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.