After reading the F*ck Your Dreams post on TFD on Thursday, the title stuck out (and stung a little), because I am a dreamer, and my dreams keep me going every day. I definitely agreed with some of the takeaways of the article, like embracing your current situation, realizing you aren’t tied to your past dreams, and the idea that life throws curveballs. It’s a point well-taken that sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you don’t, and you need to roll with it. But abandoning dreams (even from your younger years) doesn’t seem right to me.
This may not be the same for everybody, but when I look back, all my ‘dream jobs’ as a child came down to making people happier, and inspiring others. Throughout my life, this manifested in bouncing around in different fields, like psychology, fine arts, medicine, comedy, education and now, a weird mixture of public health, environmental design, and urban planning. Honestly, I think if I followed any of the careers I once loved, I would be pretty stoked. Any of those career prospects would have made people happy in some way, whether it would be because they’re not sick anymore, they’re at an improv show, or they have an adequate wastewater systems. And those jobs might not be as inspiring as some, but the idea of your work having an impact on one person is awesome.
I believe that dreams give you direction. Maybe it’s not Waze-esque step-by-step directions, but dreams definitely give you some sort of personal guidance. I’m working a semi-entry-level job right now that involves research in my field (energy), which is wonderful. Every day isn’t a life-changing experience, and like many entry-level jobs, it involves some mundane tasks. Despite this, I love coming to work every day knowing that this job is part of my ~journey~ to the somewhat unknown end goal.
But what if you hate your soul-sucking job, even though it was previously your dream job?! I’ve been there, and my answer to that issue is, go find something else. I thought I was going to be a teacher right out of college, and quickly, I realized that was not the path for me. It wasn’t failure; it just wasn’t right. Even if you’re in a job you cannot leave for financial reasons, take the opportunity outside of work to find something you love. Dabble in new hobbies or find something you’re passionate about outside of work to spark livelihood and diligence in your work. Even if you hate your job, work damn hard and do it well, because not only do you need it to get by, but it could also be a stepping stone to the next bigger and better thing.
If I were to say, “hey dreams, f*ck you,” I would feel like I was failing myself. I think the challenge is taking your dreams and realizing that they don’t pigeonhole you into a specific career (i.e. an oceanographer), but guide you along the randomness and challenges of life. When things are rocky, you keep on going, because you have goals. For me, dreams help me not admit defeat.
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece on how I’m attending graduate school part-time and working full-time. Sometimes I see the really neat internships my classmates are doing, and I wonder how things would be different if I had gone to grad school full-time without having a job. I could be a graduate research assistant, and I could be working for some environmental planning group. I know I’d enjoy both, but on the other hand, I’m making a steady income and only paying a couple thousand for a master’s degree from a prestigious university.
My long-term goal is to be involved in promoting equity in sustainable development (think: bringing solar energy to low-income regions, access to sanitation, and clean water for all, etc.). Only a small fraction of my work is actually related to my “dream career,” but I know the overall mission of my organization most definitely relates. The connections I make inside and outside of work are invaluable to side projects I take on in my free time (which I don’t have much of). Knowing that I’m taking baby steps and learning skills that will be of use in my future makes me excited to be in my office every day, even if it means a day of drowning in Excel files.
The greatest challenge I’ve faced so far is holding down a job that made me feel professionally stagnant. I remember feeling down, and every small thing that went wrong was nothing short of disastrous. At that point, I knew that something had to change, so I started my job search and tried to figure out what roadblocks were standing in my way. It was also helpful to find other outlets to exercise my passions: I hopped around from volunteering at a local urban farm, to exploring farmer’s markets, to reading about water quality issues, etc. For me, the most effective strategy was probably reading about leaders/characters throughout history and fiction, because it helped reinspire me.
One of my favorite singers and heroines is Selena Quintanilla, the “Queen of Tejano music,” which is a male-dominated genre. Her drive to fulfill her dreams has always been an inspiration to me. I think that the drive to succeed, no matter where you are, is essential to moving forward to something bigger. She is not around to witness the fruits of her labor, as she was murdered at 23, but her determination to succeed, I would imagine, was what pushed her to achieve so much. I would like to think that if for some reason my ability to reach my dreams was cut short, that I worked my hardest to get as far as possible. My goal is to stay passionate and in love with a dream that pushes me through the weeds, and to never give up on that.
Marcela is a part-time urban planning student while working full-time as an energy research coordinator. She hopes to travel the world working in sustainable development and trying a new pastry everywhere she goes. She is on Instagram.
Image via Unsplash