Ladies, I’m exhausted. I’ve been a single mom for half my life (literally, half my life), my son is about to graduate high school and go to college, and I’m going to be an empty nester. I finally have the chance to do all those things I’ve always wanted to do. The problem is I can’t remember what those things were.
Let’s add on the fact that all of my money is spent paying the bills (okay, managing which bills to pay first so something doesn’t get shut off), and my dreams of teaching English in China feel like they’re never going to happen.
I also have a terrible habit of sitting in my apartment each night, so my dreams of meeting Mr. Right are also feeling inaccessible. Because I know I’m just feeling sorry for myself at the moment, I thought I’d write a little something to all of us who feel like our dreams are useless, reminding us why we need to keep believing in those dreams – why it’s necessary to fight on! Here is my top 10 list of reasons to keep believing.
#1 Life is Short
Last week, I got sick and tired of sitting inside my apartment every night eating popcorn and watching reruns. I realized that I have nobody to call and go out with, and watching my phone for a text from my ex-booty call (you know, the one who moved away?) was futile. I was in desperate need of human interaction.
I got online and joined an improv group in Meetup.com. Ladies, let me tell you, I’ve never done improv, I’ve never even had the desire to do improv, but I was that bored. Guess what? I suck at improv. However, I did see an old friend whom I haven’t heard from in about six years, so that made the evening completely worthwhile!
What did I learn from all that? Life is too short to sit inside your apartment waiting for something to happen. Even if your dream is to just get the hell out of your house once a week, do it because in 10 years you’re going to be 10 years older wondering where the time went.
#2 Your Dreams Make You Who You are
When people ask me who I am I reply very simply: I’m a mom, a freelance writer, and an aspiring drummer! They usually raise an eyebrow at that last one.
It’s become sort of a trademark to me taking drum lessons. Not only am I not great at drumming (yet), but the fact that my dream is to be a great drummer (or an OKAY drummer, at least) means I get to say “I’m an aspiring drummer” and define myself by that dream.
I’ve met some very interesting people that way, too, let me tell you.
If you have a dream that you’re working on (or even one you’re just in the planning stages of), then you’re already “aspiring” just like me and my drumming. Why stop at aspiring?
#3 If You Don’t, Someone Else Will
Do you want to know one of my pet peeves? When people tell me all about their fabulous trip to Egypt or Italy. I have always wanted to go to these two countries, and while I know that I should be thrilled for the person talking, inside I’m seething with envy.
I met a woman who spent a year teaching English in Cairo, where she met her very handsome and sweet Egyptian husband and they have two wonderful kids with whom they live in the Mediterranean. You know what I thought when I first met her? I thought to myself, “She stole my dream!”
Of course, she didn’t steal my dream; she was just smart enough to live it instead of dreaming about it. Remember this if nothing else: If you don’t go after your dream, someone else will…and when you meet that person, you’ll want to kick yourself for not doing it yourself.
#4 You are the Only Person Stopping You
Another reason why you should never stop believing in your dreams is because you are the only person stopping you. Didn’t make it to college? Why not? There are plenty of people who go to school at night on grants and loans who have babysitters watch their kids for a couple of hours while they complete their dream.
Want to go to China (like me)? I’ve already got my shots and passport up to date; the only reason I haven’t gone is because I fear failure (and airplanes; I kind of fear airplanes, too). I do know that these are ridiculous fears that I’ll eventually overcome so I can see China.
My family will whine and complain and beg me not to go (because they’re afraid something bad will happen), but honestly, anything bad can happen anywhere in the world, so why limit yourself on your family’s fear? You’re just using that as an excuse. You’re the only person stopping you from fulfilling your dreams, and really that sounds like the easy way out, doesn’t it? You should be the person encouraging your dreams!
#5 Dreams and Goals Keep Us Moving Forward
When I don’t have a goal or something to look forward to in life, I feel like there’s no reason to keep going. Really, I’ve never been any good at living day-to-day; I need inspiration and adventure and daydreams! I need goals!
Dreams and goals keep us from getting bored with life. Even more importantly, if you suffer from depression like I do, dreams and goals are often the only thing we have to keep us going some days. There are times when I’ve spent days in bed crying because of my depression, and the only thing that kept me from going over the edge was some of the things I really look forward to seeing or doing in my future. Sometimes, your dreams are your last bit of hope when life gets really, really bad. Those dreams are what make you get up, dust yourself off, and keep going forward.
#6 It’s Never too Late
I’m officially closer to forty than thirty. In my head I keep hearing my mom’s words, “You’re getting old; it’s going to be harder to find a man.” Or, “Why do you want to travel overseas? Don’t you think you should settle down and get some roots?”
I love my mom, I always have, but she has a very funny way of supporting me. While in her mind my best interests are to stay single forever and die alone living somewhere close to her, I know that I wouldn’t make it another 10 years in a house by myself with no outside travel or adventure.
The thing that gets me the most is when she says I’m “too old.” I had no idea thirty-something was too old! I heard that your thirties are the new twenties (and I’m sticking with that). Plus, I know some really amazing women in their sixties and up who spend their evenings drinking and dancing and getting laid whenever they feel like it, and they go on great vacations to far-off places!
Personally, I think people get much more interesting and adventurous when they get past 50, so I know that you’re never “too old” to live your dream. What a ridiculous notion.
#7 Your Dreams Shape You
Another good reason to never stop believing in your dreams is to keep in mind that your dreams define who you are. I’m not only talking about your aspirations, I’m also talking about all the dreams you’ve tried and failed.
You see, it’s not just success that makes us who we are; it’s our failures, too. My life would have been much different if I had stayed with my first husband and given up my hopes of a marriage filled with love and respect. My personality would be completely different if I’d never had that heartache and failed marriage. I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I’ll be honest: I really like who I am today.
When you have a dream or a goal, and you try but fail, you are creating yourself as a human being. You can either give up completely and go on to another dream, or you can try again. It’s all up to you. But never doubt that your dreams, the broken dreams and the ones you have yet to try, make you who you are.
#8 Dreams Make You a More Positive Person
I don’t want to sound too much like a late night infomercial here, but I probably will. One of the most important reasons to keep believing in your dreams is that your dreams make you a more positive person. Remember what I was saying about depression?
Not only do your dreams give you something to look forward to and get you out of bed when you’re feeling your worst, but your dreams also make you a happier person. That’s right, as you work towards your dreams, you’ll feel a sense of personal accomplishment. You’ll realize that you are sticking to your dreams and working towards them, despite what the world tells you! It feels REALLY good, too!
I put aside my drum lessons for a while in order to pay the bills (because, hey, a girl’s gotta eat), and I forgot how much I loved those lessons. When I went back, I felt this indescribable sense of joy just from one lesson! Not because I love the drums so much, but because I was reminded that I’m accomplishing something I’ve set my heart on doing. There really isn’t a greater feeling than that!
#9 By not Giving Up, You Keep Your Self-Esteem
Did I ever tell you I went to college overseas? Yep. Now, there were two reasons for this, honestly. One, I was in love at the time (Joe…I’m sure you’ve heard my tales), and two, I really needed to get the hell out of this city for a while. I just needed a change. Grad school seemed like a good excuse to get a higher education and follow another couple of dreams as well (getting out of here, and finding the right guy). Two out of three ain’t bad, right?
Before I left, though, my family was furious with me. In their eyes, I was betraying them by moving away from home, and even worse, by taking my son with me, denying them a year of his life.
There’s nothing more exhausting than fighting with your family. I almost gave up on this dream of grad school. My mom was angry at me (so angry that when I got back she stopped speaking to me for months). During the time when I was making my decision, however, I had to really learn to toughen up. My self-esteem was in shambles because of the guilt my family was putting on me. I almost gave in and stayed here.
I didn’t give up, though. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more empowered than when I quit my job and purchased a plane ticket. That very important, life-altering decision not only gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and gave my son the chance to see the world from a different perspective, but it also increased my self-esteem and sense of self-worth. This is more important than you probably realize, so don’t stop believing in your dreams.
#10 When you Stop Dreaming, You Stop Living
Finally, to sum it all up in one great big bundle, the reason you should keep believing in your dreams is because when you stop dreaming, you stop living. It’s that simple. You might not physically die, but a piece of your heart does, and a piece of your self goes with it. Don’t give up, don’t stop believing in your dreams…no matter how old or young you are, no matter what your life circumstances are…keep believing.
So tell me: What are your dreams?