Deferred Dreams

nowLast week I heard my daughter speak for the first time as a Religious Science minister. I also helped edit another friend’s  wonderful new book.

Both these women were following up on long- held dreams and their victories were even sweeter because they’d carried their visions so long.

My daughter started to become a minister about 20 years earlier and abandoned the dream because her other commitments (raising kids and building a business were priorities). My friend started her book many years ago and delayed the project because she was so involved in her other ministerial duties and projects.

I don’t think either woman was discouraged about postponing their dream. I’m sure that they were both delighted when they dusted off their vision and went after it with enthusiasm later. I know they are both delighted they had the courage to reawaken their dream and breathe life into again.

One of the most famous poems in the English language, by Langston Hughes, asks what happens to a dream that gets put off.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up 
like a raisin in the sun? 

 The poem goes on to offer even more dubious endings to the question that I won’t quote. It is the raisin in the sun image that captures our imagination. Doesn’t it seem as some of our long-held dreams are wrinkling with age?

Sometimes we use the idea that our dream is too old as an excuse not to pursue it. Certainly, some dreams do get too old. Your dream of making becoming a professional basketball star or ballet dancer might not be practical at forty. That’s true.

However, dreams can often be modified if you still hold some kernal of your desire. You might adapt the dream to current conditions and take dancing lessons for your personal pleasure and health and or play basketball in your neighborhood park.

Age is just an excuse for abandoning most of our dreams. You can get a teaching credential at fifty and put in twenty or more good years in the classroom. You can find true love at seventy and enjoy every day and night the rest of your time together. The person who denies herself the pleasure of attaining a long held dream just because of age is usually wrong.

Sometimes people abandon dreams because they didn’t make good sense in the first place and that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to reach for his dream of being a professional gambler, wing walker, bungey jumper, lion tamer, bagpipe player, or many other youthful ambitions at any age.

Take a look at some of your youthful ambitions and they don’t seem as good an idea as they did then. For example, I wanted to be a fisherman when I was 12 and I abandoned the idea at 13 because I liked boys. While I have never regretted releasing my dream of being Captain Ahab, I might enjoy fishing off the pier.

I think there is something very special about attempting to fulfill earlier ambitions, even if the dream has to be modified. Actually, there are a lot of ideas about dreaming and failure out there in the ethers. Some people think we should always pursue our dreams and never give up. That’s not always the way life works. Things happen. We make other choices.

In my opinion, the 21 year old man who wants to be a Hollywood actor and marries his pregnant girlfriend instead makes a choice. He now sells insurance in Ft. Worth, TX and I can’t say his choice was good or bad. Nor do I know whether he is a success or failure. It isn’t the choice, but his attitude about the choice that creates his destiny.

If he blames his wife constantly, it was a bad choice for both of them. If he delayed his dream and is happy about it, then it was a good choice. If he modifies his dream later, by participating in little theater, he makes his choice and his success even better by feeding his soul.

We all seek happiness and success in life. We choose different avenues in the belief that we will find the way to those generic goals. Some of us believe we will be happy as soon as attain one or the other dreams we hold. We defer our happiness until we are married, or rich, or get the promotion, and we don’t know, (or we forget) that we can choose to be happy now.

I think some of us could be happier than we are if we understood that our attitude toward life is as important as what we  choose. I also believe some of us would be happier if we were able to finish, or resurrect, that pesky dream we’ve been carrying for a while.

I  know absolutely that we’d be happier if we stopped blaming choices we made in the past for our deferred dreams of today. Check to see if you are making excuses for your unhappiness because of a “missed boat” or because you “had to” do something else when you wanted to follow your bliss.

It might be instructive if we all made a list of the past dreams we have held that still tickle our fancy. Then we might take a look at one or more treasured dreams and ask ourselves if there is some way we can take action in the direction of one of those dreams.

Don’t use this activity to berate yourself for procrastination. Simply ask yourself if you have been putting off something you’d still like to attain. Perhaps if it is a college degree, you might find time to take one on-line class this semester. Perhaps if you wanted to write a book, you can set aside 10 hours a week to work on it.

If you have a special dream that you believe it is too late to fulfill, please make a point to be creative about modifying it. Even if you wanted to be a great opera singer and didn’t get to study in Europe, you can join the local University Chorus. Even if you wanted to have six children and have none, you can become a foster parent, or school volunteer.  Even if you wanted to make a million before you were 30, you can embark on the study of investments and follow through with smaller amounts.

Dreaming is a wonderful thing. It is normal not to be able to choose to fulfill every dream. Sometimes it is best to discard the old ones and get some new goals. Sometimes it truly thrilling to achieve a deferred dream. Why not get a new affirmation – No raisins in the sun for me.                                                                           

Ask Yourself

What dream would I like to resurrect?

How should I modify it?

What’s my plan of action?