Never Stop Dreaming
I was having a conversation with a friend, talking about her plans for the new year. Not resolutions, but just - plans. Ideas for something new or different or maybe even precisely the same as last year. She struggled. She couldn't think of anything that she was looking forward to, or anything that she was hoping for.
"Just dream. What is your dream for 2020?" I implored.
"I don't have any. I don't really dream anymore. What is the point?"
My initial response was disbelief. Of course you dream! Everyone thinks about things they want, things that could change, places they will travel, rooms they will decorate. Don't they? And if someone is declaring that they just don't have dreams, then they must be in denial. Or maybe they have stopped dreaming because their previous dreams made them sad. Or hurt them somehow. Or just never came true. In that case, what is the point of having dreams if they are going to hurt us in the end?
The National Sleep Foundation asserts that why we dream is still not entirely confirmed. Some believe it is essential for our emotional health because it allows our brain to solve problems and deal with emotions. For others, it is simply a physiological response. We live, we sleep, we dream.
But when I say dreams I'm not talking about the physiological response that happens when we fall into a deep sleep. I'm talking about what happens when we are wide awake, looking at the world around us as it is, and thinking about the world as we might want it to be. Some might call is daydreaming. Others will say it is having our heads in the clouds. Many will argue that it is neither healthy or productive. Some will agree that dreaming is a given. To dream is to live, and to live is to dream. I do believe that dreaming has a greater purpose, above and beyond procrastinating on a task at our desk or removing us from reality. Dreaming allows us to see what is possible and remember that all things are possible.
We stop dreaming because we are told it is for kids, or it is not helpful or not realistic. We stop dreaming because we are afraid those things will never come true or because we have been disappointed before. We stop dreaming because we are just too tired to devote any emotional space to something that we can neither see or touch. We stop dreaming because we give up. And what exactly are we giving up on? Ourselves.
Giving up on our dreams is giving up on ourselves because we are the only ones who can make our dreams a reality. We don't dream big and then hand it over to someone else to work towards. It belongs to us. And for that we should be eternally grateful. My life, my dreams, my goals, my destiny. It is a bit overwhelming, too. I get it. After all, if dreams are up to me, then no wonder I feel so bad when they don't come true. No wonder I blame the universe rather than reflecting on what I might have been able to do differently to affect the outcome.
And dreams don't always come true. Even when we have put in the blood, sweat, tears and time into making it so. Sometimes the universe does have other plans for us. Sometimes things we never even dreamed of show up at our feet and welcome or not, we must deal with them, too. But we need to dream. We need to dream big. We need to never forget how important a vision is to making something a reality. We need to value what is before us, and how we can use those tools to create the change we want in our lives. To help us make our own dreams a reality. We need to be constantly evolving and learning to accept responsibility for protecting our dreams from the forces that can destroy - disappointment, disengagement and distrust among them, to name a few. Dreams offer a bit of a roadmap for us. We see where we want to go. It is up to us to find the roads to get there.
We dream, and then we get to work. Or better yet, we dream, and that dream drives us to work in order to reach for what we really want most. Dream more. Work harder. Repeat. Make 2020 about realizing those dreams so that you can start having new ones.
I was reading Hamilton - The Revolution. It's an annotated libretto for Hamilton the musical, complete with beautiful photographs and actor profiles, the process of making the show and so much more. Lin-Manuel Miranda was recounting the opening night celebration of the show, with family and friends, food and fireworks, and accolades from the critics about what an accomplishment the show represented. He was completely shocked and humbled. And someone asked him "is this everything you ever dreamed of?" And his reply was that clearly he needed to have bigger dreams because it was so much more than he ever imagined possible. That seems to be a lesson for us all.