Living the Dream…Or Not

Once upon a time there lived a boy who wanted more than anything to be an anesthesiologist. He dreamed of the day when the survival of a patient rested on his quick thinking, deft hands and ability to administer skeletal muscle relaxants and anesthesia like no tomorrow. Every Christmas list included surgical tools, every Halloween he donned a white lab coat and a plastic stethoscope, every birthday wish was dedicated to aiming for a place no one in his family had ever gone. He was a child possessed, infatuated with a mega-bucks payroll, overt success and the glory of bringing a man, woman or child from the depths of their suffering to the open door of life. Back then there was no dampening his aspirations, no halting his potential vocation, no weakening his elation. Where, then, did that boy of five to seven go? What became of the child who dared to dream big, who knew with such absolution that his destiny lay in a world of solidity and achievement?

The fate of dreams is determined neither by a child’s determination nor their stalwart commitment to the prerequisites needed to pursue their intended field, but by the interplay between their talents, learning environment and the school subjects from which they derive the most pleasure. Kids, who think they know what they want to be when they grow up, will find that their dreams are either reaffirmed or rewritten during the duration of their time in school. Any number of school-related factors, such as teacher support, peer pressures and newfound passion for unrelated material, can work to boost or destroy the visions that had become so vivid over years of imagining, working out the details and believing. By the time we are processed and discharged from high school, those of us whose dreams are reborn or undisturbed live happily ever after, bathed in a golden aura signifying ultimate survival. On the other hand, those of us whose dreams are shattered, disabled or setback, may see their goals as distant impossibilities.

As young children, we don’t envision ourselves as investment bankers, international business people or computer programmers, yet so many of us choose to make a living from these occupations. Instead, we see ourselves helping others as firefighters, teachers, doctors, police officers or nurses. Halloween is a true testament to the desire to be heroic figures. When our masks, props, garments and childhoods are put away, our original ambitions disappear, the void filled by our new inclinations. In the end, how many of us become who we thought we would almost two decades ago? The point I make here is that, no matter how noteworthy or real our intentions seem to be, nothing is certain and people change. We realize that the world market is more diverse and more demanding than we envisioned — there is no trouble seeing the goal, it is the obstacles in getting there that makes us stumble and forfeit our passions for the road we “should” travel.

Perhaps the most challenging of all barriers is the daunting task of deciding between a job that is most advantageous, versus a job that allows us to flex our talents and exercise our right to be happy. The advantages of becoming a doctor, lawyer, business executive, etc., certainly seem socially and economically “right,” and most people choose the job that will earn them the most notoriety and monetary wealth, with the least risk involved. What about following our original dreams — the ones that did not rely on extraneous factors to keep us going, but, rather, were fueled purely by happiness and comfort. These dreams are laid to rest by the fear of losing what could have been. If you have what it takes to be a doctor, why be a writer? Who cares that you never enjoyed science, you forced yourself through five years of math and most people see you as an “English” person? There is no shame in foregoing the risks of authorship — that so few are successful enough to survive by the strength of their pens — for the profession with guaranteed eminence. This is how we become people we may not have wanted to be. This is the enterprise we dabble in, of sacrifices and careful contemplation, happiness and the pursuit of safety.

So you may want to know what happened to that boy. He grew up. Time passed and he went from na’ve child to defiant teenager to 18-year-old “adult”. He worked hard in high school, lived through the brutalities of difficult science classes, all the while breezing almost lazily through English classes. He is bent on following his dream — the only dream he’s ever had, the only dream he ever wants and needs. Only the future knows whether or not he will make it, but either way, it will be a battle to curb his passion for writing in seeking the fruition of a lifelong dream.