Give up on your dreams. Wait, what? I mean this in the kindest way possible. Fuck ‘em! It’s OK.
I know you’re thinking, but *my dreams* are special/unique/important. Maybe they are, but dreams are manifestations of the things we think we want across moments. Dreams are illusions. We all have dreams, idolized hallucinations of amorphous hopes (there’s nothing wrong with that). We use words like “making it” to define something beyond the pale, on the other side of the road to “it”. But sometimes the road is jagged, and rogue, and cruel, or the road is easy and effervescent and when we make “it” , the destination is not what we wanted at all.
What’s the difference between a dream and a nightmare? Context!
Dreams exist outside of mere survival, they’re about the robust ways we desire. They thrive on the want, the passion, the heart. Heartbreak is how we realize that not all dreams are prophetic, and maybe prophecies aren’t to be trusted. There is room for other dreams and other visions.
A year ago I spent my working hours in a completely different place, doing completely different work. I thought it was my life work. My friends’ father would call it my vocation. It was the thing that fueled me and kept the fire burning under my belly. It excited me, and in many ways, it was my life. And then all of that went away. All of it. And in the after, I was left wondering how something that I gave so much time to, so much energy to, gave my life to, could somehow slip through my fingers. I had to make some conclusions: conclusion 1. It was about me; Conclusion 2. it wasn’t about me. In the end it didn’t (and doesn’t) matter, there was the dream (before) and my reality (after). I stood on the other side of before, I had to wake up.
So I did what any reasonable person would do, I became an underemployed artist. No but seriously, I did that. Went on a self-described sabbatical where I wrote poems and prose and cried to my therapist, my spouse, neighbor, friends, family, that rando at the coffee shop I went to so I could leave the house. I left the house- didn’t leave the house- cried some more. I oscillated between this isn’t over and this is the end. I grieved. And then, I packed my fragile ego up and got to the hard stuff. I started defining myself outside of my work.
I took off my identity that was so tied to the idea of a place and “the work” and I actually did the labor. I volunteered and hustled. Through all this, I had to come to some other conclusion about the things that would keep me in the monies and what that *means*. While all of that was happening, a lot of intense and terrible loss piled on. My brother died, my sisters’ husband died, a few friends passed away- there is loss and there is loss and still more to lose. The reality of life- that time on this rock is short hit hard, and again, and again. So I had to make peace, and sit in the discomfort.
And then I set goals. First order of business was to find a job that would be both intellectually stimulating and paid me. I made projects that gave me joy and made new friends. Released a publication, played music, baked and baked and made jam. And as my therapist would say, I cultivated some things to stand on. Two feet on the ground, looking at the cold light of a new day in new surroundings- I pivoted.
And not everyone gets that. Not everyone can go through an existential crisis over the course of a year and come out with some quirks but a relatively unflappable sense of self, and that is really sad. That is heartbreaking. The ability to have to succeed is an injustice wrapped in so many other complications and hazards. I say this as someone with immense privilege, I was terrified about what was going to happen, the failure of giving up. And in the after, I sometimes say I’m lucky. Other times I say I have great survival skills developed over the years. But most importantly I had help. Lots and lots of help- from my parents, and my spouse, and of course my girl Joanna, and anyone who listened to me freak out for weeks and months (Thank you for making space for my feelings! I’m not always the best at making the space.).
There were literal moments of self-doubt, and metaphorical ones. There were awkward “so what do you do” introductions where I’d hem and haw and mutter under my breath. There were tears, real adult tears, and lots of sad girl music and a strange amount of John Mayer (if you’re judging me about the John Mayer, I don’t want to know you), and that weird country music phase…
But truthfully, if I didn’t let go, I don’t know if I’d be on the other side of this smiling while eating these croissants I made.
I think about how important it is for all of us to just let shit go. Sometimes fighting the good fight for something isn’t going to make the difference. I’m not talking about your right to exist in the world, or fighting for equity on an issue that’s important to you. I’m talking about letting go of the expectation that you need to be somewhere now. You need to be something now, that you need validation from some person, or deity, or that you have to have some higher purpose right this minute. Being regular can be fine(trust me I now bake things on Instagram and use boomerangs unironically). Sometimes, just sometimes, the win is in losing.
So give up on your dreams- if they don’t fit, if they’re causing you harm, if you’re not ready. I say this as someone whose writing two whole ass books, creating a podcast, and applying to graduate school (again). Go do something else- pick up a sport, start cataloging rocks you find on the street, join a cult. Whatever you decide to do, know that if it doesn’t work out, you tried. If it’s not perfect, maybe it’s delicious. And if no one else likes it, maybe you do. And that’s enough.