Dreams Deferred

You know what the hardest part of life is for me? Deciding which dreams to chase.

I don’t know about you, but I have a whole basketful of dreams, of things I’d like to do and lives I’d like to live. It seems difficult to me that we only get one life, and for the most part, we can only do one thing at a time. At the very least, it’s a fact that there are seasons to life, and some phases which are more conducive to certain dreams than others.

Wanna make your dreams come true?
Wanna make your dreams come true?

So what’s a person to do when dreams conflict and the realities of life seem to contradict one another?

What happens when we get chest deep into what we thought was our dream only to find out that it’s something else entirely?

Or when the needs of the community outweigh the needs of the individual?

Perhaps it’s a conflicting set of dreams between you and your partner, or perhaps it’s the realities of your particular stage of life: the shared responsibility for children, or aging parents, or someone who is infirm that keep you from pursuing your heart’s desire.

Sometimes, there are real reasons that a dream gets deferred. Good reasons. Then what?

Life is tough sometimes, isn’t it? It’s not as simple as a rah-rah session of, “Anyone can live their dreams, go, go, go!” Sometimes, there are real reasons that a dream gets deferred. Good reasons. Then what?

Can I tell you a secret? Life is full of lots of dreams, and the trick is to change how we look at things.

 

Dreams

I know people with several small children and 9-5 jobs who feel stuck; they’re reading travel blogs and pining for freedom and the open road. What they might not see is that their little flock of healthy children is a dream come true; it’s what they always wanted, it’s a mess on wheels seven days a week, but that’s what makes it an adventure. Sure, it might not look as sexy as a glamorous RTW trip that someone else is taking, but it is. Trust me. I’ve done both!

The thing is, it’s very likely that whatever you’re doing right now, the thing you’re a bit angsty about, is, or was at one time your dream. Take a minute to think about that. The odds are good that you’re where you’re at because you made some choices that were what you wanted, that were the best for you at the time. Sure, things weren’t exactly as advertised, but let me tell you another secret, neither is that other dream you’re pining for; the one in which you’re sipping mai-tai’s on the beach in Thailand. Trust me on that too!

The thing is, it’s very likely that whatever you’re doing right now, the thing you’re a bit angsty about, is, or was at one time your dream.

It’s a bit of a rude awakening to get to the point where one is living a dream and realize that it’s become daily life. Even long term travel has that potential. The real question that we eventually learn to ask and then to balance is “How can I live my dream now while building the next one?”

If we aren’t living our lives today from a point of creating our dream, or a version of it, in our current circumstances, then we are wasting the days we are given. The choice to thrive or survive a certain set of circumstances (whether we chose them or not) is the crux of whether we make a habit of living our dreams or not. The other thing is that we have to earn our dreams.

It’s easy to sit in a place where we’ve found ourselves, by hook or by crook, and wish we were somewhere else. It’s harder to realize that where we end up is the result of our choices, most often. Even when it’s not, even when our health fails, or fate deals us a bum rap, there are always choices open to us that lead toward or away from building our dreams.

We can choose to throw our hands in the air and bemoan our fates, or we can choose to accept the hard things and the hard places we find ourselves in. What separates the dreamers from the doers in those moments is often the willingness to work to earn our freedom, to pursue excellence in both the dreams we are building, and the circumstances that present themselves.

dream deferred

Sometimes to earn one dream we have to persevere through something harder than we could have ever imagined, learn the lessons, pay it forward, and finish well. It is a heroic thing to spend oneself thoroughly bettering a difficult situation, to create dreams out of daily life, to build dreams bigger and harder than most people ever dare to while simultaneously giving up part of our own souls.

Sure, things weren’t exactly as advertised, but let me tell you another secret, neither is that other dream you’re pining for; the one in which you’re sipping mai-tai’s on the beach in Thailand.

I had breakfast this morning with a man who is knee deep in this process. After taking a couple of short trips, he finds himself back in suburbia, and it’s drowning him just a little bit. He’s working hard to overcome the logistics of time and money to free himself and his family. And he’s also working on balancing the needs of his partner and kids, who don’t necessarily share his passion for long term travel. In the meantime, he’s all in on the project of making life in the here and now reflect the dreams in his heart. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

I have another friend who gave up what should have been the career building and traveling decade of his life to care for his aging parents. He took a lot of heat for that. People accused him of wasting his life, of neglecting his career and dreams, even of mooching off of his folks. It cost him, dearly. In the end, when his parents passed, he had no regrets, and now he’s pursuing those passions with purpose and building his dream in a way that I know would make his parents proud.

What separates the dreamers from the doers in those moments is often the willingness to work to earn our freedom, to pursue excellence in both the dreams we are building, and the circumstances that present themselves.

There are any number of good reasons that a person might be “stuck” in a position where pursuing a big dream, or taking a big trip, just isn’t in the cards for a while.

You know what? That’s okay. The time we have, all of it, is a gift. What determines whether we are living our dreams or suffering with our reality is our attitude and how we choose to spend that time. If your dreams are deferred for the moment, spend the time creating dreams in your daily life.

Invest heavily in preparing, planning, and refocusing your reality so that when the time is right, when the stars do align, you’re ready. Fortune favors the prepared.

Photo credits: stefanolunardi, EpicStockMedia

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  • Michelle Maitland said at 2014-08-31T21:13:19+0000: Hi Jennifer, thank you for those words they really touched a chord with me, I find myself caring for my mum after my dad died tragically, I had always told myself when the kids were reared I would have time to take a year out to travel and see the world, I find that when I do one thing every week towards keeping my dreams alive it really helps, I have opened an account that I call the escape fund and this helps me to cope, and when the time is right and the stars do align, I'll be ready.
  • Robin Holland said at 2014-08-28T16:57:57+0000: I LOVE this article!!! I couldn't agree more with every word written. We are all where we are by choices we have made, either overly or covertly. If you don't like the place you got yourself to work hard to change it. The doing isn't a magic formula, it's hard work. But the rewards are great. The dream keeps evolving and you must keep re-evaluating to keep your dreams in your own control. Because it's the loss of control or the giving up of control that makes us feel stagnant, depressed, stuck. Always look to the future with the short term and the long term goals in mind. And prepare for a little derailment along the way. It's a normal process in life. Great article!
  • Mary Hickcox said at 2014-08-28T00:15:35+0000: You have no idea how much this resonated with me Jenn! Honestly the most important thing I have read in a while, just the smack I needed to fully open my eyes! Thanks so much, you little mind reader!
  • Julie Jane said at 2014-08-28T04:43:43+0000: Thank you. Just today I am looking at having to deferred already booked travel plans which is sad but sadly necessary.