The biggest question, when you're a child, that every adult asks you, is "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It invites imagining, invokes exciting visions of "being" a firefighter, ballerina or superhero. Adults encourage children to dream big. We tell our kids, "Anything's possible!"
But as we grow, somewhere along the line, the tune changes. A 4 year old's dream of being an astronaut may be tolerantly encouraged. Mom and Dad buy Junior a "space helmet" or a model of a space shuttle. They indulge him with stories of aliens and space exploration. But as he grows, he is told to leave such childishness alone. Be realistic. Only certain "special" people get to be astronauts -- those with high math and science aptitude, those with money for top universities.. and Junior's parents work long hours just to keep the lights on and food on the table.
Somewhere childhood dreams get laid aside for the "reality" of growing up. But why do we trash our childhood dreams so much? Little kids have no expectations laid on them, but by the time they hit middle school, mom may be pushing her daughter towards law school, and away from drama class, even though all the little girl ever wanted was to be a movie star. All too often, parents try to live vicariously through their children.
Even if there is no parental expectations of certain career paths, life has a way of discouraging us from really following our dreams. Our peers reject and pressure us to conform to the "typical", to not take the risk or try harder.. schools discourage creativity and individuality, since that's hard to quantify and can be disruptive.. and older generations look down on innovation -- "what's good enough for me, should be good enough for you" is often the motto.
The fear of rejection, jealousy from others pushing negativity, the pressure to conform -- all discourage dreaming big. The childhood answers to the big questions "What do you want to be" now become "what will you do to make a living" in young adulthood. We trade our big dreams for small goals. And move back in with mom and dad, because fear pushes us back to the safe familiarity of home.
I've been dreaming lately. I've had to give up so much -- some of it willingly, I admit, and some from my own poor choices -- but a lot because of the circumstances of my life, and the choices of someone else. And I find myself wondering if some of those dreams should be recovered, taken back on, reached for.
What if? It's a theme of my musings, in the darkness of the night, as I sit and nurse my infant daughter. What if I .. I pray for direction, and my imaginings keep turning back to the "what if"?
There's a book in Christian circles, "What happens when a woman says yes to God." I've never read it, but the title always caught my attention. What if I did say yes.. took the chance, followed the dream that had been dying in the darkened corner of my heart?
Just maybe.. just maybe dreams don't have to die, because of growing up. What if...