Do you realize how often we’re told to “follow our dreams?” Of course you do. It’s what young people like us are supposed to do, right? Go to college, get a degree, start your life, and follow your dreams! The phrase is simple and inspiring, sure. We have TV shows dedicated to it, we have books rambling about it, we have the internet raving about it, and we have fortune cookies that also happen to tag on some lucky numbers. Shoot, this entire country is a grandiose epitome of people “following their dreams.” It’s our culture. We’re practically expected to follow our dreams, and we lead sorry lives if we don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, its good to hold onto our dreams. If we didn’t pursue them, we’d be a truly miserable species. We wouldn’t have art exhibitions or concert halls or space exploration or technological advancements. We’d go through life without our passions and hopes. Our dreams set us apart from everything else. We have the ability to imagine incredible paths for ourselves, and most times they become the motivators for who we become.
It is good to dream. I never want to discourage someone from doing so. But so often I hear it as a command — “Follow your dreams!”— and my breath gets shallow and my heart beats too fast and my brain runs too wild. It’s supposed to be encouraging and inspiring, but when someone gives me that age-old advice, it sounds so demonstrative that I end up feeling like anything else I do with my life is a waste of my time. Is that just me? Because I’m not okay with it.
I’m not wasting my time if I’m not actively pursuing my dream. That mindset gave me serious anxiety throughout my first few years of college. I was so glued to the idea that every decision I made had to propel me towards a dream I was supposed to have, and it was exhausting! There was a mountain of weight on my shoulders, because I believed that I was wasting time and energy if I took any other opportunity contrary to my dream.
“Following your dreams” should be such a freeing idea, but what freed me was knowing that I could follow the opportunities and bring my passions with me.
Here’s what I mean: my dream is to become a singer. The opportunity that approached me, however, was to work in a library. So I took the job, and I took my passion for music with me. Because of that, I got to record some promo material for the library and sing at a coworker’s house show. And even though I worked at a library — a job that encourages silence over singing — I was offered some cool chances to do what I love. If you infuse your passions into your circumstances, are you neglecting your dream? No, I think you’re building it.
Dreams are thread together by our passions. That is, your dreams are likely comprised of what you’re passionate about. We’ve all got interests and talents that determine what we give our time to, and while it can be incredibly exhausting and frustrating trying to “chase the dream,” its simple and natural to make room for our passions. It just is. If you love singing, you’re going to find opportunities to sing. If you love traveling, you’re going to find a way to travel. If you love photography, you’re going to bring your camera along with you as you go.
In the same way, we carry our passions with us. We bring them wherever we go. If you’re discouraged because you don’t feel like you’re pursuing the dream that’s in your heart, know that it’s okay to take a break. Follow the opportunities that present themselves, and carry your passions with you.
words by Abbey Geverdt and photo by Ivy Hansen