2 ways to find your dream amidst life's chaos
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about my husband's and my choice to take some risks and follow our dreams. A couple of my commenters (both Kiwi's...coincidence?) were interested in my thoughts on identifying a dream, and I had too much to say to fit into the comments.
Some people (the lucky or unlucky few, depending on your perspective) just know what they are going to do with their time on earth. I doubt they're actually born with it, but it sure seems like it. These are the kids who know they want to be astronauts when they're 5, structure their high school experience so they have a good chance of getting into the Air Force Academy, get in, go through, get all the extra training they need, and eventually pilot a space shuttle to the moon. It's like something grabs ahold of them and never lets them go.
Most of us don't experience that. I know I didn't. I have done so much mucking around trying to figure out what I was actually good at and what I actually like doing. I've worked three "real jobs," all very different. I have a BA and an MA, in very different fields. If you ask me what I want to learn in life, I'll give you a list ranging from obscure and difficult languages (Euskera and Arabic) to sailing to learning to playing a stringed instrument (violin or cello top the list). Clearly, I am not a naturally focused person, at least as far as my vocation goes. However, now that I'm at least a little more focused, I've discovered that the two things I want to focus my life on are things that have been central to me since childhood: writing and relationships.
So the first word that I have for people looking for their dream is this: what have you loved since childhood? Even if you haven't done it in years, this can point you to your dream.
When we're young, we edit ourselves a lot less, so often the things we loved then are the things we still love but have forgotten about, or talked ourselves out of.
What saves you?
When I'm down, there are certain things that almost always lift me up. They don't always make the whole situation better, but they do make it all more manageable and help me know what I want or need to do next. These are things that I seem to do naturally. I don't have to sit around and think, "Wow, things are hard right now. What can I do that would make them better?" They are things I just do, because they're truly part of me.
One of these things is writing. Another is talking deeply with my close friends and family. Do you see the pattern? When I looked at my childhood, I saw that writing and relationships were the things I loved then. When I look at the things that help get me out of a hole, they're the same two things.
When we're down, particularly when we're really hurting or have suffered a serious loss, we tend to crawl to the things that mean the most to us, no matter what they are. Even if they are things that we haven't done since childhood, or things we aren't aware of loving, we go to them and do them when we hurt. Sometimes, this doesn't work. We've all seen people go into destructive spirals when bad things start to happen in life. Clearly, getting drunk and passing out are not dreams. But when we're aware of the pain and trying to care for ourselves in it, the things we do will often pinpoint where our dreams and desires really are, because they are the things that truly fulfill us.
What comes next?
In themselves, writing and relationships are not productive dreams. They are not going to be things that I can focus myself on unless I can find a way to make them productive (specifically, financially productive), or unless I can find other, easy ways to make money that will allow me to focus on my dreams. Pathetically practical? Maybe. But also realistic. Whether I like it or not, my rent must be paid.
Thus, my next article in this wandering series on dreams will cover how to take what you love to the this level.