KEEPING YOUR DREAM ALIVE
I asked a group of teenagers a couple months ago what their dreams were. What did they aspire to be one day? One young man raised his hand and shared his dream of getting accepted into a great science and tech high school and entering college as an Electrical Engineering major. No other hand went up after that. And it wasn’t that the rest of the teens were unwilling to share, or they felt uncomfortable about answering the question; over the course of the past year we spent together, they dealt with much harder questions. Then I received a comment that shocked me to my core. Why bother dreaming. They don’t come true anyway.
When did young adults stop dreaming? What changed so drastically in our world that these amazing young people no longer dreamed of tomorrow? As I stared at the fourteen young teens completely tongue tied, one thought raced through my mind. What an incredible loss to mankind if we have raised a generation who sees no value in reaching for the stars.
This question began to haunt me, even kept me up at night. But two amazing events this summer eased my mind a little: watching the best athletes around the world compete in the 2012 Olympics in London; and knowing that the new rover, Curiosity, landed completely intact on the surface of Mars.
Each member of these two groups, as different as they are to each other, had one common element, one central theme. They learned very early in life how to dream.
But how did they keep that dream alive? What motivated them? What kept them in the fight? What pushed them to challenge themselves day after day, brutal fall after brutal fall?
In order to answer the question, I have invited guests from different walks of life, different ages, different backgrounds, to share their dreams with us. Dreams come in different shapes and sizes. No one dream fits everyone. But what is so incredible about working toward your dream is what you learn about yourself along the way.
To start off my series on Keeping Your Dreams Alive, I have decided to make myself answer the questions I’ve asked others to answer. So here goes.
People of all ages have forgotten how to dream. What inspired you to dream?
I learned how to dream as a young child. My parents taught us that there was nothing we couldn’t do if we put our whole heart and mind into something. I believed them. My earliest dream was when I was about six-years old. I watched my first ballet performance on the Lawrence Welk show and I all I talked about was become a ballerina. My mom enrolled me in dance class. As you might have guessed, that dream didn’t come true. But it didn’t keep me from dreaming. I have had several dreams over the years, but the one that nagged me until I did something about it was writing my first novel. I think some dreams just refuse to be ignored and haunt you until you do something about them.
We all place obstacles in our path which brings our dreams to a dead stop. I call these obstacles dream killers. What was your dream killer and how did you overcome it?
My biggest dream killer with my writing is what I call my doubt monster. It’s that horrid voice in my head that tells me that I’m not good enough. I know that if I don’t have faith in myself, how can I expect others to have faith in me? So, I yell at it daily, hourly to just shush it up. I push the doubt down and focus. I make myself write, keep my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keys. If a scene isn’t working, I sit there until it reads the way I think it should. Of course, my sweet mom, [my angel] is sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear that I can do it!
How do you keep the dream alive under extreme adversity – external or internal?
This is a hard question. I deal with external and internal adversity every day of my life. As most people know, I use a wheelchair. I was in a terrible car accident at the age of twenty and was thrown from the vehicle breaking my back and severing my spine at the waist. But becoming a paraplegic didn’t stop me or stop me from dreaming. Life comes with obstacles. I guess that experience taught me how to place problems in prospective. They are only as big as I allow them to be. I push up a lot of hills. Adversity is just another hill. Once I make it to the top, I get to coast downhill.
When you reached the top, how did it feel?
My first response to this question was I haven’t made it to the top yet. But then I took a moment to define my dream and what making it to the top really meant to me. When I began to write, I never believed that I had it in me to write a book. I have such a deep respect for writers that I never in a million years believed I could be one of them. But here I am, working on my third novel. So how did it feel when I finished my first novel, then the next? If I could, I would have danced on the ceiling.
How did realizing your dream change you?
I would love to say that my dream of finishing my first novel changed me in some profound way. But honestly, while my daily life has changed, [I sit in front of my laptop for hours on end] I’m the same Nancy I have always been. Becoming a writer didn’t get rid of the horrid laundry, house work, cooking like I had hoped. But seriously, finishing my first novel did give me an incredible sense of personal achievement. Typing THE END on the second book in the series ended any doubt that I had that I might be a one-book- wonder.
What's next? What new dream would you like to reach for?
My next dream is to publish my series so the world can read them. While that process is underway, I’m working on my third book. I don’t think I will ever stop reaching for that thing that’s just out of my reach. And what I learn about myself while working for my dreams is almost better than achieving the dream. Try it! See what I’m talking about.
I want to thank everyone for stopping by. I hope this dream series will inspire you to reach for something you believe is just beyond your grasp. If you would like to share your dream, I would love to hear about it. And come back next week to meet my first amazing guest, Dr. Joy A. Crisp, Mars Science Laboratory Deputy Project Scientist. She is going to share her dream of exploring Mars!