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Maybe You Shouldn't "Follow Your Dream"

Take a moment and take a deep breath.

Take your fingers off the keyboard.

Let me be clear.

Dreams are important. ​A dream, a life goal, is a good thing to have. Probably even a great thing to have. I know I have plenty of them. And working toward that dream, doing what you can to get yourself there, doing what makes you happy...that’s good too, and I mean that without sarcasm, as genuinely as I can say it. As someone trying to dive into the world of writing professionally, I of all people can’t say that you shouldn’t have a dream career.

We cool?

“Following your dreams” is a big trend now, however you look at it. Lately we’re thrown feel-good articles about the people who quit their 9-5 job, sold everything, moved to a different country, went traveling, decided to screw it and be whimsical and creative and and live that good life. They’re following their dreams! They’re going for it! And good for them, because it seems to be working out.

The only problem is that this idea of throwing convention to the wind and becoming a free soul, following your dreams, is presented in such a feel-good, wild, emotion-driven light that appeals to your warm fuzzies, and...well, it’s not always practical. I’m a practical person. I’m a buzzkill. And I don’t think this idea of following your dreams, at least in this warm fuzzy sense, is a good one.

Maybe, we can’t all quit our jobs.

Maybe, having a 9-5 “boring” and “ordinary” job is not a bad thing.

Maybe we can’t afford to travel the world and focus on our art and figure ourselves out for a little while.

Maybe we can’t afford to follow our dream right now. Maybe, and here’s the buzzkill in me again, you shouldn’t be following your dream at all costs. Maybe you need to sit your adventuring self down, work hard at something that isn’t your first choice, put effort into it, get good at it, and take the opportunities that come your way, the things that are best for you.

Maybe you shouldn’t follow your dream.

Maybe you should be following opportunities.

Right now I would love to pursue writing. But I can’t. I work in a pasta restaurant, taking orders and serving food. This is not my first choice. This is not my passion in life. But it’s a very good opportunity I was given, and I believe very strongly that I can make the best of it. I can dedicate myself to becoming the very best pasta-serving employee, mastering that goal, moving up, making that monaaaaay, doing the job that other people might turn their noses up at because it’s not their dream, and maybe, just maybe, doing that will give me the means to go after what I really want.

There’s a very privileged (and I hate using that word) attitude in the idea of “following your dreams”. We can’t all do that. Not practically, not reasonably. We shouldn’t all do that. And we certainly shouldn’t put down the idea of doing something because it’s good for you, in taking pride in being the best you can be at whatever you’re doing, even if it’s not your dream job. After all, in the end, the word “dream” is crucial here — it’s the ideal, and it can definitely happen, but it’s not a guarantee. And you’re probably going to have to wade through the less fun stuff to get to it at all.

Throw out the idea that you’re too good to have an “ordinary” job. Throw out the idea that being “typical” and “boring” is bad; that just because it’s not your dream, and it’s not glamorous, you can’t take it or shouldn’t take it.

Have dreams.

Have passions, and follow your passions.

There is something you are meant to do in life, and that’s probably not serving pasta for the rest of your life. You have the loves and talents you do for a good reason.
But maybe, being practical and “normal” isn’t such a bad thing, at least for a little while.

Be good. Tackle the world head-on and get yourself a reputation. Learn something new, and learn how to be good at it.

And by all means, don’t get rid of that dream of yours.

It doesn’t have to be a dream forever.

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