“Follow your dreams.” It’s such an icky, cheesy phrase…right? It only feels that way because of what the phrase entails: Following. Your. Dreams. The visions you had for your life, the goals that were acceptable during adolescence are the proverbial carrot on a stick being dangled in front of your hungry eyes. Following your dreams means pursuing these visions and goals that others may not understand and being ok with that. Will you follow the carrot? Will you follow the carrot and reach for it? Will you follow the carrot, reach for it, and take it?
Recently I made the decisions to follow my dreams wholeheartedly. I learned a few things along the way:
1. People will question your sanity.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” or “But what do you really want to do?” are questions that I’ve encountered more often than I’d like. Yes, I am sure that I want to make an attempt at being ridiculously happy while doing what I love. I’m not saying it won’t be hard or that I won’t hate it sometimes. I really want to do what I’m passionate about. People think they’re being helpful when they ask questions like that, as if we haven’t asked ourselves those questions a million times before. Well, I have one for them: Do you really want to be an ass and ask me a bunch of unnecessary questions?
2. Anxiety? Fear? Doubt? Yup, I got all of that.
Theodore Roosevelt knew what he was talking about when he said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” Following your dreams means putting the truest version of yourself out there. With that comes a great many emotions and more questions, “What if I fail?”, “What if I’m not any good?” “What if I find out this isn’t actually what I want to do?” Admittedly, those are all fair questions. They’re questions I’ve asked myself until the best question came to me: What if I succeed?
3. Tell everyone who will listen what you’re doing.
This was probably the hardest thing for me to do. I had to tell people about my writing? Couldn’t I just write and hope they’d find out on their own? No? Ok. I chose to tell anyone and everyone about my decision not because I was proud or because I was excited. I told people because the more people who knew, the more likely I’d be to actually go through with it instead of saying “When I grow up…” well into my forties. I don’t like feeing embarrassed or awkward and that’s how I would feel if I decided to quit and I had a gaggle of people ask me, “How’s the writing going?” I am fueled partly by passion and partly by the fear of embarrassment.
4. You may need to keep your day job to finance those dreams you’re following.
At first I thought I was only truly pursuing my passion if I threw up my hands, said “peace out” to my boss, and committed all my time turning my dream into a reality. Maybe that’s how it goes down in the movies but in the real world rent, bills, and responsibility don’t take care of themselves. Not so glamorous, right? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with working a job that doesn’t have anything to do with your passion in order to be able to do what you love. I love writing but I LOVE having a place to live even more.
5. Free time? What’s that?
Starting any new venture requires an insane amount of time. You’ll find yourself spending every waking minute working towards this goal you’ve committed yourself to. Sometimes this means saying “no” to hanging out and deciding against another episode of Game of Thrones. This is especially true for those of us who work day jobs while putting in #werk at night. Sacrifices must be made because for most of us, success isn’t handed to us on a silver platter. Sleep? Maybe sometime next year.
6. Social media is your friend.
Truth Time: I was not a fan of social media before I decided to take my leap of faith. I had a private Instagram account and that’s it. I didn’t understand Twitter and any mention of Facebook made me roll my eyes. When I made the decision to take this dream thing public and accept the title of *gulp* writer, I knew that I had to seriously put myself out there, social media and all. At first, it was a chore until I learned the wonder of the hashtag. Hashtags brought me likes, hearts, favorites. These public declarations of support turned into followers, followers that I wasn’t related to, followers that I wasn’t actual friends with. These new followers directed messages of encouragement to me and asked their own followers to check me out (thank the social media gods for #followfriday). I found myself in a community of writers. There was no competition…there was respect and genuine well-wishes. Social media, man. Get on board.
7. Surround yourself with honest people.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore those people in my life that think everything I write is gold and shower me with praise. It really helps my bruised ego after receiving a rejection letter. However, what I need more than that are people who would tell me when a piece of mine stinks…nicely, of course. These kinds of people help make you better and more often than not, they keep you from embarrassing yourself.
8. There will be people who don’t like what you do.
And they like to make sure you know it. There are honest people and then there are trolls. You will come across people who are opposed enough about what you’re doing that they will vocalize it. Sometimes, their opinions are harsh but can be learned from. Don’t be too proud to think there isn’t room for improvement! Other times, people will say mean things just to get a reaction. While it’s easier said than done, don’t let these people get to you. Separate the constructive comments from the mean-spirited ones and move on.
9. Be your biggest fan.
Yes, it helps to have a strong foundation of people who support you and encourage you but they won’t do any good if you don’t believe in yourself first. Give yourself pep talks when needed, remind yourself of how good you are. At a moment when I was feeling super awesome about my decision, I wrote myself a letter to be read in times when I really needed encouragement. Write yourself an “In Case of Emergency” letter like I did! It may be sound cheesy, but hey, you’re “following your dreams”, how much cheesier can it get?