“You know what I was thinking?” my 14 year old sister said to me last night while we were watching White Christmas, “One day, I’m going to be on Broadway, and then, I can totally get you a job!”
Any normal person probably would have said, “That is so sweet!” but all I could manage to do was get defensive and say, “What makes you think I won’t get there first?!”
Obviously she didn’t mean for this to be anything other than a kind gesture. She was genuinely dreaming up a scenario in which we could work together on Broadway one day. One where we were performing on stage together like Judy and Betty Haynes do in White Christmas.
I think the reason that I got defensive is because I’ve become too realistic about my dreams. I’m studying to be a teacher and I am passionate about that, but to be honest, if I knew that I wouldn’t go broke, I wouldn’t be a teacher. I would be out there auditioning for shows and traveling the world and writing children’s books and 500 other things that I have dreamt up over the years. Who wouldn’t?
So when my sister, who is six years younger than me, insinuated that she would be doing something that she loved while I was in the classroom wondering if I missed any opportunities, it worried me.
Why wasn’t I following my dreams?
I know exactly why. Because every time I tell someone that I am studying theatre, they say something snide about waitressing for the rest of my life. When I get upset over an audition or a cast list, my friends constantly remind me that “it’s not my life.” or “You’re going to make something of yourself teaching while they all struggle.” Or my personal favorite: “Your goals are so much more realistic.”
At twenty, it seems like everyone around me knows what they want to do. Meanwhile, I’ve got a theatre resume longer than my actual resume which really only includes waitressing jobs and internships at preschools. And these other people, they have these dreams and they make them work to fit that standard of ‘just interesting enough’ to want to do it every day, but ‘just normal enough’ that no one will question their choices. But how do you make something that society has deemed “unrealistic” into something worth following?
Everyone is so hellbent on being “realistic” these days that it feels like you can’t dream or tell other people to follow their dreams without being told that you’re being naive. That you’re talking nonsense. “How do you not understand that not everyone can have what they want, that the world isn’t fair?”
But here’s the thing about dreaming: we have to do it to survive. If we didn’t have something to dream about, why do we go to bed every night? Hell, why do we get out of bed in the morning? That’s not to say that we all have to share the one same dream, or even that we’re each only allowed one dream and one dream alone. I’m just saying that we have to have something to look forward to, right? And dreams change as your situation changes. They don’t all have to be far-fetched. A woman’s dream of being a chef may have changed to a dream about a great life for her child. A high school student might realize that their dream of going to Harvard is really just a dream about getting a college degree.
I’m not naive: I know that some people have a hard time being able to follow their dream. I know a lot of people never reach their goals. Some people dream about getting a job so they can put food on the table. But at least it’s a dream; at least it’s something.
So the next time someone tells you that you’re being unrealistic, tell them they’re being cynical, or that you don’t care, and do it anyway. Who are they that they get to tell you that you’re reaching too far? The “baby boomers” are always telling us that we’re lazy, we don’t work as hard as they did. Besides there being a lot of things wrong with that statement, they’ve got a point. We’ve been programmed to create, but we are also programmed to survive and cover our own asses in case the economy tanks or World War III happens. Somewhere in the mix, we decided that creating was only creating as long as it comes at a profit. Being “rational” and “realistic” is making us lazy. Worse than that: it is making us complacent, and I think it is time people started doing something about it.
It took a freshman in high school to remind me that everyone has something to dream about. But honestly, if you forget your dreams, how can you remember yourself?