Give Up on your Dreams

There are tidbits of advice I received as a child that will be burned into my brain forever. Whether it was because they were often repeated or because they resonated particularly well, I will always remember:

1. Diamonds are a girl's best friend (thanks "Aunt" Cindy).


2. Never do anything for a man ~(Bedraggled wife of our small town minister)

3. You can be anything you want ~ (every elementary school teacher, ever)

4. Never give up on your dreams and/or fight for your dreams ~ (quite literally everyone {except my dad, we'll get to that later})

The first problem with all of these words of "wisdom" is the superlatives. Best! Never! Anything! The only thing you should really never do is trust blanket phrases to run your life.

While all of this advice is slightly misleading in one way or another, the most problematic is "Never give up on your dreams." I am only 23 and I can think of at least 10 dreams I've abandoned. We've all done it. Your childhood dreams of being a ballerina, fireman or veterinarian. The beautiful picture you painted of you and your current lover sitting on a porch, years from now, drinking coffee and reminiscing about the way things used to be in the good ol' days.

The truth is, the human brain is extremely skilled when it comes to creating believable scenarios out of completely whacked-out logic. Think about your actual before-and-after-REM-sleep dreams. I have distinct memories of battling a toddler-sized, pink, spotted beetle with a Gatorade bottle. I can clearly see the faces of the tribe of natives I floated into while furiously swimming down a river in the Amazon. I have vivid memories of a vicious battle a Polar Bear and I had against a Man-O-War, after watching Baywatch with my grandma over 12 years ago.

Obviously, we create life goals and plans with a little bit more logic than we're able to access while sleeping but the algorithm is the same, the operating system is the same. The same brain that tells women to have kids forces them to see those same children lying lifeless in a ditch if they're 10 minutes past curfew. The same brain that tells you to apply for graduate school keeps you awake nights, telling you "you're a failure" and "nothing you've done will ever be good enough".

The one piece of advice we should give to children, and live by ourselves: don't ever assume you know what the hell you're doing.

I remember the first time my dad shed light on this truth. It was the worst possible timing, but the lesson stuck with me for years. I was lying face down on the floor in my room on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I was 16 and devastated. Not, an uncommon combo. What was uncommon was that the devastation was not a boy's fault. I had gone to an audition at the Rock School of Ballet the day before. This audition would decide where I was going to spend the summer dancing. I spent an hour and a half driving to the audition with my mom, another hour waiting to be able to register (as per my mom's "leave an hour early for everything" rule), and then 2 hours waiting for the H-Z half of the audition to begin. I danced my heart out for an hour and half; watching the adjudicators' faces, the other dancers' feet, and hundreds of pink legs in mirror. The lovely judges, devoid of sincerity, "thanked us" and told us to stand on the other side of the door while they decided if it was worth their time to teach us (and make thousands of dollars). This is the scariest part. Not waiting for a decision, but listening to all the other bunheads squeal and passive aggressively complain about their performance. Then they hand you a piece of paper. You rip it open like a perforated standardized test and scan the diplomatically written paragraph. There it is: "blah, blah, blah ...sorry....blah, blah, blah."

I cried the whole way home, but not uncontrollably. The following morning was a different story. I did not hold anything back. I called my whole life into question. I listed off every reason why they didn't take me. I played devil's advocate and then I validated myself. I went from screaming into a pillow to softly sobbing. One by one my family tried to comfort me.

I don't remember any of the things my mom and sister said to me but my dad's speech changed the way I viewed the world. Even if I didn't know it at the time. He said to me, "Kate, did you know I could have been a pro racquetball player?" I didn't respond. I was not in the mood for pep talks. Luckily, this was not going to be a pep talk. He continues, "I gave it up. I started having trouble with my elbow and then I met your mother. I had to choose a life that would support a family. I had to let go of silly pipe dreams."

I looked at him, eyes brimming and squeaked out a "seriously dad?". He tried being logical with me (again, wrong timing) "I just want you to be happy and comfortable." He always knew dancing would never make me any money, he was trying to nip this catastrophe in the bud. I ordered him to leave me alone with my utter depression.

I didn't listen to him (said every teenager ever). I continued to study ballet. I even went to college for dance. It wasn't until I finally realized I wasn't going to make it as a ballerina (see previous post) that I had to open my mind to other options.

Give up on your dreams. Let go of the things that are holding you back. Life is ever evolving. At the risk of sounding too Bay Area: go with the flow, man!

We often have to let go of things that seemed like a sure thing. Things we worked our whole lives towards. Things we told our grandparents we were going to be when we grew up. You have to break some of those promises to yourself in order to make way for life's newest adventures.

The GREAT news is that; while letting go is the hardest thing we have to do as humans, adapting to new situations is how we got here in the first place. Growing and changing to reach new standards and expectations is a trait imprinted into our genetic make-up.

We all saw Ice Age and Land Before Time I-XXII (or whatever they're on). We know that the ones holding on to the past, the barren land, and the racism don't survive.

Maybe, in light of all this, we can change the way we talk about dreams. Rather than telling someone "Never give up on your dreams" we can tell them to, instead "follow your dreams". Follow your dreams even if they take you to the head of a new and unexpected trail because you have no idea what the hell you're doing, but the universe does.

I'm on the right in Gold