A few days ago, my new friend (and I’m convinced soul mate), Hannah, wrote this post on her blog: 25 Things Every Woman Needs to Know. It’s one of those kinds of posts that smoke-billows its way into your soul and winds its extra long fingers around your heart, until you find yourself crying inexplicably in the morning lamp light of a Dominican hotel room because it’s just. that. good.
Go ahead, go read it now. I’ll wait. Or read this first and then go read it. But either way, you must promise me this…you must promise me that you won’t let darkness fall on another day without having this post in your life. You need it. I need it. Trust me, we all need it. And we’re just lucky that it’s out there.
Reading Hannah’s post got me inspired. And…it got me thinking. Just like there are these immutable self truths that every woman should know, isn’t the same true for every dreamer? Didn’t we too get lost somewhere along the way? Somewhere in the distance between dreaming and doing, didn’t our once warm, basking bright lamp light start to go a little dimmer? Or for some of us, doesn’t it feel like it’s gone out completely? Don’t we know what it feels like to feel like we’re just playing pretend at being a dreamer? While all the real dreamers are out meeting somewhere for chai tea lattes without us. Comparing trophies and throwing victory parties. With their perfectly manicured nails. Don’t we know what it feels like to have our hearts ache at the emptiness of chasing someone else’s dream, and to buckle under the weight of that moment when we realize that we may just never get there?
And how do we go about finding our way back?
I won’t pretend to have all the answers. Or that I too haven’t found myself lost when the light is growing dim. But out of that darkness, I have learned a thing or two about dreaming. So I thought I’d put them all together here for you now.
Here’s to the dreamers.
1. Sometimes the brick walls aren’t there to keep you out, they’re there to give you a chance to show just how bad you really want it. But sometimes the brick walls are there to show you that you’re on the wrong path altogether. They’re like those talking door knockers in the movie the Labrynth….they’ll say a lot if you’ll only listen. And they’ve been put there to point out just how off course you’ve gotten while you were off chasing after someone else’s version of success. To tell you that if you would just stay on your path, run the race that’s been charted for you…you would find out just how short-sighted those other goals were, compared to what’s been planned for you. Sometimes the brick walls are there because they are the only thing strong enough to keep you from going the wrong way.
2. Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. When in doubt, chocolate is always part of the solution.
3. Dreaming is a verb. It requires action, effort, work. Don’t mistake it with that other kind of dreaming. The one where you get to just lay around and wait to fly.
4. There will be days, weeks, even months that go by when you feel like nothing is happening. These are the moments when you’re growing your roots. And the longer it takes, the stronger the roots. Sure, a weed may shoot up over night, but it takes nothing to knock it back down again. And let’s be honest, nobody likes the weeds anyway.
5. I need you to agree with me to stop doubting your voice. And while we’re at it, agree to stop doing backbends too. No, not the cheerleader, yogi master sort of backbends. If you can do those, good for you. I’d like to see that sometime. I’m talking about how you keep bending over backwards to mold and conform yourself to what you think you’re supposed to do. How you’re supposed to write. Or how you’re supposed to shoot. How you’re supposed to market your business. And how in the process, you hide & put away all the parts that make you interesting & beautiful in the first place. The only thing you’re supposed to do is be you. After all, if God had wanted you to be an exact duplicate of everyone else, he would have just made you a copy machine. Be grateful that you’re not a copy machine.
6. There are a surprising number of Taylor Swift break up songs that also work equally well for those days when the dream just isn’t working. Listen to them. Dance around in your yoga pants that you haven’t done yoga in for a good six months. Refer to rule #2. Now tell me you don’t feel better.
7. Speaking of which, there will be people out there who are just Mean. They won’t know you & they won’t be bothered to get to know you. Feel sorry for them. And forgive them. After all, a nasty blog or facebook comment lasts thirty seconds before you delete it. But frosty, bitter & ugly….that lasts a lifetime.
8. If you were handed everything you ever wanted tomorrow no questions asked, you would be psyched about it for about an hour. And then you would realize that it doesn’t mean anything because you didn’t do any of it. Repeat this to yourself as many times as it takes: It’s the work that makes it worth it.
9. You have to take time to dream. Dreaming doesn’t live on your to do list in between picking up groceries and dropping off the dry cleaning. It doesn’t happen in between emails either. Dreams are like the Dixie Chicks. They need wide open spaces….and room to make a few mistakes. A cowboy to take you away doesn’t hurt either.
10. Dreams are messy. They’re 37 books piled on your desk and 100 scratched out words before you find the right one. They are drawing on a chalkboard. Typing, deleting and then typing again. They are tears. And balled up fists. And cursing the people who have it so easy. Don’t spend too much time listening to the people who have to always look like they have it together. Real dreamers are messy people. But they know that in the mess, there is beauty.
11. On those days when you feel like every last ounce of inspiration in the well spring of your creativity has run dry and you will never have a beautiful or creative thought again, sit down and spend five minutes reading something from F.Scott Fitzgerald. You’ll find that there are new wells. And they’re all around you.
12. Which brings me to a big one. In everything that you do, try to make sure that your dreams are never ever (evan, evah!) just about you. Running in pursuit of these selfish dreams is the lowest form of dreaming. Sure you may achieve a lot. And others may even look to you as an example of “success.” But on the inside, you will rage an ongoing battle against emptiness with the constant pursuit of more. What you do for yourself is fleeting. What you do for others is a legacy.
13. I’m just going to say it. Miley Cyrus’s The Climb.
14. Do it because you love it. Do it because it sets you on fire. Do it because when you’re doing that thing you love…time stands still. Or goes in super fast-forward. Or both somehow. Do it because you were born to do it. Because it’s in your blood. And because you feel like the truest version of yourself when you are. But for goodness sake, do NOT do it for the blog comments, facebook likes, or Twitter followers. Nothing will kill your dream faster. And let’s be honest, our grandkids are going to make fun of us for Twitter one day.
15. Do not be tempted to take short cuts. As you pursue these dreams you will encounter a parade of false leaders who will promise you the dreamer’s equivalent of “losing 10 pounds by the weekend.” They will tell you that mediocre is good enough and it’s all about how you present it. About how you sell it. Don’t buy into it. Seek out real teachers. The ones who will push you to never stop learning and falling in love with your craft. To have a life long love affair with this thing that you do. And to create the kind of body of work that you can be proud of when you exhale the last your precious breaths. Remember, it’s the work that makes it worth it. Don’t short cut yourself out of what makes it worth it.
16. There will be times when it’s not right, not fair, and not how you want it to be. That doesn’t mean you can stop it from happening. In those moments, use your energy on being the kind of person you wish they would be. If nothing else, you might change the outcome for someone else.
17. I’m just going to say it. Jordin Sparks’ One Step At a Time.
18. That light in you, as completely out as it may seem right now, was never really gone. It was just buried under a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter. If you want to find that light again….get back to the things that do.
19. Dreaming is a group sport. You need people to bounce ideas around with. Just make sure you choose the kind of people who are willing to tell you when an idea is bad, off, or just plain not BIG enough.
20. Twelve publishing houses turned down Harry Potter before someone finally picked it up. Just because the world is telling you “no” right now doesn’t mean that it’s not their loss.
21. I’m just going to say it. Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never.
22. If you’re having one of those days and you really just need a good laugh, I recommend the “Pocket Full of Sunshine” scene from Easy A. Annnnnd you’re welcome.
23. If Lance Armstrong has taught us one thing, it’s don’t cheat to get there. Because no matter how high you climb, no matter how much you achieve….sooner or later, what’s in darkness always comes to light. And everything you’ve gained can be taken away in a second. Plus, the race is always more satisfying when you know you’ve run it with integrity.
24. But rest assured, there is going to come a day when you’re going to win. When you’re going to have trophies to show and victory parties to throw. When that happens. just make sure you pick a table that has room there for everyone.
25. Above all else, just remember that you’re out there getting to do what you love to do. And isn’t that the real dream in and of itself?