(If you haven't heard about the insecure writer's group, go here, jump on the linkidy do dad, and hop around to some other blogs. You are not alone.)
I don’t know how many people really know this, but dreams hurt. And I don’t mean a Charlie horse in the middle of the night, a scrapped knee on the sidewalk, or a little road rash. Dreams hurt like the moment when you’ve broken your ankle again (for the third time!) and you know exactly the road of pain and hardship, the hobbling around and not trusting your balance, and the year—the full effing year—of not being as good at a hundred little things--if you’re lucky and don’t need surgery this time. Dreams hurt and ache. Dreams are full of fear and anger and feeling inferior. Dreams are harder than anything else in the world. Dreams are love.
If I could have told myself this when I was sixteen, my sixteen year old self would have laughed in my face and called me an old sack of regrets, a bitter dried up hag who couldn’t hack it, so get the hell out of the way for those of us who can. I was a bit judgmental as a teenager.
But my sixteen-year-old self wasn’t strong enough for my dreams. Even the most minor threats to my dreams would send me off, crying in a corner like a foolish school girl (guess what? I *was* a foolish school girl). Even then I should have known how much power my dreams had if they could hurt me before I’d even started reaching for them.
And once I started trying (even in my usual half-assed way), oh man. Talk about the dumb I have done just for my dreams.
I spent three years in a major I hated with people who hated me (and frequently told me I was too dumb because I was a woman, but that's a story for another day).
I loaded all my belongings into a truck and drove across the nation to a place I’d never seen before and prayed I’d land on my feet. I had friends with me, but that was a leap of faith, a big scary leap of faith. And I would have done it all alone, but my friends are almost as crazy as me.
I worked hard. I moved again. I dragged my family across the country to the desert (leaping again). I’ve tortured myself through years of things I would have never considered doing except for these dreams. I’ve stayed up late nights; I’ve worked through every weekend for six years; I’ve gotten on dozens of planes, stood in front of hundreds of angry scientist, written hundreds of thousands of words in a format that hurts to put to paper.
All for a dream.
I have never been closer to my dreams. I’ve never been further from them. I fear them. When I get them, will I be disappointed? Broken? Crushed? Will I be able to get a job when I’m done, or am I really frantically working myself out of work? Will all my dreams take this much soul crushing work? Should I dream smaller dreams? Or is it worth it? Is all of this pain and suffering, the doubt and worries, the sacrifice (don’t ask me how many times I’ve had ramen for dinner), the anxiety, the fact that I haven’t had a night without nightmares for six years, is all of this worth making the dreams of one foolish school girl come true?
It’s a funny thing, dreams, you have to make that choice on your own. No one can ever tell you it was worth it but you. And you’re not even in a place where you can judge. That’s hard, but here’s something even worse: that’s what it’s like to dream the dream. Losing the dream is much worse. Losing the dream is like having a piece of your soul torn out and thrown on a busy L.A. freeway.
And foolish school girls who dream dreams that burn in their hearts don’t know how to deal with their soul dying. They imagine they are invincible, and they believe somewhere that, despite the evidence of their own eyes, the world is fair. They don’t know if they’ll live through losing their dream (almost always, if you’re wondering), but it’s not easy. Losing dreams hurts more than cutting off your own hand. I think that sometimes giving up a dream to maintain some other part of our lives really is like the coyote chewing off their own leg so they can be free of the trap, because dreams are like that. We didn’t choose them. All of mine have sprung up out of the ground, cleverly disguised as my regular life. I never woke up and said “Wow, my life would be so much better if I just had a dream.”
Dreams are dangerous. Dreams are power. We have so little control of them, we don’t even get to pick them.
Dreams choose us.
I fear them because I’m rational, but I fear my cranky older self more. What would I be like in twenty years if I belly flopped at the finish line and didn’t get up to cross the line? What would I tell my children? That my dreams beat me down until I couldn’t get up again? Could I give up on that sixteen-year-old girl who didn’t know better, the one who didn’t know that a broke kid from the sticks barely had a chance and even our valedictorian dropped out so no one would blame her if she broke under the pressure of it all?
I wouldn’t be here (literally right here) if it weren’t for my dreams. If I didn’t have my dreams, I might be more content, I might have a whole soul—one unbroken by trials—but we are made bigger by our dreams, even the ones that hurt. Dreams force us to throw our hearts into the forge and see that our hearts can be made into swords.