Life started out with great, big dreams…
When I was a teenager, I dreamt of being an anchor person for the Today Show. A small-town girl, I longed to live in New York City: a place full of nightlife, action and the endless possibility of being “discovered” and made instantly famous.
That dream came to a halt my freshman year in college when I worked at my college TV station. I found myself surrounded by cranky, stressed-out people who agonized to produce a newscast every night at six, only to have to do it again, and again, and again…a never ending production cycle that clearly left my colleagues burned out and bitter. That didn’t look like a fun life.
I switched my dreams from anchoring the Today show to editing one of the major lifestyle magazines I’d read on my childhood coffee table…maybe Women’s Day, or Family Circle, or Good Housekeeping, or Seventeen. That idea led me through the rest of college, and to a summer internship in New York City, where I found myself living my dream: I was in a big city; pursing something I thought would fulfill me; living a life beyond the confines of my small town…and I was shocked to discover, I was horribly, awfully lonely.
I was surrounded by a city of over 8 million people, and I knew no one; my summer roommates had exceptionally bad moral standards; and instead of feeling like I was constantly on the edge of being “discovered” I felt entirely unimportant, unvalued and unseen. Virtually no one made eye contact with me without a dirty look, for an entire summer. That wasn’t a fun life.
So I threw away those dreams, and embraced a new one…
With TV anchoring, living in New York, and working on a major magazine off the list…I decided to pursue quieter things like wilderness and exploration. I aligned my hopes and dreams with those of my boyfriend (now husband) who dreamt of exploring the Great American West.
We found ourselves living in Yosemite Valley for a summer that amazingly extended into three years…and then spent 19 more years in a town just outside the National Park. We owned a business, worked on our own terms (often odd hours, and really, all of the time), and again…we were living our dream.
Our company printed hundreds of thousands of prints and exhibitions for some of the best photographers of our time. Our prints were distributed in The White House, hung in The Smithsonian and many state capitals, and were regarded as being amongst the best in the world. It was a lifestyle that left us, and our staff, stretched thin. It was invigorating and exciting, and increasingly exhausting. In the end, it left us realizing that somehow the fun life we’d pursued had changed into something unrecognizable. We had to let go.
When your dreams fall apart, or aren’t what you imagined…It’s hard to let go.
When the relationships you imagined, turn out to be something altogether different than your heart’s desire…it’s hard to know how to continue.
When you imagine your life going a certain way, by a certain time, and you look up and are living the exact opposite life you envisioned…it’s hard not to despair.
It either makes you give up on dreaming, or it makes you change your idea of dreams.
And that’s what I’ve been working on, these past few years: Changing my concept of dreams. I found myself pondering things like:
What if life is a series of dreams, instead of one great, big, make-it-or-break-it dream?
What if we allow those dreams to be simple steps forward in a hopeful direction?
What if, instead of putting all of our hopes and dreams in the end result, we embrace each hope and inspiration, one at a time and treasure it like that first morning cup of coffee, cradled warmly in our hand?
Can we allow the destination to be something beyond our control?
Can we allow the dream to change along the way, without stamping “failure” on the experience when it doesn’t lead where we hoped it would?
What if my dreams weren’t about my own ambitions, but were focused on who I wanted to be, in my heart…how I wanted to live, in my attitude…how I showed love, in my actions?
What if dreams weren’t anchored in the hallmarks of success…fame, and money, and a big house with a new car…but in being encouragement to other people; offering hope, and truth, and light in a world that is increasingly troubled?
What if I laid down my expectations for life, and other people, and just said…enough already. I’m not okay, you’re not okay…let’s just have some coffee and hang out and laugh in this insanity that is life?
What if I truly allowed God to change my dreams into His dreams for my life, one decision at a time, and decided to be okay with my life being rewritten into something new?
I’ll tell you a few things that happen, when you begin to dream into life this way:
– God begins to rewrite your life for the better. You find yourself doing things you never expected to do, helping people you never envisioned, and feeling surprisingly fulfilled.
– Relationships evolve, becoming richer and deeper as life moves to a more meaningful level.
– The million details of daily life become more profound, as you become more aware of all God is weaving together in your life, and in lives around you, even in the brokenness (and often because of the brokenness).
– Your spirit moves more freely; more peacefully and more hopefully as you anchor your idea of success to simply living each day as best as you can.
– You find yourself really, truly beginning to embrace the life you have, by intentionally filling it with the things that matter.
– You let go of the end-result, and allow the current of life to shift and change your dreams into something new, yet once again.