It seems to be a staple of staple of our culture that we value those people who pursue their dreams, who throw caution to the wind and risk everything to achieve something they’ve always yearned for. These kinds of people scoff at the question “How are you going to make a living at it?” and jeer at the pronouncement “There’s no money in it for you.” And we love them for it. We watch movies about them, we listen to them on television talk shows and secretly we wish that we had the courage to do what they have done.But is this the standard we should try to live up to? There’s a problem with our vision of these people, a fundamental bias that is all too easy to overlook in the way we think about them. The dreamers we know about are always successful. Of course they are; how would we know their names otherwise?
But how many more stories are there about people who followed their dreams and failed? I don’t even know how you would objectively measure something like that, but tonight I heard at least one such story. A man came by the place I work and told the story of his daughter who went to college and studied art only to find that when she emerged with a degree in her hand and passion in her heart only to find that the warnings that “there’s no money in it,” were right on target. She couldn’t make money as an artist. Today she supports herself by teaching art: certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but hardly the dream I imagine she had when she chose her career path.
This issue is more than academic for me. I have a dream too, an improbable dream, but a dream that burns in my heart as fervently as any star burns in the heavens. I want to be a writer. A real writer, with an agent, and books with my name on them on the shelves at Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million. A writer who can make enough money to comfortably live out the rest of his life doing even more writing. The problem is I know plenty of writers who haven’t succeeded, poor souls reduced to peddling their self-published books at local art fairs, and on obscure websites that try to look professional, but instead end up looking pathetic. These are men and women with a dream that never came true. Every day they work at their mundane job, and every night they go home to their writing. Their Dream. And though they are consumed by the fire of their passion, the flame gives them no heat. They are painfully aware of the lie that they are telling themselves.
And I am one of them.Am I wasting my time? I have promised myself that I will keep writing till I die even if none of my books sees the light of day, but the truth is that I desperately yearn to be read. Every time I step into the bookstore there is a part of me that aches to see my name on printed on the cover of one of those books. And I have to wonder…how long do I keep dreaming? How long do I close my eyes to the bitter reality of failure? How long until I give up?
And yet, even as I write this, I remember the deeper more important truth. I cannot give up. I love writing. It is as much a part of who I am as the air I breathe, and without it, some part of me would surely perish.Even if I go to the grave a fool, I will have been a fool who spent his life living as few men can hope to live. I am a dreamer. And for the dreamer, the obstacles mean nothing; the dream is everything.
So I will go on. For as long as I am unpublished, I will feel the pain of a weary heart, but I will go on. Because dreams, even when they don’t come true are still worth something. They are the heart of the soul, the distilled essence of humanity itself. And without them, we are nothing.