Imagine with me that you are six years old. Your hair has never been more healthy because you aren’t in charge of caring for it. The same can be said for the rest of your life. It’s wonderful and carefree because it’s not your own.
Not to say that you don’t dream of what it will look like when it is your own. You do. But what do those dreams look like?
They’re boundless, right? The only walls around your dreams are really just your preferences, which are still being shaped, so calling them walls may not be fair.
But how do you achieve them?
Your mom, your teacher, Disney originals and the like all tell you:
Great. You’ve got that down.
Now, you’re eighteen and faced with a sudden thrust of reality. You have no idea what the rest of the tactical plan looks like. Your preferences are still not brick-and-cement-strong, but they’re at least drywall. You know you want to do something in X and that the plan is still to “believe” and “dream big.”
Life starts to move more quickly. The friendships that kind of just happened to you all of your life start to disappear. You didn’t know that you had to nurture them because you’ve never had to do that before. They just came to you and stayed and were great. Now they’re gone.
College, or the workforce, or whatever you’ve chosen at far too young of an age or brain-development-standpoint, is far different than you were told, as well. Now, it is more than studying and showing up to take tests and glue things to poster boards. (Or maybe letting your parents do your work for you.) Now it is learning how to think for yourself. How to think critically. How to make decisions for yourself with long-term implications. And it’s work. And no one told you that it would be work. Because it was never work before.
Now, you’re twenty-six. College didn’t work out. Your parents got divorced. Your hair could not be more unhealthy. The phrases “just believe” and “dream big” mean nothing to you anymore. If anything, they are your sarcastic and satirical response to your significant other when they ask how you’re coping with stress. Oh, you’re also engaged.
Like… to be married.
You’ve never been that far in a relationship before. Any type of relationship, really. Even your friendships, which have mostly disappeared at this point. Because, again, you didn’t know you had to water them. And when you figured that out, most of them were dead. Luckily, there are a few succulents in your life that survived. But your fiance, somehow, always had that figured out. You resent him for that.
“College” has shifted to “career.” You weaseled your way into something you semi-enjoy. (Maybe you dreamed big enough?) But, alas, this is also “work.” And not just, “water-once-a-week” work, but “wring-you-out-to-dry” work. (You’re also super dramatic.) When you leave your “career” at the end of the day, you are so drained that you struggle to find things that make you happy. Disney originals from your youth don’t even do it anymore.
Where are those dreams, now?
When you close your eyes before you fall asleep, your mind instantly grabs a few low-hanging fruit. Hitting the lottery so you don’t have to “work,” anymore. Or maybe writing a best-selling novel that gets adapted into a movie. That’s work you’d enjoy.
But when you’re on the precipice of actual slumber, you feel safe enough to uncover your actual desires.
And there you are, standing in front of a mirror, rubbing a protruding stomach. Your chin is glued to your chest, your eyes to your womb. There’s a life in there. One that you have the glorious opportunity to set up for success in all the ways that you feel you were cheated. One that will be so much greater than you’ve turned out to be. Smarter, savvier, more resourceful, with a stronger, harder work ethic.
You’re getting closer to unconsciousness when you see the six-year-old version of the aforementioned baby-bump. He/she has super healthy, perfect, curly hair. You are asking him/her what they want to be when they grow up. They are rattling off a wild list.
You grab their precious cheeks that you had a hand in creating in your slightly aging hands and say,
“Just believe. Dream big.”