Dreams are not always about the happily-ever-afters-more often than not, they’re about the chase.
Working on a feature for last Thursday’s Scene, previewing the Boston Ballet’s Cinderella, reminded me to reflect on this and on what my wishes and hopes are.
I saw the dance company’s rendition of the classic fairytale on opening night this weekend, and, again, it made me think about the importance of striving toward your dreams. At the same time, though, it made me skeptical of the significance we place on fulfilling them.
I contemplated my own life and thought about all of the goals I’ve had over the years. Most of them never became a part of my reality. For a long time, I felt guilty about that and considered my inability to actualize my dreams as quitting-as failing. I only looked at the end result, which I frequently abandoned for some reason or another, and I didn’t see what I gained just by having that end to reach.
Only now do I understand what I learned from each of the dreams I gave up on.
When I was kid, all I wanted was to be a princess-a sort of Cinderella. It never was a possibility, I know, but to a 5-year-old girl, a wish like that was something worth living for. I dressed up in glittering costumes with magic wands for more Halloweens than I can count, and I watched far too many Disney movies, hoping that one morning I’d wake up royal. Obviously, that never happened. I didn’t ever get my tiara, my castle, or my enchanted kingdom, but that stage in my life encouraged me to value the qualities that make a good princess: grace, compassion, courage, and love.
My fifth-grade self had long since moved on from that dream, and my new goal was to become an artist. I took painting and drawing lessons for a couple of years, covering my parents’ house with canvases of fruit still-lifes and sunset beach scenes. It was either around the time I ran out of wall space to display my work on or around when I was convinced I couldn’t make a career out of art, that I deserted that desire, too, in favor of a much more practical objective-I was going to be a rockstar.
Through my artistic endeavors, I became a more creative person, developing a love for beauty and fostering an innovative way of seeing and thinking about things-but in middle school, I didn’t realize that, so I focused my efforts on my musical aspirations instead. I started taking guitar lessons when I turned 14, wrote angst-y lyrics, and recorded my songs with music equipment I had spent months saving up for. I was under the impression that if I did all of these things, and wore black eyeliner, I’d inevitably become the next Avril Lavigne. Now, my guitar case and microphone are accumulating dust in a bedroom corner, and the tracks I put together are hidden on an old laptop or iPod. Although it seems like not much came from the experience, I did, at the very least, discover a passion for writing, which inspired the goal I’m after now.
Once I graduate, I’m hoping to become a journalist. Maybe that dream will come true. Maybe it won’t. What I’ve realized, however, is that either way, I’ll have become a better person just through the pursuit. The workshop classes, the internships, and the arts columns I’ve written won’t have been pointless, because no matter where I end up, I’ll be able to express myself and communicate through words.
For his Oscar acceptance speech a couple of weeks ago, Dallas Buyers Club actor Matthew McConaughey talked about how you need to have someone, a hero, to chase in life. He said, for him, that someone is himself, but a decade in the future. “I’m never gonna be my hero,” McConaughey said. “I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
I might not have become a princess, an artist, or a rockstar, and I may not become a famous writer. I may not ever become who I imagine myself as 10 years from now-my own kind of hero, by McConaughey’s definition. I may not make all of my dreams come true-but I’ll keep chasing them, learning every step of the way.