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.