When I was three years old, I had the dream of juggling three distinct occupations. By day, I would be a stethoscope-wielding pediatrician. By night, I would run the register at the local Kroger. But it was the weekends that really got me excited, for on the weekends I planned to be the world’s next great pop sensation, holding concerts around the world. I knew that I would have Madonna
herself shaking at the sound of my voice.
And where have these dreams led me? To the reception desk of a local real estate company, answering phones and entering piles of data. To where did these imaginings of healing children, serving the masses, and achieving tremendous fame and fortune vanish?
Let me digress.
My Kroger dream died first. Pay: Not good. Job: Dirty. Then, it was my singing dream that faded as I learned that I had neither the voice nor the look for the part. I held on to the doctor dream until my freshman year in college, when my first pre-med meeting made me queasy.
But what really sent these dreams sailing?
There are several possibilities as to why my dreams and the dreams of others diminish. The first is the human achievement ceiling. This is the place where the unrealistic, high standards that we place upon our lives at early age are restricted by our human limitations. In this argument, humans can only fly so high and achieve so much. After all, it isn’t practical to be a M.D., a pop superstar and a grocery store cashier all in the same week.
The second possibility is that we simply settle. Instead of persevering and dedicating our lives to the dreams that once gave us the warm-fuzzies, we find something that pays for the mortgage payment and salsa lessons, and some how we are satisfied. We pass our daily eight hours of labor off as a free pass to enjoy the next sixteen. And we are content.
While the above to theories are often commonly accepted, I have one that is not: All dreams are inherently achievable, but they are not achievable for everyone. It is not the nature of the dream, but the nature of the dreamers that causes the catastrophe. The problem is that numerous humans share the same dreams, but society can only allow so many dreams to be accomplished. We, the human race, are truly in a race; we are in a competition to fulfill our dreams.
My dream of pop superstardom, for example, was taken over by a harder-working, sexier Britney Spears. My Kroger fantasies: replaced by a “less experienced” high school senior working nights to pay for his new Fender guitar. And my pediatrician hopes eliminated by a nerves-of-steel second-generation Indian-American with straight As and perfect attendance.
Society cannot allow all dreams to be fulfilled. Too much “dirty work” demands to be done. The trash needs collected, for example. And while there is nothing wrong with employment with waste management services, what child looks out his or her bedroom window and thinks “Man, I want to be a trash collector when I grow up.” Or, for that matter, “I’d love to clean the lavatories of a hotel someday.” No one dreams such dreams.
When considering these concerns, the question raised is ultimately: Are dreams like warÃ¢Â?Â¦good for absolutely nothing? Has social reproduction become such a divine, exquisite machine that we can find no way to stop it?
It is ironic, the American Dream. We believe that it is available to all. But there is no denying that it is more easily obtained by those who are born American, know English, have the home life that fosters educational, emotional, and mental growth, parents who will pay for college, etc. The list continues infinitely.
It is as if there is an equation that must be satisfied for a person to truly live their dreams. Hard work and determination can be multiplied exponentially or divided into oblivion by circumstance. And even when the sides of the equation are balanced, does luck allow the answer to be calculated at the right place and the right time?
When you wake up in your own life and realize that your dreams have flashed before your eyes like a scorned lover, you have decisions to make: stay content and allow your dreams to fall by the wayside, or challenge the belief that dreams are good for nothing. And then, look into the eyes of your children and determine what you will say to them when they grow up wanting to be a poet.
The dream, fragile as it may seem, is not unreachable. You just have to reach farther to achieve it, because for every one dream there are thousands of other humans ready to fight you to live it.