I used to be a dreamer.

My sister recently pointed out to me that I am a realist. I was taken aback, I’d always thought of myself as more of an optimist. I felt like for most of my life I generally saw the best in people or tried to make the most of bad situations; I was a positive person. It occurred to me, however, that somewhere down the line, that stopped being the case. I stopped seeing the world with a rose-colored tint, and began seeing things for what they were. I used to be a dreamer, but I’m not anymore.

I used to be a dreamer. I fantasized about the future, about what my life would look like, about what the world would be like.

But the world can crush dreamers; reality will eat you up and spit you right out if you’re not careful.

I wasn’t careful. For a long time anyway, I wasn’t careful, and and the world ate me up and spat me right out.

It took a long time, but I picked myself back up. I was shattered, but slowly and surely I began to put the pieces back together. Eventually though, I made the mistake of dreaming again. Then, as history repeats itself, reality took hold, and my dreams were one again nothing but dreams.

I had dream of what my life was going to look like in 2020. It was my year to get my life together. I’d finally picked up the pieces of heartbreak, work burnout, and personal insecurities, and I was piecing myself back together with glue and a careful hand. It seemed to be holding. So I began to dream again, I dreamt that I would once again be whole and functional. My dreams were less crazy than they were before the world broke me down the first few times, but they were still there.

Then, suddenly, the world stopped. Not just for me this time, but for all of us. My fragile pieces hit a brick wall and my cautious dreams came to a sharp halt. I didn’t shatter this time though, not completely anyway. I just new that if I wanted to get past this metaphorical “brick wall” I needed to leave my dreams behind. I couldn’t carry them with me. Not when I was still rebuilding myself to begin with.

So I did it. I climbed over that brick wall. I figured I’d find new dreams on the other side. And sure, there were fantasies there, but the climb left me too weak to pick any of them up. I couldn’t trust that I’d be able to carry them with me. I didn’t know if I was strong enough to deal with the fall out of inevitably having to drop them.

Now my life is changing again. As the world reopens post-pandemic, so do the possibilities for my life. This time however, I’m taking small cautious steps to a goal. Not a dream anymore, a goal. A desired life, but a real one, not a fantasy.

The difference between fantasy and reality is that I see the problems I will face. In a fantasy we don’t think about the downside, the risks. That is why I fell so hard when I came down to reality those first few times. No, now I see the obstacles. This is life, not a dream.

Still, I work towards my goals. Though, at times, I’m not sure how I feel about them. They are as bright and shiny anymore; they don’t look the same as they did when I was a dreamer.

I don’t get excited about things the way I used to because I’m terrified of being disappointed. My fragile state can’t take another blow. There are too many obstacles on the ground that might trip me up. I can’t risk leaving my head up in the clouds for too long, or I might stumble into something greater than I can handle.

It’s not fun to live like this, I don’t really like it, but it’s my reality right now. I’m pushing through, logically assessing situations, and still working towards my goals. Risks scare me. I don’t want to take risks, but sometimes I have to. I have to trust that I’m strong enough to risk dreaming again, even just a little. I have to trust that I can handle a fall and that, worst case, I now know how to put the pieces back together.

Moreover, I have to trust that the risks are worth a fall and that, overall, I’m on the right path. I have to believe that the universe has something amazing planned for me; something greater and more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed.

One thought on “I used to be a dreamer.

  1. Thanks for sharing this! This blog as well as “Thoughts on Creativity” expresses a lot of how I felt in 2020 as well. For me 2020 was the year that I did accomplish some dreams, mainly work wise, but at the same time I feel like I abandoned a lot of other dreams and most of my creativity.

    I barely wrote anything in 2020, which like you, has always been my thing. I defined my self as a writer for so long, but now it seems I can’t because I barely write. I still love writing and every moment I spend writing is joy. But as Steven Pressfield said, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”

    I have so many distractions now, from adulting to social media, and the pandemic only added to these distractions with the general feeling of despair and suffering that everyone was going through. Dreams don’t really seem to make much sense when there is a global health and economic crisis.

    Now, I did still manage to accomplish one big dream in 2020, which was after years of working seasonally, I finally got a full-time park ranger position, which I’m super grateful for.

    Being a park ranger was something that I originally never set out to become, rather something that kind of stumbled into after graduating college and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. Out of all the jobs I could have stumbled into, I was extremely lucky to stumble into being a park ranger. I wouldn’t have spent the past three years any other way than growing and learning as I went from park to park.

    95% of the time I love what I do for a living, and I am very thankful for this.

    However, especially after the choas of 2020, I do often think of how much of my original dreams and personal life I have neglected due to my work.

    At times, particularly when I was trying to get a full-time park ranger position, I’ve felt like I’m Spongebob in the episode when the Krusty Krab becomes a fancy, five-star restaurant. In order to become a great waiter, Spongebob focuses only on “Fine dining and breathing.” Because of this determination, he does become a great waiter, but when a guest compliments him on his outstanding work and asks for his name, Spongebob can’t remember his name because he has been so focused on “Fine Dining and Eating”

    I need to remind myself that I am more than Ranger Herring and that I have a personal life/I can have dreams, joys, and goals other than being a park ranger.

    So, in 2021, this is what I’ve been doing; Reminding myself that I can have a personal life.

    With my free time, I’m working on reclaiming some of my dreams and goals. I’m devoting time to things that enjoy doing like writing, reading, running (I also pretty much stopped running for the few darkest months of 2020), and hanging out with real life human being again outside of work, while also finding joy in the small things, including adulting tasks that I used to hate like doing the dishes.

    Like you, I am doing this incrementally and being patient with myself when I fail to reach my goals as progress is slow, but I know I am on the right path.

    Thanks again for a great blog!
    -Mark Herring


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