Your Dreams Matter Too
At what age does it happen? When do we, as people, stop believing that we can be anything we want to be?
We seemed so limitless as children. Nothing was out of reach when equipped with the absolute confidence each and every one of us possessed. We chose what we wanted to be based on the heroes we admired at the time: from policewomen and firemen, to those armed with capes and super powers. We chose what we wanted to be based on our ability to help too, inspired by the life-saving capabilities of doctors, nurses, and veterinarians. Back then, we changed our future occupations as fast as we could dream them up – all because we could.
I wanted to revisit this childlike assertiveness, to be open to possibilities and full of conviction. So when an opportunity presented itself to pursue a dream from adolescence, I seized it and have not let go.
I am a woman of faith. The longer I believe, the more I’m convinced to live life boldly, completely unafraid. I want to use my small share of talent to do something big – to encourage the mothers of my generation. I want to live with intentionality, and for the moment, my writing is what gives me this strong sense of purpose. It is my modest offering; my simple attempt to give voice to the complexity of motherhood and the link we share when raising children.
It’s a common belief that dreams need to be suspended or abandoned completely once children are part of the equation. I believe that our children are the very reason we need to hold onto these dreams all the more. When we pursue our ambitions, dreams that stretch our imagination and talent, we show our sons and daughters that we mean it when we tell them they can be anything they want to be. We can be an example of living inspiration instead of a supplier of stale words. We can bolster their confidence and dispel the illusion that they are resigned to their circumstances.
I’m not saying we should all become the firefighters and veterinarians we dreamt of becoming in our youth. Dreams change. Dreams mature. Dreams adapt to new circumstances. We should not pursue dreams to escape responsibilities, but we also shouldn’t let our responsibilities be an excuse to stop dreaming.
I’m my husband’s biggest fan – and not because I have to be out of some sense of marital obligation. My admiration is genuine, because I can’t help but be inspired by him. I’m not exaggerating when I say his list of accomplishments in his 31 years is staggering. It’s as if he carried his childhood confidence with him all these years, not letting the burden of adulthood alter his attitude, determination, or vision. If I’ve learned anything from being married to my husband of almost 10 years it’s this: if there is something that you want out of life, go for it. “Someday” always exists comfortably in an elusive future. Pursue your dream now; take active steps. Take a single class, save a little portion of your paychecks, draft a plan, acquire a new skill, set a reasonable date: all small steps in the right direction.
I’d like to persuade you to bring to the forefront the thing that has always been present in the back of your mind – the one thing that thrills you, the thing that you lose sleep over, the thing that causes you to completely dominate a conversation with your friend unapologetically.
For some of us, not pursuing a dream isn’t an issue of ability or enthusiasm, but a very real fear of failure and criticism. I understand this all too well because of my decision to write deeply personal thoughts and feelings for a very public setting. In fact, I had second thoughts before publishing my first book. I was afraid people would think I’m a bad mother. I was afraid people would laugh at my writing abilities. There is still absolutely nothing to shield me from this criticism, but what I lose in security, I gain in self-satisfaction. Let me encourage you the way my husband encouraged me, by turning your attention to the emboldening words of Theodore Roosevelt from The Man in the Arena:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
You were probably asked about your future plans as a child multiple times. What happened to your childhood dream? Are you where you imagined you’d be?
If not, I feel compelled to ask you the same question you were asked long ago but with a twist:
What are you going to do now that you’re all grown up?
Eden Klinedinst is the author of Letters to New Moms: An Unusually Honest Look at the First Year. A portion of the profits will be donated to The Mommies Network.