In Defense of Dreams
Just a few short years ago, my values and passions seemed almost tangible. Every day I could taste them, and I fashioned them to my dreams of the many somedays yet to be told. I wanted a husband and children, to be a learner and dig my nails into the dirt of the world that was so close to my fingertips I could smell it. I longed to live intentionally in community and learn from people of different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. I wanted to live simply and serve the poor, change the world, and give generously. It was all too easy to engage with my values when they sat right there in front of me, staring me down with my dreams and aspirations of the kind of person I wanted to be.
Fast forward a decade later: some dreams have been seriously deferred, and some major plans totally changed. A few real relationships went to shambles and, believe it or not, the marriage and children I longed for have often left me in a gloriously mundane daily grind. Suddenly, in the tangled years of my twenties, I had to ask myself: am I the person I wanted to be?
Our youth has a way of catching up to us if we let it. Though many of us look back on those years with an eye roll and scoff at our naivety, our youthful selves can hold us accountable to a part of us that is still there, waiting and dreaming. Dreams are rooted in what we value, and while our values grow and mature over the years, our dreams have the opportunity to mature as well. The sad truth is that they don’t always. As we grow up, dreams frequently get pushed to the side, blamed as our youthful ignorance or innocence. Disappointment and hurts hit us, and before we know it, our passion and luster for dreams we once had is all diminished before a process that broke us instead of matured us.
The day I asked myself if I was the person I wanted to be was a rude awakening to my new so-called reality. Because the truth was, the dreams I had for my life had evaporated; I had retreated into a lifestyle that was cushioned, comfortable, and safe. Generosity waned because I had experienced some financial stress, and I hoarded what money I had out of fear. I lost my zeal for new friendships because I had been hurt by broken relationships. And eventually, that unintentionality in relationships drifted into my marriage and my parenting. My evenings with my husband slowly became less about life-giving conversation and more about Netflix or laundry. Sweet days at home with my daughter were less about learning and active play and more about passive activities and tasks. And slowly, one thing after another, my life became an entire entity of someone I didn’t recognize, and the person I once was--full of passion and ardor--was lost.
But not entirely. Because I knew that deep down that dreamer was still there, brewing and stirring up all the values she still treasured that held the possibilities of what life could be. There was a key difference, though: I knew now that I had matured, and my new self could curate my dreams into a more honest reality. My dreams didn’t have to be eradicated, not in the slightest.
On a practical level, I decided to list out all of my values and built them into the dreams I’ve always had.This process launched me into a real conversation with how I’ve matured and grown, and how my dreams can actually move forward in my life with a fresh excitement. Because I knew I still wanted to see and change the world, but I’ve also learned that changing the world begins one person at a time, and my American worldview doesn’t actually know it all. I knew I still wanted to live generously, but I’ve also learned financial stewardship, budgeting, and how important credit is. I still wanted to live in community, but now I know that community takes real, honest work and vulnerability is all a part of the equation if you want authenticity. My fantasy of a husband and children is now a dream come true that I take for granted every day, and I’ve learned to remind myself of the values I hold to never allow blessings to become burdens.
You see, our dreams are meant to grow with us. They keep us afloat and fighting for something when life gets hard, and it’s okay if they have a little maturing to go through on their own. Our dreams were conceived when we were young, so it would make sense for them to grow with us, one day at a time. Dreams hold us accountable to what we value and ask us: are you living it out? Are we chasing after the things that get our heart racing, or are we allowing the toil of our adult years to burn out our fire and compromise what we know we long for? Dreams aren’t supposed to be snuffed out with our hardships, but refined and made stronger.
Dreams remind all of us of who we are, if we let them. Let’s stop living in the numbness of our disappointments, and allow what we hold in our hearts to have the final say. Because the truth is this: our stories are far from over, and our dreams can be lived out in all the many moments we have left.