you will someday look back and wonder what if, but you will never truly forget. Dreams left to fester and rot become the ugly wrinkles in your forehead and the sour expression on your face. They make you sloppy and boring at parties. They lead to lethargy and the eventual demise of whatever made you unique and vibrant.
Since I was a child, I’d been infatuated with London. I’d read Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden and EVERY Jane Austen novel. I loved Princess Diana, and had been obsessed with Lady Jane Gray, Anne Boleyn, Victoria and Albert, Queen Elizabeth (1 and 2)…
And this didn’t fall away as I grew up. I’m so much like Bridget Jones it’s frightening. I do tea in china and watch The Great British Bake Off. Downton Abby was my everything. If a book is set or a movie takes place there, I love it by default. I read all picture books in a bad British accent and follow Very British Problems on Twitter. I’ve researched it. I’ve romanced it. I’ve promised to have it’s babies. I even found myself a literary agent in London and somehow managed not to ask her to marry me based solely on her accent.
Yet somehow, even more than all the ways I loved it, it felt like it was already a part of me, tucked in my spirit, hidden among the thorns and briars of my personality. Like it existed in me from the beginning. From before the beginning.
But I have never been.
A couple months ago, while ensconced in the ever so glamorous task of folding laundry with my seven year old, we put on Paddington (a delightful British movie about a marmalade-loving bear’s adventures in London) to pass the time.
In the movie, the Bears meet and befriend an Explorer in their native land. He’s traveled there from London to study them, and I assume, bring back a specimen. Eep. But he doesn’t. These bears are highly intelligent, and so he leaves behind tapes and books about London, and he encourages them to come, to look him up if they do. And for years, they plan and dream of someday visiting London. They memorize the tapes. They know all the right words to say and proper way to act. But someday never seems to come. And finally, one day, Uncle Bear’s time runs out. He never got to go.
That moment hit me hard. Suddenly, I saw how fast time runs away from us. How little we are guaranteed. I turned to my husband and said, “I will not be like those bears. I am going.”
Someday resides in the future until one day it becomes the present. Until one day you look at the dream and you say: I will wait no more. It’s been long enough.
And it takes an act, or more often, many acts stacked all on top of each other until finally you reach your dream. It takes admitting that you want it and acknowledging the batter ram from fear that it will never be. It takes pushing your dream from the safe, silent cocoon of your imagination out into the dangerous, blinding light of reality. It takes guts and faith to take anything and give it life.
Dreams tingle with nerves and the electricity of promise. They can hurt you. They can disappoint and underwhelm. They can end up falling apart. They are not unalterable and never quite finished. But if you have one, you are not powerless to wake it up.
Don’t be like those bears. Don’t miss your chance to go to London. Be like Paddington, who took the long boat ride necessary and found a new dream once he arrived.