These Dreams

As young children, we have our first dreams about what we want our life to be.  We dream of being princesses, fire fighters, and any number of famous kinds of people.  It’s the beginning of the process of discovering and defining who we are.  Some of these dreams come true, but most are childish and unrealistic.  I encouraged my kids, but I never told them they could be successful at everything they wanted to be.   I don’t believe that.  We have our gifts.  And it’s important to nurture your child’s gifts.

My earliest dream for myself was to be a professional artist.  I took art classes.  I set up a make shift studio in a utility closet at home.  I entered and won contests.  I idolized Leonardo Da Vinci and read books about him.  I even dressed like Leo for an event at school.  And I was a pretty good little artist.

Then came music, and I developed a new dream:  to become a professional musician.  I wanted to be an educator and an opera singer.  The problem was, that although I developed into a good singer with a modicum of talent, I was never good enough to be a professional.  It took me many years to accept that even though others around me already knew it.  But I did become an educator after all and I love it.

Then I got into writing.  I dreamed of becoming a professional fiction writer.  Just like art and singing, I loved doing it.  And some people liked reading it.  But it’s not going to happen, and I accept that…not without a lot of formal training which I know I’m never going to get.

What do you do when you realize that your dreams aren’t going to come true?  This is a really important question that applies to just about everyone.  The first most important point is when the truth is revealed that a dream isn’t going to be realized do we accept it or not?  I believe in fighting for dreams.  I believe into striving and giving it a shot, but at some point a person will either succeed or not.

We all know someone who hasn’t accepted the fact that it’s just never going to happen.  We know that person…I’ve been that person…who has some talent, but just not enough.  And it’s sad to see someone we care about kid themselves about their dreams.  But what do you do?  Do you say something?  Probably not.  This is something one has to discover on one’s own.

The second point is, what do you do when you’ve accepted that it’s just not going to happen?  I don’t believe in giving up on something I love.  Not everyone has to be a professional.  In fact, most will not be.  Amateur is a noble status.  Amateurs are people who practice their art because they simply love doing it.  I’m an amateur tuba player, writing, singer, actor, and artist.  I love all of that.  I no longer need or yearn to be a professional.  It’s not sad to me.  I realize I’m only talking about career dreams, but isn’t that what many people mean when they ask about dreams?

Third, for me this is where faith comes in.  I believe in the prayer Thy Will Be Done.  I believe that there is a force in the Universe which has a will which is far greater and wiser than my own.  I believe that if I’m willing to surrender my own dreams for myself in exchange for God’s dreams for me, that I will be at my happiest.  God gave me dreams which are being realized in very satisfying ways.

God gave me a family.  God gave me fatherhood and marriage and a home.  It’s a dream that I never really held for myself, but now that I’m living it I wouldn’t trade it for any of that other stuff.

God gave me a choir.  This is where my dream and God’s dream synced up.  God gave me the tools.  God gave me the dream.  Of all of the things I know how to do, choir directing seems to come the easiest and I’m pretty good at it.  I worked hard to get good at it, but it never felt like work.  It was never a struggle.

I admire people who sacrifice and struggle and strive to achieve their goals.  The world needs them.  The world needs the people who are willing to fail 100 times before they succeed.   So how do you know if you’re one of those people?  I don’t know.

On the one hand, I have this memory.  It was my first clue that I would never be a pro singer.  I was in college and lying awake one night.  I was thinking of the other students who were being courted by grad schools and who were being chosen for important solo positions, who were being encouraged to reach for the stars.  I was not one of those people.  No one had ever told me that I would be a pro.  So did that mean I shouldn’t continue to trying?

On the other hand, one of my friends was an average musician who was striving every day since he was 15 to be a composer.  I didn’t see it in him.  But now he is a very successful composer.  Should he have given up?  Apparently not!

So did he know?  Did he have doubts like I did?  I don’t know.  Only he could have known whether to continue to work at it.

But I knew.  I knew because when God’s dreams came true for me I was happy.   Striving to achieve other dreams never made me happy.  I enjoy them so much more than that. I’m not trying to be something I’m not.

A final thought.  There are some dreams that are achievable, but does that mean you should do it?  There are some sacrifices worth making.  But not all sacrifices are worth making.  Family is not negotiable to me.  If I’d had the chops but it meant not having or caring for a family, I just don’t think I would go for it.  Then it’s a choice.  How much is it worth?  Some dreams are childish.  Some dreams are selfish.

This is not a pity party.  Oh, poor David gave up on his dreams.  I’m sorry, but I don’t see it that way at all.  I’m a very successful software engineer.  Something I never imagined being.  It makes me a good provider, which is something I did dream of being.  I help a group of people to sing together for the glory of God in a way that helps other people worship.  I feed and love my family every day.  I’m happy.  I’m grateful.  I’m accepting of who I am.  This is not a tragic story.  This is a success story.  Dream on that!

First Day Satins

The first day of school is a huge event in a child’s life.  It’s a new start.  Will my best friend be in my class?  Will my school crush be in my class? Is this the year I will finally become popular?  Is this the year I won’t get any spankings?  And it’s also the time for new clothes if you’re privileged enough.

It’s not that I didn’t get new clothes.  I generally got a new pair of sneakers.  New socks.  New underwear.  The kind of Blue jeans that were so blue and stiff and long that when you were old enough to care you begged your mom to wash a dozen times before you had to wear them.  But most of my clothes were hand-me-downs.  Not just any hand-me-downs: the hand-me-downs of the two most popular brothers in town.  We could count on Polo and Izod and OP and whatever else was cool at the time.  Because of this, my twin and I dressed pretty well for poor preacher’s sons, and we always got the clothes in time for the first day.  Like most kids we already had our clothes picked out before the first day.  And I never had to worry if my clothes were cool because I got them from the cool kids.

In my second or third grade year (I’m not sure) I laid out all of my new hand-me-downs on the bed and made some very careful considerations.  I could go the safe route with a polo and some white tennis shorts, or I could take a riskier route.  The thing is, I knew I would be taking a chance with the other option because I had a queasy feeling about it, but I was feeling particularly devil may care and so I went for it.

The outfit that I chose was a red and white satin track suit.  Red satin track shorts with white trim. and a white satin tank top with a red stripe down the front.  This of course went with white knee socks and my knew Nike shoes.  I like the way they felt; soft and silky.  Perhaps that should have been a red flag, but I knew that they were cool or had been because of the last kid to wear them so I put my concerns away and chose them.

On the morning of the first day, no one said a word. No Paul, not my dad.  Oh, perhaps my mom said, “Well, David, that’s an interesting outfit,” but that was before I knew that when my mom said “interesting” she often meant that maybe it wasn’t the best choice; however, she always let knew choose my own clothes by then.  Besides, I was too busy being proud of my uber-stylish new-old clothes to notice.  Before leaving, my mother snapped a shot of us in our new-old outfits and the lunch boxes from the previous year.

We walked to school, which was about six blocks away.  This gave me time to really adjust to the idea that I was really going to wear this.  I was really going to walk into the school with nothing by satin.  I held my head high when I walked to my class, and I was pleased to see that my best friend was in my class.

At some point, my teacher needed a volunteer to run an errand and I was the lucky one.  Running an errand was generally reserved for only the very trusted members of the class and I counted myself one of them even though it was the first day. I set out for the destination.  While I was walking across a breezeway to wherever I was supposed to be going, I encountered another kid in my grade:  Todd.

Second/Third grade boys have been taught manners, but they don’t use them on each other at all.  And they certainly have no tact.  He stopped me as if to say, “Let’s have a little chat,”  and said, “No offense, but those are girls’ clothes.”

Despite being blunt, he said it in such a friendly way.  He was not being rude, nor was he making fun of me.  I looked down at my clothes and I immediately saw what he meant.  On some level, I already knew.  I knew by my stomach ache which happened when I was anxious about something.   I didn’t argue with him about it, and I made up my mind never to wear them again.  In fact, I wished I could have gone home right then and changed.

Todd immediately became my friend after that.  In my own little 2nd/3rd grade little boy way, I really appreciated him.  He saved me some future grief.  It was a kindness.

At some point after that, I realized something about those clothes.  I worked it out on my own.  How could such a cool kid wear girl clothes?  How could such a cool kid wear clothes that were so uncool?  The truth was that they were cool because he wore them.  He could pull them off, and I could not; plain and simple.

p.s. My mother has the picture of me in this outfit before leaving for school.  The one and only time I ever wore it.  I will post it as soon as she sends it to me.


Return to Complications

It’s been a long time since I’ve written My Wife Says I’m Complicated.  My schedule hasn’t allowed it until now.  I’ll start with a grab bag.  Go!

Writing Mood

Me not writing isn’t totally about time, though; it’s about mood.  If you are a regular reader, you know that I have Bipolar Affective Disorder.  The last time I wrote a lot, my mood wasn’t totally level.  I was a teency bit manic.  When that happens, look out!  I will write up a storm.  Ideas come quick and plentiful.  I might write as many as three or four posts in a day.  I’m funnier, edgier, impulsive, more emotional, and pushing the bounds of appropriateness.  All of these makes really interesting blogging, at least I think it does.  After my most recent medication adjustment, my mood leveled out and some of that went away.  I’m calm, thoughtful, even-tempered, and generally lacking in creativity.  That’s why this post is so hard for me.  I’m too damn normal!

Avant Garde MRI

I’ve been having shoulder problems for the last couple of years, and it’s made it painful to swim.  Swimming is my primary exercise.  After putting it off for a couple of years, I finally went in to see an orthopedist who sent me to get an arthrogram MRI.  I’d never had an MRI and I was EXTREMELY anxious about it.  They offered a sedative, but I didn’t want anything in my body that could intoxicate me, so I decided to tough it out.  Before sliding me into the machine, they asked me if I wanted any music.   I said that I would like classical music and that they could find it on 90.1.   I knew that was a risk.  Many people think that all classical music is beautiful chamber music that is relaxing.  But I should know better.  What I was hoping for was some Bach or Dvorak or Mendelssohn.  But what I got was the music of someone being tortured and murdered and buried.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I like modern classical music.  I like the dissonance and erratic rhythm and atonality.  But it was the last thing I wanted while being stuffed and confined in a big metal box being banged on with what I could only imagine were the pick axes of angry, subterranean dwarves.

Civil Rights

Ugh!!!  I can’t write about this without getting people into trouble.   Let’s just say that I never thought I’d personally have to stand up for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.   I stood my ground and justice prevailed.  End of story?  I’d be happy to share the saga offline. You’ll be shocked.

Super Cantata

As fall approaches, I’ve begun teaching my choir this year’s Christmas cantata.  This year, to save money, I didn’t buy a new cantata.  I took bits of the last six cantatas and built a super cantata.  SUPER CANTATA.  I scribbled down an outline of the Christmas story from various Gospels on a sheet of paper and spent several days filling it in with the pieces of the previous cantatas to tell the whole story.  This required choosing pieces which work together cohesively with varying tempos, keys, styles and with a compelling musical and story arc.  None of the cantatas by themselves tell as complete a story, so this is something unique.  We’re calling it “God With Us” and it will be performed December 17th at Goodrich Memorial United Methodist Church.  It’s a funny thing to think so much about Christmas while it’s still August, but choir directors around the world are doing just that.

Hummingbird Addicts

One of the wonderful parts of life in our new house is having a wonderful back porch with a garden and lots of stuff for birds.  There’s a regular seed bird feeder and a water fountain and a hummingbird feeder.

I really enjoy sitting out on the porch listening to an audio book, sipping a La Croix, and watching the birds come to our garden.  I’ve seen a goldfinch, a dove, and may other birds I cannot name, but the most frequent visitors are the hummingbirds.  As far as I can tell there are three hummingbirds who visit.  One of them does its best to keep the other two away, but they always find a way to sneak in a few sips.  And these birds are constantly dipping their long narrow beaks into the little plastic flowers where the sugar water pools.

It’s constant!  These birds will suck that feeder dry into just a few days.  Now, I’ve never fed hummingbirds before, but how can that be good for them?!  It’s nothing but sugar water! So I did what any grown adult would do when they’re worried about something that they know nothing about; I grumbled to my wife.

“Honey, did you feed the hummingbirds?” she would say, pleasantly.

“Well, I guess I will, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to get diabetes,” I would grumble.

Etc. until she said something like “I’m getting sick of your grumbling.  Just look it up.”

So I looked it up.  Sugar water is essentially the same as the nectar they live off of in the wild.  It doesn’t hurt them.  So I refilled and went back to watching them on the porch.  Greedy, little buggers.

Ok, well that’s a good start to my return to blogging.  I’m sure I’ll come up with something interesting to share soon enough.