the struggle for the dreamer

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As a dreamer existing in a “real-based” world, I find myself constantly up against the struggle of my imagination with reality. I’ve gone from completely rejecting reality to reside inside my mind, only to find that it increased my misery and disappointment… to now, where I am super practical about making decisions. Lately I’ve been feeling pressure from people around me to be “practical” all of the time, and because their advice made logical sense, I’ve been taking it. But at the same time, I’ve also been feeling depressed and unhappy.

I thought of a conversation I had with professor/mentor. I had been telling him about one of my possible dreams/goals, and how my brother was discouraging me from it due to practical, “realistic” reasons. It’s a difficult route, and you might not be able to handle it. You have to make sure you are really ready for it. You’ll be further in debt if you do. People have a really hard time doing it, so you have to be aware of that. As I told my professor my doubts, I said to him, “My brother makes good points. He wants me to be practical about this. He wants me to make grounded decisions.”

Then my professor stared at me for a few seconds, and replied with a straight face, “Is he making you grounded, or is he cutting off your wings?

Boom. My mind was effectively blown at that.

I realized then how right my professor was. After drowning in the misery and impracticality of basking solely in my imagination when I was younger, I have been working to live successfully in reality as a dreamer. But as a result, I am venturing too far on the other extreme, and losing touch with my dreams and idealism. I’m cutting off my wings.

As important as it is for us to be practical and realistic, I would argue that it is just as important (maybe even slightly more) to dream, imagine and create. I think of people like Steve Jobs or John Lennon, or of my own personal role models, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Maya Angelou–people who never held themselves back from their dreams, especially in the wake of antagonistic pressures, and instead pressed forward with their grand visions. They painted a new reality, they expressed their true, inner selves with courage, even if practicality at the time may have judged them as “odd” or “overly idealistic.”

So this is the struggle of the dreamer. Our spirit and soul must grapple with the dealings of earthly reality, as it sits inside our physical bodies. We have to pay the bills, chug along to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. And many times our high expectations do not match reality.

Yet we must also not give up our dreams. Because consider what I have been chewing on the past few weeks: what if our dreaming tendencies are our nature? What if that is a part of who we are? What if by being wired this way, we were given a particular, valuable gift of creating and re-shifting the world as we know it? Practical souls are just as valuable, as they maintain structures and keep stability. That is their role. But that does not mean all of us have to run around being like them… if anything, we need the balance in this world. We need the dreamers to ask questions, to think outside the box, to re-imagine a better place and tenaciously shake the status quo, just as we need the practicals.

And that is why I’ve been feeling depressed and unhappy… because I’ve been denying my true nature. I’ve been stifling my voice, my inner expression. I was made to be a dreamer. Yes, we certainly need to address the realistic concerns of living in this world. Perhaps it is a matter of being able to hold both reality and our dreams.

But let’s not reduce dreaming as childish and “impractical” as people are apt to do. Dreaming feeds imagination, inspiration, hope, love, light. We may encounter many obstacles in the midst of pushing our dreams forward; but then we should ask ourselves, are our dreams worth fighting for?

I’d like to think that the good things in life are worth fighting for. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

So to my fellow dreamers: let us always stay true to our nature. Let us dream on.

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the dilemma

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Amidst the wide expanse, she tosses and turns in her mind, drums her manicured fingers on her thigh. Boundless skies, open fields that stretch beyond what the human eye can see… any normal being would run freely a muck, or stand in quiet awe. Yet instead, she chooses to turn her eyes inward to unyielding boxes and humid caves.

It is too much. Where do I start?

There is a certain comfort in limits, in the knowing, even if it embodies so much lack. You can calculate, you can expect, you can pass your days with a general prediction of daily events, even if it leaves you with a nagging, empty, hollow feeling inside. It is why so often people avoid risk and the unknown. Many may have the thirst for adventure, but lack the courage needed to engage their whims. There is something to be said to take the well-known path.

I suffer a lack of imagination.

And the suffering is all your doing, your responsibility. I suppose there is comfort in that too. You are in control when you are within your four walls, even if you are beating yourself bloody with a sack of quarters. Even if you are starving yourself dead. Yet the wounds, injuries, are all mine. I do not have to live with doubt. I am the one with the red hand. You never have to live with suspense.

Is it easier to embrace the world and its risky possibilities, or to shun it for bleak assurance?

Jumping off the ledge into unknown territory opens our lives to possibilities that our minds cannot at present fathom. But there is probability for failure and experiencing a new kind of pain. If we hold a voracious spirit, perhaps we yearn to eat up and live up to all potential. In the same hand, uncertainty can be quite a ferocious beast.

And so here we stand, contemplating.

As I ponder this, I am struck with the realization that whichever vial we take, there is some measure of poison. In the first, fear, doubt, uncertainty. In the second, emptiness, restriction, inner death. In either vial, there is always pain. From what I’ve seen, people can and have made arguments for taking one or the other.

So, dear Reader, what is your poison?

moving past realism

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Many people say in argument for pessimism that it is “realistic.” Or in other words, “I’m not pessimistic. I’m just a realist.”

In one respect, I see where people are coming from when they say this. I’ve said it before myself. Perhaps they are trying to point out the fact that real life is not like a Disney movie, that simply, shit happens. Things don’t work out sometimes (or many times). There are moments when we will be sad, mad, upset, or lonely, no matter how hard we try to deny them.

BUT. To use this argument as an all-encompassing view of how one perceives every aspect of life is, I would argue, also not realistic. That only shit happens. If you believe that, then it is either confirmation bias, or self-fulfilling prophecy hard at work in you. What we believe, we make things come true for ourselves. Or we only remember events that confirm our views, and pay no heed to contradictory information. Research heavily backs these two viable options up. The truth of the matter is though, life holds both bad and good experiences. Not everything will match or meet our expectations. But there may be occasions when it will, if we actively seek them and let them happen.

I suppose the reason why I am waxing lyrical on this subject is because for the past few months, I have been in a pessimistic mode. It was not until recently I realized how much my so-called “realistic” view was limiting me in my perception, in my writing, in every way, really. As I was working on my novel, I found the same thought sneaking its way through, “This is so not realistic. None of this would really happen. My reality attests to this. Why am I writing this?” Little did I know how that contributed to my writer’s block and kept me from seeing beyond the wall of my experiences. One of the many, many wonderful things about writing is how it yields so much freedom for the writer, to imagine the most fantastical things, to go beyond reality into the infinite spaces of what could be. With that, you can re-imagine, create, discover, open your and your readers’ minds to new ideas and perspectives. You travel to new heights, ones you would never be able to in a confining, physical reality. There is, after all, more to life than your five senses.

I broke free from my writer’s block when I realized how I was constricting myself by not allowing myself to dream past my known experiences and reality. There is more to life than what I know. I should’ve known better. But it was a valuable lesson for me. Life is not just about disappointment, pain and hurt. Although those are there and so important, and certainly needing to be attended to, there is also so much good. And the possibility for good. Such as: through my suffering, I gain my strength and resilience. Instead of re-creating the same “woe is me” story, we should instead ask ourselves, what is the story I want to have? What is holding me back from creating it?

“Reality” only holds you back when you allow it to. With the pen in our hands, we are writing the story of our lives. We always have a choice. And we have the power to lead it elsewhere, if we so chose.