Wednesday, May 26, 2021

On Following Dreams

I have recently seen a few people post a question on social media: "What would your career be today, if you had followed your childhood dream?"

If I'm being honest, or if we're really talking childhood, when I was seven, I wanted to be a construction worker. I dug the utility toolbelts, I think. Other than that, I find this question a symptom of an unhealthy paradigm. 

I have followed all of the things that I have loved since my youth and I have never stopped. It was always about stories and music for me. Did I dream about being a high school English teacher and writing a blog? No. Did I dream about playing drums in bars? No. Did I dream about writing music for music libraries? No. 

My dreams were more lofty. I wanted to be Sting or John Williams. I wanted to be the next Tolkien. So far, it hasn't happened. But, "so far" is the key phrase. Between you and me, I don't think any of these things will happen, but I can say "so far," because...I followed my childhood dreams and I still do. Could I still get that call from Spielberg? Probably not, but if my chances are 0% if I don't keep writing and releasing music, they are at least .00001% if I do. 

I'm not sure when it happens to people; when they put aside the things that bring them joy and replace them with what they think will bring them maturity. It's probably because of all the well-meaning types trying to convince them that there are easier ways to make a living -- more secure fields; more reliably lucrative fields. Comfort is a real temptation. 

But there is also this: Would I be a traitor to my dreams if I had decided to be a lawyer who writes music and prose on the side? I think you can argue two things: I'd still be "following my childhood dreams" and I'd also probably have a much nicer studio. 

As usual, the question is an oversimplification. What does it mean to have "followed your childhood dreams"? It means a million things. But let's not ridicule those dreams by pretending the best thing we could have done was to have moved on from them and let's not drown them in the tears of nostalgia and lamentation for our lost youthful energy.  

It's always been important that little me be proud of big me. I once saw a picture of myself as a toddler and the only thing I could think was: "Did I let that little guy down, or would he be proud." I think he'd know I did the best I could, at least. 


  1. Embedded here is an important point: It doesn't matter that much if you achieved those dreams (or the fame and fortune we imagine as adolescents) if you're still excited about the creativity and interests that led to those dreams in the first place.

    In my late teens, I dreamed of drawing and publishing my own independent comic books, publishing a syndicated comic strip, and maybe writing science fiction and fantasy novels. I didn't dream of researching and writing about hundreds of historical subjects for a government agency while writing nonfiction books and a smattering of poetry on the side. But now that I'm pushing 50, I'm (hopefully) smart enough to see that what I'm doing is a richer, deeper version of those shallow teenage dreams. And like you, I'm not done yet...

  2. Absolutely. My wife and I kind of follow a motto: "Plan but don't predict." Predicting leads to disappointment every time... But there is a ton of joy in jus tknowing someting could "happen," even if it never does.

  3. I like how in some way or form the things that you Love to do at heart are still apart of you and even thought you might not be doing it at the absolute highest level you are still keeping them as hobbies because it’s things you enjoy doing. I have fallen down a “rabbit hole” 😉 of reading these blogs but they are very good and informative!
    - an 8th period student

    1. So cool that you are reading! And I am glad they mean something to you. But pace yourself...a lot of stuff here have a paper to do! Haha.