In the recent HuffPo article “Overrated: Following Your Dreams”, Christine Egan writes that the key to a contented existence is to NOT follow your dreams and that doing so “will only lead to wasted years and immeasurable heartache.”
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that. I’m not saying it’s wrong – or right – I’m just…intrigued.
Obviously, there’s a big “follow your dreams” theme here on Beyond the Gray, and it just so happens that Egan’s take on the matter differs from mine. That said, it doesn’t mean the notion isn’t worth considering.
When I first read this article, which says things like – “You will never be President of the United States. However, you can email his office to request a tour of his nice white house. You will never be Tina Fey, either — but you can audition for as many community theater productions as you like.” – I thought it was incredibly cynical and dismissed it. After all, if Tina Fey had believed that she would never be Tina Fey…well, I can’t bear to think about life without 30 Rock and all those Sarah Palin skits. But then I retrieved the article from Deleted Items and read it again. This time I thought about my writing dream and suddenly the whole “wasted years and immeasurable heartache” bit began to resonate a little.
I have invested (I won’t say “wasted”) years working towards my writing dream and have seen relatively minimal results…so far. The rejection I’ve faced along the way has caused heartache, sure, but for me, it’s that heartache that makes me want to become a better writer. And it’s those few results that have shown me that I have – at some level – what it takes to do this…IF I’m willing to continue learning, growing and investing the time. Maybe it’s my never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude (which I was repeatedly told throughout my childhood that I have, although, based on the edge of frustration it was said with, wasn’t necessarily meant as a good thing) but to me, the time invested and the heartache, is all part of the challenge…and the fun. For me, a contented existence doesn’t come from giving in to the path of least resistance, it comes from challenging myself to do things I never thought possible and surprising myself when I do.
I do agree with Egan about managing our expectations and not approaching our dreams under the delusion that we’re going to be the next J.K. Rowling or Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. But I don’t think there’s anything “dangerous” about dreaming big. Considering their backgrounds, Rowling, Gates and Winfrey should have never in a million years believed that they would amount to much of anything, but that’s the inspiring thing about chasing dreams…you never know where they might take you.
What do you think? Is following your dreams really overrated?