Where Dreams Go When They Die
Once again I was overlooked by People’s “50 Most Beautiful People.” I’ll have another shot next year. Some people say I get better looking with age, though both of them are relatives.
If I’m being honest, I have to admit magazine fame is not in my future. And that’s OK. Some things don’t work out like we hope.
One young man had a dream of living a life of luxury through investments in the stock market. You might remember a time we refer to as the “dot-com” era—$25,000 goes a long way when the market is shooting straight up. Why not buy options? Better yet, why not margin those options and buy more?
The mind is a wonderful instrument. It can project frequent trips to the Virgin Islands and fine antiques. At $100,000, it factors in special cigars rumored to cause a stir by any customs officer south of The Keys. At $500,000, it can see multiple millions, early retirement and fruity umbrella drinks served up by a guy named Antonio. And a pontoon boat.
And then comes life. Where is a good script writer when you need one? Why isn’t there a way to save the day when the bubble bursts, the investments implode and $500,000 becomes $250,000, becomes $100,000, and then nothing?
Please don’t hang up when I say the apparent death of a dream is not always a bad thing. In fact, it often helps to clarify the difference between a fantasy and a genuine desire. In her Psychology Today article, “Coping with Disappointment,” F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W., says, “To promote growth, disappointment needs to be experienced…. [It is useful to] build psychological ‘muscles’ and skills for coping with these feelings.” Though it doesn’t seem fun at the time.
Dreams that are mere fantasies get shot down left and right. They meet their imminent demise because they don’t have the stamina to withstand the assault of disappointment and rejection. Should you have any doubt, go stand in line and audition to be a rock star. Move to Hollywood and pass out your 8-by-10 glossies or stand on the corner and sing in your underpants. You will find a lot of “would be” stars giving up and going back to the grind.
Dreams that attain the “genuine desire” status laugh at death the way a seed laughs when it is planted. When a writer gets turned down by yet another publisher, is she still a writer? A writer writes. It’s what she does. A singer sings even though she doesn’t get the part, and a teacher finds the students even when politics force her out of the system. To tell a builder he may not build is like telling a dung beetle to stay away from the poop.
True “callings” have resurrection within their DNA. When they are killed, they bury themselves deep in the soul only to emerge stronger, more mature and better equipped to succeed than before. For confirmation, research the life of a superhero in any field and be shocked by their path through setbacks, discouragement and failure.
Are you daydreaming about a fantasy, or are you dedicated to a lifelong accomplishment? Can you be talked out of it or discouraged by failure? Is it somewhat reasonable or a childlike hallucination? In his Harvard Business Review article, “When You Realize You’ll Never Get Your Dream Job,” Stew Friedman helps us reach that balance. “To lead a life you want, you must have a vision that’s useful, a compelling image of an achievable future.” Compelling so it excites you when you wake up in the morning. Achievable so you are not depressed because you can’t be Bruce Springsteen.
The young investor lost the island fantasy but gained what he really wanted. A tremendous amount of wisdom, which led to much safer, long-term investments, of which he has many. He found a strength that brought him out of an abyss. How do you put a price on that? He enjoys a property that is paid off, a loving family, a thriving business and a lifestyle that generates more happiness than an endless supply of fruity drinks. And a pontoon boat.
And I have accepted my plight with People. For now, I am content being a speaker, writer and a somewhat eccentric person who travels the country making people laugh. Next year I hope to be a quarterback for the New England Patriots. Unless I get a leading part in Mel Gibson’s newest movie.