As the crows feet grown longer and deeper on the sides of my blue eyes, I am reminded more and more of the dreams I had when I was younger, the harsh lessons of real life, and the recognition that many of those dreams will never take shape.
And I begin to consider the mis-message that I, and millions of youth, received during our teenage years … the message that you can do anything you dream, that you can achieve the unachievable, reach the insurmountable. This inflated promise sets many up for failure, and this makes me angry.
Why do we give this silver platter to our youth, when it is not true? In actuality, our dreams are dependent on our resources, our abilities, our support systems, and a fair amount of serendipitous generosity from strangers. Our dreams do not come to fruition just because they are noble, meaningful or strong. They happen when we are reinforced by fate, friends and finances. Not fancy.
But then I think about where I’ve come from.
Born into an impoverished family on a dusty farm in central Alberta, where the snow swept in under the front door, and the rain dripped from the sagging ceiling. When my mom patched our pants and extended our sleeves on clothes that lived longer than they should have. Where our milk was fresh from the cow, carefully drawn by my father, and our fruit was bruised and discarded, carefully pulled from the school garbage cans by my uncle the janitor.
I grew up in a home where the words “brother” and “sister” were words of value, currency. Where “family” meant home. Where one could not claim they had personality without having integrity of character, nor strength without experiencing triumph over weakness.
Deep rooted lessons of diligence and exploration pushed me and my siblings out into lives of adventure, courage and determination. We grew far beyond what would be predicted, accomplished far more than what could be imagined, and thrived far better than what should be expected.
Now, when I watch my family, see them grow, change, mature, live, love, I am filled with gratitude for the success that surrounds me. I may not have touched the stars that I reached for during my youth, but I have certainly traveled among them. I have gone further than I would have, should I have believed the limitations of my circumstance and position.
It is this principal that underscores the importance of dreaming. It is true that setting one’s heights high may bring disappointment and failure. But what is the alternative? Is it also not true that setting one’s goals to manageable will bring stagnation and underachievement?
I remember when my children were preschool age. I observed that when I introduced them to a situation that was outside of their normal world: a farmyard, a loud auditorium, a bumpy wagon ride, a weekend at grandma’s, their little minds would seem to be stretched by their new experience. They would demonstrate increased awareness of their surroundings, better communication skills, and a happier nature.
Extending this to their older years, I wanted my children to stretch and extend their experiences beyond their comfort zones. Success at their endeavours was secondary. Participation was paramount. I wanted them to see the huge world around them, and to find their place within it. My children have dreamed about travelling the world, becoming international artists, models, photographers, singers. They have tried sewing, sports, acting, singing, and mission work. Are they going to become famous, celebrities in their fields? Reality would suggest most likely not.
But I have decided that I will not allow my own limited conscious to determine what my children can or cannot achieve. I will send them out into the open world, to experience adversity, challenge, loss, and victory. To do otherwise would be a failure of my responsibility of training them as citizens of our world.
As for my own dreams, they’ll sit quietly by, hopefully coming to fruition in time. In the meantime, I am happy to say that on many accounts, I’m a resounding success. I’ll take the disappointment, because with it has come a world of joy, far bigger than I could dream.