how to follow your dreams

I’m about to get, for me at least, somewhat vulnerable. And for someone who doesn’t usually feel like she is being vulnerable (nay, just honest), this is quite a rare kind of something. It’s time to talk about dreams.

I’ve always thought of dreams as the most long-term big picture of all thoughts; the stuff you can’t really work towards, the stuff the universe presents you when the time is right. Like the love of your life, the Nora Ephronesque house (or Friends style apartment with a large balcony and purple walls, take your pick), the worry-free lifestyle, the newness of every day, the continuous loop of inspiring and being inspired. But The Dream as it relates to your professional trajectory and, as the yogis call your purpose, sankalpa? I’ve always viewed it as more of a path.

Do I need to redefine The Dream?

We all get drawn in, even ever-so-slightly by the life with the sexy exterior. And what makes it even more alluring is when the people you most desire to please place value on that hot title. No one should feel as if they need to please anyone, but honestly – and for pete’s sake, let’s be honest – we all aim to please someone in our lives. Family, friends, peers, mentors; as wise as we can be, we all have our Achilles heel. This desire to please can make us feel like we’re moving backwards, like we’re being left behind. Some days are better than others, yes, but so often we feel this glass wall between our current life and our, dare I say, dreams.

My dad used to say that everyone gets a free pass in their twenties, that when you hit thirty you need to be ready to hit the ground running. Now, when I say he “liked” to say this, I mean he practically had it stitched onto the blue polo shirt he always seemed to be wearing when we would have those state-of-the-union type chats. So I’d freak out – because if I knew so clearly what I wanted in the long term, then what the heck was I currently doing in this short-term of a decade? Was I wasting my time? They were conflicting messages: to make the mistakes and figure out the puzzle pieces before the big Three-Oh, but simultaneously stick with and pursue the shmancy titles and incredibly superficial sexiness that ultimately I did not want in the long run.

This still happens to me when my dreams seem murky. The incongruous messages and the question of if I’ll stay stuck forever. I still fall into the conflicting expectations I’ve grown up with, conflicting tales – the ones in which I am wildly prestigious, big house, yadda yadda, all that. And then the ones in which I am nurturing my strengths so much so that I am constantly creating, sharing what I do and who I am with this world as the most expansive and most whole incarnation of me. I prefer the latter story, frankly, and I pray every day for the strength to, bit by bit, to let the expectation of the former flake off of me, to move forward despite the vision of what my life was assumed to look like from the outside. I pray every single day to be able to express my love and my heart the way I know my soul was placed in this body to do.

Maybe you do, too.

You might even find yourself constantly surrounded by friends who are currently living your dream. And that is what can be the hardest thing to digest, really. To be the one who is so close yet not-quite-there…well, there’s a sadness that can start to linger. Like there is this circle you are an honorary member of, but not quite inducted into. It’s not about acceptance, it’s about seeing your dream and path in front of you and only relating with your heart and not with shared experience.

So what now, you ask. What am I going to do about it? In true Breaking Out fashion, how are you going to leave this feeling of expectation, exclusion and false dreaming behind and move forward into the you that you want to be?

You are going to act, that’s what. You are going to build on what you’ve got. There’s a classic saying that goes “If you really want something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” Dreams know no excuse. You won’t care if this means waking up at 5:30am each morning. You won’t care if that means logging nighttime hours when you least prefer to, after an already 12 or 14 hour workday or a wonderfully spastic family shindig or a blissful date night. You’re probably already fitting it in somehow. Maybe you write music when you can and perform at a coffee shop on Wednesday nights; maybe you take your friends up on their offers to help redecorate their apartments. Maybe you have a knack for home remedies and whip up potions in your garage when you’re feeling crummy. You’ve got the building blocks – great! But there is so much more.

There. Is. So. Much. More.

No matter what anyone says, you are not tied to the sexy titles or images of success that have preceded you. That kind of success, you’ll find, is more about the idea of the outside than the reality behind the curtains. What is sexy and success-y? Acting on your sankalpa. Recognizing where you are, and moving forward with all the unique tools you were meant to use.

“This is who I am. This is where I’m at. Let’s go from here.”

Now that’s living The Dream.

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