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!