To the One Who Told Me to Stop Dreaming (And to Anyone Else Thinking of Quitting)
Cast your dreams
upon these pages,
and reach for the music
that dances within
Dream It Anyway
Dreams of the Future or Dream for the Future?
Dreams, I think, are synonymous with hope, and life is largely made of hope. In fact, life thrives on hope, love, and faith. These things inspire other great gifts, such as courage, strength, tenacity, and the ultimate gift of life itself. Somehow, it all comes full circle, doesn't it?
So I sit here wondering, amid all of my insecurities, why can't I have these things? Intellectually, I know I have had them all along. But it doesn't always feel like I do, so I lose sight of them altogether. When that happens, I inevitably hear discouraging voices from my past and I remember my failures until I lose sight of myself too.
But thank God for that circle; it always brings me back around. I eventually shut out the voices long enough to stumble out of the darkness. That's not to say it doesn't take a hell of a lot of effort, though, because sometimes the trip back to the light is more exhausting than dwelling in the dark, but I can't run from myself forever.
Or perhaps that's wrong. Perhaps I can run from myself forever, except the great shame in that is that I would lose myself forever, too. I don't want that to happen, so when I think about who I am now, I vow yet again not to give way to the want that sometimes says I should settle for less than who I am. I am not after riches or fame; those things don't make happiness any more readily available. But I am a dreamer.
I have been a dreamer for as far back as I can remember. For the most part, I am okay with that. Yet there's always someone waiting in the shadows to tell me to stop. Sometimes I briefly comply, except then I feel as though I'm trudging my way through life with no direction, going through the motions, not fully experiencing them.
Strangely, though, it can become way too comfortable inside that shell. Less worry, less stress, and far less fear. Lulled into a false sense of comfort, I consider whether I should heed the warnings of the nay-sayers and accept that all opportunity for greater things has passed me by. But I know that I must keep dreaming. Dreaming is living; it's not walking around with my head up in the clouds waiting for success to fall into my lap.
Success, to me, is something far less tangible than wealth and possessions. It's hope, it's happiness, it's a lifetime of personal growth. It is following a dream and maybe one day achieving that dream, but knowing if I don't, I didn't compromise myself. Success is one day finding I don't have to clear the darkness anymore because the clouds cannot rain long on the parade of a girl at peace with herself. So yes, I have dreams.
Dare to Dream
Do you have a dream?
One personal dream stands out above all others. I dream of making a meaningful difference in the lives others. There are many ways to do that, but writing is a powerful way to touch the heart of someone else. Words are compelling. They help me sort out life and words affirm it. They do the same for readers.
Still, sharing my work more with others is a relatively recent thing. I used to keep it to myself as if it were some sacred part of me I should never show the world and if I exposed it, I did so cautiously to only a trusted few. After all, nakedness is a vulnerability like no other. Writing bares my heart and soul. It leaves intimate things uncovered, sometimes raw, sometimes polished, for critical eyes to judge. Think about what it takes to bring an authentic story to life, though. Like an actor who must draw from his own experiences to portray the exact depth of emotion a character is experiencing or like a singer who must relate to a song, a writer must draw from deep within to keep readers interested. It is total exposure in some form or another.
Reflections on the Past
Switch gears with me a little now, please, as I reflect a little on my past.
At 35, I spent most of my childhood without the internet. I remember when we first had it installed in my home, though, because it was a job benefit my dad received. And I remember waiting impatiently for the dial-up process to finish connecting, only to find it still felt like eons for the pages to load. I learned the hard way that search history and browsing history are tracked when I decided on a whim to see if there really was a website for everything. Let's just say dad was not amused by my choice of self-entertainment. It was one of those not-so-rare moments in youth when wisdom is lacking.
I remember the embarrassment I felt at having to explain my foolish actions. And I remember more pleasant things like making a friend online. There were no email exchanges, but we used chat rooms or AOL messenger to communicate. Letters and photos soon followed via snail mail exchanges so we had a face to a name. Now I can't remember that kid's name with any certainty, but I recall the experience of my first online friend. From there, the internet continued to grow like a wildfire.
By the time I was in college email was commonplace. Sites like Yahoo and Myspace allowed people lacking the knowledge to build their own websites to do it anyway. They also allowed people to create personal public profiles and online journals where people posted daily entries. I experimented with it a little but quickly decided that airing my dirty laundry was not my thing. A diary is private because, well, that's private information. Some things should not be public information. However, things on the internet continue to evolve and more is possible.
Nowadays, the world is literally at my fingertips whenever I pick up a phone. It feels like nothing is private information anymore. Cameras and videos recordings are only a button away. Any public humiliation is likely caught on camera by someone somewhere. Up it goes into cyberland to spread like a virus. Except that unlike a public online journal, no one has much say over what someone else shares about them.
In this world of fast moving social media, I do not like and never will like sharing intimate things about myself. And yet I do it. Here I am doing so right now. Why do I do it? I could write purely informational articles although that is not what I want to do. Those web content articles make a quick buck, but do they really matter? I mean really matter.
Take this instance for example. I share in open honesty because I feel like I have something of greater value to share, if not for others then for myself. Perhaps most importantly for myself since I do have a dream.
No, it's much more than just a dream. It's a burning desire deep within to make a difference somehow.. I want to do something meaningful that touches the lives of others. As I said earlier, there are many ways to do that - but many of those things are beyond my means or beyond my abilities. Writing, however, is something I can do.
Write What You Know
It is common knowledge that people respond to authenticity, something achieved by somehow personally connecting to the message. To do that, I have to be okay with exposing parts of myself no matter whether I write fiction or something like this. It's a fallacy, though, to believe I must be strong and never vulnerable. I don't have to be because that is not genuine. Life is not always rosy, and it is not always portrayed through words of encouragement or inspiration. Sometimes the thing creating the connection is simply being human and sharing the other emotions in life. I live what I write. I believe what I write when I write it. There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with drawing from those same experiences to bring fictional characters to life either. Fun and games or pain and anguish. It means I'm alive.
However, even knowing this, I am not comfortable sharing what I write. As sure as I know the reasons I should write, I know the reasons I should not share that part of myself with anyone else. I can list the reasons for the latter, both real and fabricated by my insecurities. Although, sometimes I believe with all my heart I am completely at ease with sharing my thoughts. The comfort lasts until something or someone tries to tear me back down. Then the struggle to rebuild my confidence begins again. My first impulse is to run. I'd love nothing more than to pull my head back inside its shell, like a turtle protecting its soft parts.
When I write, I put my heart on my sleeve like I rarely do in person. Not even my closest friends and family members see this side of me unless they read something I write. But that's the kind of writing that moves me when I read. Therefore, I should share what I have to say. Perhaps it is important to someone besides me.
If not, well then, I still have a record of my humanity. I can see both my failures and successes. I can see the journey. The best part about seeing the journey is that the moments of confidence are recorded as well. The journey is there to remind me that the confidence is there for the taking. It's waiting for the darkness to pass. Just because the darkness obscures the light now and then, that does not mean it will not return. As long as hope is alive, dreams are alive. I am alive.
When I read something I wrote while experiencing something painful, I don't experience the same sense of anguish. Nonetheless, I do recall the events and the emotions I felt. In a sense that is my personal journal. It marks my personal growth and chronicles my memories along the way. Sharing those things may leave me vulnerable to criticism, but sometimes my words resinate within others enough to make them realize we are never the only one who feels a certain way. Individual experiences may be different, but feelings are universal.
On the other hand, when I read something I wrote full of positive affirmations long after I wrote the last word, I do experience those same feelings again. That's the beauty of confidence; over and over again, it can be found. Never again will I allow someone to tell me it's a foolish notion, especially when the discouraging words come from the mouths of those I admire. Those are the people who do the most damage when I allow them to. I don't need anyone trying to douse my flame, let alone the very people who inspire me. I do enough of that on my own. What if it's too expensive? What if I have I loathe self-promotion? What if I make a fool of myself? What if no one cares what I have to say? What if, what if, what if. What ifs are murderous. At least there's always an ember left glowing somewhere down deep inside. Dare I hope that one day that ember will spark a flame bright enough not even I can put it out?
To myself and to anyone else considering giving up, I say keep on dreaming. Even a pipe dream can be full of substance. You are the only one who can decide if your dream is worthwhile, if it should evolve, or if you should discard it altogether. Know this: opportunity only passes you by if you let it. And if you let it, make another one.
To the one who said these things to me should you read this. . . I do not hold grudges. No one is perfect. I said things out of defense and anger, too. Maybe I learned a few lessons that you would not have wanted me to learn, at least not that way. Maybe you don't give a damn one way or another. It doesn't matter what you think about me. Sometimes I don't know who or what to trust anymore. Nor do I feel like I always know what to believe anymore, but I still believe if I once admired someone for something, it was and usually still is worth admiring.