Below you will find the latest entry in the Virgin and the Vagrant series Cassi Clerget (in italics) and I (in bold) have done in the past. Both of us have been somewhat stuck lately, so we thought the best way to undo those hesitations was to write something together.
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We thank you for reading.
Eight years ago, I had a very clear picture of the next ten or so years of my life. I would spend my four years in college, study abroad in England, graduate with honors, get into grad school, finish my Master’s and start a PhD in British history and lit, become a professor, write books on the side, and of course fall in love (hopefully with a British writer). I had my future mapped out, my dreams in my eyes, and I couldn’t be swayed.
But sitting here today, two years away from that ten year mark, I’m miles and lifetimes from the innocent dreams of that wide-eyed seventeen year old girl. I’ve left some of those dreams behind, trading them for something new, and perhaps I lost (then found…then lost?) myself on the way. Because sometimes the bold ideas of the imagination and dreams of our youth don’t come true the way we believe they should. Instead, we’re left wanting and hoping, finding ourselves more discouraged than encouraged on our path to become who we imagine we can be. With my computer on my lap and notebook after notebook filled the potential of things, I wonder if I’ll ever see those dreams come true.
How long are we meant to wait until our dream is nothing more than a distant memory?
Darling, you are asking the wrong man. I’m the one who itches and aches and wonders why things aren’t the way I want them to be. The whole of my life is beautiful. I have everything I’ve ever wanted except one bloody thing. I don’t write for a living.
For the last 25 months, I’ve poured my heart into the words I spill across empty spaces. I empty myself again and again, creating an arrangement of thoughts and words and ideas that I can be proud of, that will help those who choose to read what I put forth. And yet, I feel abandoned and wasted. What if it’s all for nothing? What if I’m only meant to be a *gulp* blogger? The idea alone wounds me to the bone.
And yet, I see the difference my given words have made. I’ve read the thanks and accepted the sentiments. And that feels good…for a moment. But I struggle and sweat and ache at a job I loathe to pay away the responsibilities of living so that I may pound out more words and spill more ideas out into the world.
When does my time come? Does success elude me by my own fault? Or am I simply not good enough to make a living of this gifted talent?
But in honesty and truth, I can’t imagine giving up the dreams I’ve craved for so long. And while our circumstances and situations may tailor and amend those dreams a bit here and there, I don’t believe it’s wise or prudent to forgo and abandon the dreams that have been placed inside our soaring souls. We’re better than that and we certainly deserve more.
Comparing the woman you are now to the girl you were then, how have your dreams changed from then to now? Have you consciously abandoned a few goals and dreams for better, more realistic ones?
Actually, in so many ways I think I abandoned the realistic dreams for the unrealistic ones. They were big dreams grown in the heart of a girl who looked at the world and saw it as something to conquer. I was quite practical back then. I knew what I excelled at and pursued it. But chasing those dreams, the chance of being an academic writer and professor, left me empty. They fit me, but they didn’t excite me. They didn’t fill my soul with passion. After my first year of graduate school, everything around me was drained of color, empty of life and joy. I walked about in a haze, confused and slightly frightened to realize I didn’t belong in this world I imagined myself in. I had to begin again. I had to find new dreams to suit the young woman I had become when I wasn’t watching.
In the depths of my heart, I found my passion for words. Not the clinical words of research essays, but the creative whimsical power lurking in my fingertips. So I chose a new dream, the dream of a writer. Or perhaps I simply accepted with a breath of relief that writing is what I was born to do. But finding your calling doesn’t mean you’ve found the easy path, because I’ve realized I probably won’t be a best-selling novelist or world-renowned author. I’ve put those starry dreams away, keeping them safe in my heart. I suppose there is still a shadow of that pragmatic girl tucked away, whispering her own kind of wisdom in my ear. “Write if you must, but don’t forget you have to eat.” I would love to spend my day writing and creating and choosing just the right words to paint just the right picture, but real life seems to have different plans for me.
At what point, do you think, are we meant to reevaluate our dreams? When do we have to look at them with a critical eye and ask ourselves if they are worth pursuing or if we should tweak them to fit with what is realistic? Or would that mean abandoning them altogether?
In my experience, our dreams evolve as we do. So maybe it isn’t so much a[b] hard and fast editing of our hopes and dreams, but instead, an evolution that changes slowly but surely with us as we grow. At least I’m hoping so. Because as much as I would love to hide in a dark room all day, writing bullish brilliance and collecting royalty checks, a very large part of me knows that I won’t be reserved to just writing. I’ll be made to speak to crowds and create films, all while telling the stories that lie on this hoodlum heart of mine.
In all reality, very few of us are the same people with the same goals and aspirations at 17 that we are at 25 or 28. We change and we evolve as the world and our Savior shapes us. Sometimes it’s by our own choice, but more often than not, we become what time and circumstance mold us into. Our dreams are shaped and prodded with the same benevolence.
My question to you: what advice would you offer to those of us who are unhappy or impatient with where we are? What would you say to the one who knows they’re ready for a bigger audience or stage, but can’t seem to catch the break they need?
I think I would say to never stop trying and never stop believing, because each of us are given our dreams for a reason, each of us gifted with a calling we may not fully understand, and you must walk through life, evolving as you said, and growing into that dream. Some things take time and maybe we’re simply not ready, not today, but that doesn’t mean that God has forgotten us or the hopes we hold close to our heart. Every day, you work to better your craft and pave the path to your dream. Every single day, you get closer. Not one of those days is a waste unless you do nothing with them. And maybe your break will come tomorrow. Or maybe in a few months. Or maybe in a few years. The secret, I think, is to always believe that today is your day and to make the most of it, because at just the right moment, exactly when it is meant to happen, you will catch your break and step onto the stage and the world will listen. They will see you and your passion and be better for it. And on that day, there will be no stopping you.
What encouragement would you pass along to those who seem stuck? Who don’t believe their time will ever come, no matter how passionately and intentionally they try to make their dreams their reality?
I tend to take a somewhat different approach. Maybe it’s because I’m a realist, but I tend to think that if you’re wanting to do something as a profession, then you need to be the best at it. So one must work. Put in the hours and the days and the weeks it takes to master a craft, and never be afraid to try new aspects and ideas of what you’re trying to achieve. That not only keeps you and your talent on waiting toes, but it keeps you fresh and vital in your field of choice.
Get better every single day. Fight for what you want by refusing to yield to the disappointment.
I have friends who are making their way in the literary world; friends who are signing book deals, landing agents, and collecting advances. And to be perfectly honest, I feel jealousy rattle my bones every time another announcement of the sort is made.
I know I should be happy for them, but a very large part of me can’t help but be like Kanye and think, “These (guys) really that much better than me?” And while I am happy that my friends and colleagues are succeeding, I can’t help but wonder when–and if–my time will come.
Do you deal with this? If so, how do you handle it?
I try to separate my frustration with my own situation from my excitement for my friends and fellow writers. I see them succeed, publish articles and books, start movements and spread ideas, bring to life their heart’s desire, and I am truly, deeply happy for them. I love them dearly. Each of them deserves the good things that come their way, the chances that present themselves. They are talented and genuine, and I couldn’t be more proud.
But deep down, there is a whisper of doubt. I smile in celebration of my friends’ success one second, then wonder what I’m missing that keeps me from finding the same in the next second. I don’t like to be that person. It doesn’t lend itself to happiness and it doesn’t get me any closer to achieving my goals. So instead, I step back and realize this just isn’t my moment. It’s not my time. It’s not about my failures, but about my friends’ successes. They deserve to revel and enjoy their moment. Plus, in many ways, seeing my friends and colleagues succeed is inspiring; it gives me a reason to hope and believe that I will someday have my moment. Until then, I surround myself with inspiring, talented, encouraging people to challenge me to forge my own path.
I’m curious, how would you measure success? Is it signing a book deal and making a best-seller list, or changing lives with the words you write? Or is it unfair to try and limit our dreams to such black and white terms?
If I’m completely and wholly honest with myself (and you, as always), my definition of success is to sustain a comfortable living while doing what I love. As long as I can provide for me, my (soon to be) wife, and daughter, I will consider myself a success. I don’t need big houses or millions of dollars. If I’m helping people and doing what I love on a full time basis, I am a success.
Do you ever consider that your dreams may be wrong? That you picked the wrong thing to want, that your wants are outweighing your talent and/or calling? Do you ever think to yourself, “Maybe I’m just not meant to be that” or “Perhaps I’m supposed to work an honorable 9 to 5 job without using my creativity any more than I am now”?
I don’t know if dreams can ever be wrong. Perhaps the way they come to life is different than we imagine, but that doesn’t mean you’ve chosen the wrong dream. Do we even choose our dreams, I wonder. Or do they find us at the moment when we are ready to believe in them. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I read Little Women almost two decades ago. Since then, what my dream has meant has changed and adapted itself to my surroundings and abilities. But it has never truly left me, and I’m not sure I could ever let it go. It would be easier to let it go; to accept a 9 to 5 job. I have one of those now. I wake up at 6:50am, walk to work and buy a coffee, work until a little after 5pm, come home and find that while I have the will to write, my spirit is exhausted. Tomorrow, I say. But the cycle repeats and my mind is filled with ideas and stories that must wait. I’m tired of waiting, of listening to people who try to convince me that writing is a passing phase. If God has different plans for me, so be it. But until then, I will open my heart, let loose the words, and hand them over to those who need them.
In the gorgeous and lovely words of our favorite Brandon Flowers…
Please don’t tell me I can’t make it,
It ain’t gonna do me any good.
And please don’t offer me your modern methods,
I’m fixin’ to carve this out of wood.
I feel like you and I (and thousands of our counterparts) are in the same boat. We have the dreams and we have the talent and we have the will. We just need half a chance to show what we can do.
And we’ll make it. Even if we’re never paid to write the words that our hearts feel, we’ll have made a difference in this world by painting this cussing internet with the faith our good Lord acknowledges and honors. And that’s a testament to who we are and what we dream, all on its own.