When dreams die

Ever since I was a teenager, I’d wanted to learn to fly, not as a vocation, but for the fun of it. I was a natural according to my dad. He’d let me fly for hours, turning in accordance with the maps and flight plan, even descending until he was ready to land the plane. By the time I graduated high school, becoming a private pilot was a forgone conclusion—a dream I was excited to achieve when I had the time and money.

Throughout my twenties, I held onto this dream. About five years into our marriage, me and my husband (Rog) made a deal: he’d take over my business for a year so I could finish my first book (another life-long dream) then we’d swap roles as he earned his pilot’s license. The deal worked; my book was published, he became a private pilot and I was ready to become one myself. I was on my way…until I wasn’t.

You see, I was great at the task(s) of flying, but sub-par at the details part. I know this sounds ridiculous and inconceivable, but it’s true. Suffice it to say that weights and balance, the outside checks of the aircraft, measurements and calculations for distances etc.—all the manual must-do’s for a pilot—well, I was terrible. Now, I can hear you saying: but that’s what checklists are for. True, but there’s a little thing called acumen. It’s the difference between “something comes naturally” vs “I have to make/remind myself” to do it. One can get away with using sub-par running shoes without dying. The same cannot be said for scrimping on the details associated with flying. So it was that at 31, I gave up my dream of flying.

Dreams die daily

We live in ice hockey country. Here, dwellers convert old hockey sticks into windshield scrapers for the snow and ice–because one must also show a love of the sport, even when one is not playing. It also means that youth players are frequently tapped for juniors, the precursor league before going pro here or abroad. Over the last four years, we have seen many dreams fade before ultimately dying. Just today, we had a talented young man (19) who played several seasons in Europe call my husband. When I heard the advice Roger was giving, I thought to myself, “another dream just died.”

Rog empathized, he himself having experienced three successive dream-deaths as I call them. First, it was failing the eye exam required by the Air Force while still in high school (he wanted to be a fighter pilot). He was crushed, but according to his mother, rebounded by focusing on sports. Only 6’2, he was a standout basketball player in his region, receiving scholarships but not to the top school of his choice. When that (second) dream died, he pivoted to football, walking on to the University team his freshman year as a tight end. This dream continued until he was injured his sophomore year. Bah-bum.

Reframing the dream

As I listened to Rog provide feedback to this youth, he empathized with the young man devastated by the notion of a future without professional hockey. Then the problem solving began.

“What do you want to do? Where does your passion lie? Does standard of living matter to you?”

They were the kind of pragmatic, rational questions a high school counselor or parent/mentor asks. Over the next forty minutes, all sorts of options were discussed, as well as areas of the country to live, the pros and cons of each and ultimately, what needed to happen to get from here to there.

Rog concluded with an admonition to pivot towards a dream you can control. It’s what I call positive pragmatism. Reality has gotten in the way of your dreams, and because reality won’t change, you have to. In other words, you don’t stop dreaming, you create new dreams you can accomplish.

With Rog, he pivoted his energies towards what he could control, and that was academics. He finished his masters in eighteen months while working full-time. He controlled his efforts to pivot once again, creating a new dream of succeeding in the business world.

A dream with a deadline

I’ve often said: “A dream is an objective with a deadline.” When it comes to creating a new dream, commit to it with all the vigor your younger, more enthusiastic and excited self had. The fact you are now older, wiser and more capable increases the possibility that your dream will be realized.

When it came to writing, Stephen King advocated to “Write ten pages a day and in a year, you have a novel.” I couldn’t be a basketball player because no amount of perfect free-throws were going to change my height, but I could learn the craft of writing and become a novelist. But as I did so, I worked (for years) in the software industry, created a management consulting firm, got married, had two kids…writing away, always keeping that guiding light of a dream in the distance. Guess what? With each page, each book, and each year, that light became closer and brighter, until finally, one day, years later, a book hit #1. Yeah, it took 20 years, but as I always say, “The time is going to pass whether you do something with it or not.”

I know 2020 has been a dark year for a lot of people, but among the scorched Earth of the pandemic and election, many new dream seeds have been planted. A new business idea, a new passion, hobby or even the dream of love.

As we approach the years’ end, look around and find those seeds which have been planted in your life. Nourish them. Help them grow. And if your land is barren, a personal scorched Earth, then get out of your zone find some seeds. Take action. Create your own dreams because guess what? The only person who can create and realize your dream is you.