When we are every young, we are often told to chase our dreams, that we can be anything we want as long as we put our minds to it. As we grow older, though, we start to see the world through lenses colored with skepticism, and we begin to shed the dreamy haze of childhood in favor of less disappointing assumptions. It’s easy to be cynical and say that there’s no point in chasing your dreams, that you should lower your expectations to just surviving and making enough money to get by. While it’s important to shoot for something accessible (I want to be a ballerina princess, astronaut veterinarian, woman president as much as the next person, I know), it’s also critical not to stop dreaming.
When I was in high school, I had a dream of sitting around a table with a lot of friends and feeling like they all really liked me for me. It was a very private dream, and one that seemed impossible in my small, conservative high school at that. Giving up on dreams is for losers, though, and I was no loser. No matter how unlikely your dream is, you reduce your chances, even if they’re barely one percent, to zero if you just abandon it. The incessant mantra of “nothing’s impossible!” that culture gurus and motivational calendars are always feeding us can get tiresome, but there’s a grain of truth in every cliché. Sometimes, though, we need to put our dreams on the back burner to focus on our real lives, and that’s okay too. Anyone who spends all their time chasing their dreams is either a billionaire with no financial woes or a starving artist on the streets, in which case I totally respect you and keep doing you.
Don’t let your dreams get to far ahead of you. Sometimes, socializing seemed impossible, overwhelming, and unheard of. I wanted more friends, though, and a fresh start–I held on to my dream so firmly that I could almost feel my fingers cramping in real life. While I became busy with other things as my life went on, I never let it out of my sight, and that’s where the trick lies. Keep your eye on the prize and you’ll get to it eventually. Even if it feels like you’re just treading water, don’t be discouraged. Some dreams take years to achieve; people like Idina Menzel, Jessica Chastain, and George R.R. Martin, household names, didn’t become really famous until after thirty.
Eventually, I found my niche, and we’ve shared many meals, Cards Against Humanity tournaments, and general misadventures since then. It’s strange to think that such a thing was once only a dream to me, something I thought about before I went to asleep or when I was bored in class. Promise me that you’ll keep at it, though. Baby steps are better than treading water, treading water is better and drowning, and drowning is better than nothing.
I know you can do it!