“What I am is good enough if only I would only be it openly.” — Carl Rogers
From the time my mom gave me a copy of Little Women, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was 8 when I started devouring books left and right. While other kids were asking their parents to take them to a toy store, I begged for a trip to the local bookstore.
When I turned 15, my 8-year-old was still alive. At 15, I took writing lessons. I read with fervor like never before. I wrote short and long poems. I got up early to practice writing, then returning to it each afternoon. My 15-year-old-self held a sense of great possibilities. She believed she could achieve anything if she put her mind to it. And she wasn’t self-conscious about pursuing her dreams all with rigor.
After I grew up, though, I left my 15-year-old self stranded, abandoned, and alone.
Do you remember back when you were a 15-year-old teenager? You would just do things. Doubt and skepticism did not dare to walk inside your home. They had no chance to win against your brave and daring self. If you wanted to play the piano, you would play the piano. To hell with your music teacher who told you, you didn’t have the musical talent. Awe and bliss sparkled on your face when your fingers reverently touched the keys on a piano keyboard.
Maybe music was not your thing, but other dreams woke you up at night urging you to get up and practice. Maybe being a teacher was a dream your heart called out for. Or maybe being a professional athlete electrified you.
Whatever your dreams were did not matter. You did not allow anyone or anything to get in your way.
Even if your teachers and parents told you to go back to your studies and forget about your dreams, you would rise with the sun to walk toward your dreams one more time.
Where is your 15-year-old self now?
Who played baseball and football like making love for the first time with someone you love?
Who slipped on his earbuds and fingered an air guitar even when your entire classmates thought you were a weird kid?
Who rose with the sun to run around your block because you longed to be a famous runner one day?
Where is your 15-year-old brave self who believed he could achieve anything?
What was your 15-year-old self doing you couldn’t stop doing? Drawing? Painting? Writing? Running? What did it give you then? What could it give you now?
What drives you — not what you get paid for, not what others want you to do?
What is the thing you couldn’t stop doing at 15?
Let’s spring life into our 15-year-old self.
In the 1st year of college, a publisher rejected my piece, and that was the end of my dreams. The rejection letter pierced my heart into a million pieces. I shoved my drafts at the bottom shelf in my closet. I did not pick up a pen to write a single sentence until I was 29.
I started walking in the opposite direction of my dream, which my 15-year-old self would have flinched.
You know what I’m talking about. You’re heartbroken you’ve abandoned your dreams. You yearn to walk toward your dreams. You long to publish your articles. To draw. To be a painter. To own and run your business. You feel your dreams inside you. They keep waking you up at night. You sense them straining to escape. You know your job is to set them free, firing them like a cannon into a world in desperate need of them.
But you’re terrified.
You’re terrified of what your parents will think when you tell them you’re giving up your corporate job to teach kindergarten or the guitar. You’re terrified of your friends and colleagues laughing behind your back, of their concerned, disapproving looks — all because you want to bring back to life your 15-year-old self from death. You’re terrified of publishers rejecting your drafts, of your bank denying you money for your business, of not having enough money to pay the rent and take care of your family — all because you want to make your dreams a reality.
That sense of freedom and unselfconscious rigor you had at 15 had fallen away. As you age, you have more responsibilities and less free time. But it’s not just your responsibilities and lack of time as an adult, that makes you glance a longing eye to the bottom shelf of your closet and quickly turn away. Something sinister kills your 15-year-old dreams daily. Any time you want to take a single step toward your dreams, an insidious voice interrupts you,
“What’s the point? What does it matter? Why spend Saturday afternoons practicing my painting, my writing, my running, that turns out to be just okay?”
That logic made little sense at 15.
At 15, the point was molding and developing yourself — and pursuing things that brought you joy.
Why should we give those things up with age?
Let’s talk about how. How to walk toward your dreams:
. Pretend you’re a superhero who can do anything and be successful.
When I was a teenager, friends of my parents asked how they got me to write poems. My mom’s answer,
“How do we get her to stop?”
I remembered my 15-year-old self who did not let anyone stop her and cried. I’ve to be my own superhero and save myself. That was the 1st step that helped me to pick up a pen with a shaking hand after 14 years of turning my back on my dream to write again.
I love Robert Downey, Jr. character as Tony Stark in Iron Man franchise movies. He is a valiant hero who writes his own story. He does not ask permission. He is brave, capable, confident, and strong.
You can be a hero in the story of your life, like the superheroes you watch on TV.
“How can I achieve what I want to achieve?” a hero asks. He does not let an obstacle kill his dreams. Even if a thousand screaming arrows come at him, a hero will still run toward his dreams. If the arrows slow down his running, he would walk. If the arrows slow down his walking, he would crawl.
Throw out the story of your life if you are not a hero in it. Take an objective look at your life right now. Is it sad? Have you abandoned your dreams?
Whatever your dreams are, pretend there are no other players in the game — nobody to judge or to tell you, you’re wrong.
That’s the first step that leads to your next one…
. Take out a piece of paper and make two columns.
In the left column, write your dreams. In the right column, next to each dream, write one thing you can do today to achieve that dream.
In May 2018, I started publishing a 300-word blog post on my blog every day and pitching one article to big publications per week.
These were simple tasks I could handle while working a 9–5 job.
The tasks you list on your right column need to be simple enough to avoid scaring you into procrastination.
- You can dedicate one hour every day to learn how to make YouTube videos.
- You can wake up 30 minutes early before your usual time to take a lesson on public speaking.
One day, these small tasks will be the reason you’ll make your dreams a reality.
. Instead of wondering if, when, or how it might happen, you need to jump in.
Some of us waited until we get to our 30s to achieve our dreams. We waited because we wanted to feel like everything is “right” — the right timing, right environment, right preparation, right education, or right ideas.
Until that “right” time came, we shoved our dreams in a box on the bottom shelf of our closet.
Some people will run out of time before that time comes. Because the “right” time does not exist on the calendar. Or we’ll be lucky and disgust would pour ice on our face forcing us to jump in. That’s what happened in my case. Disgust woke me up one night when I was 29 because I had abandoned my love of writing. Anguish kept me awake the whole night when I opened my bottom shelf and read one of my old poems. The date of one of my published pieces showed that 14 years have gone by since the last time I was published. My heart cracked for my battered and soiled dreams. And I was utterly angry with myself.
“Why the hell am I not pursuing a writing career? Why have I killed my 15-year-old self who loved writing above everything else?”
Disgust can force you to look in the mirror. It can force you to jump in and start swimming in the direction of your dreams, even if the cold water makes the tiny hairs on the back of your neck rise.
If you’re waiting for the “right” time saying,
“I’ll make my dreams a reality ‘someday’”
“I’d love to start up my own business. I’ll start ‘someday’”
“I’d love to draw. Maybe I’ll draw professionally one day when the lousy little doodles I draw become ‘perfect’”
Forget about waiting for “someday”. Forget about wondering when you’re going to achieve your dreams.
You need to jump in and learn to swim. At first, all the unknowns, the relentless self-doubt, the setbacks, the rejections, the countless failures, will make you feel you are swimming against the current.
But in time…
You will be carried along by the current.
If you’re standing on one side of a soccer field’s goal and you want to kick the ball directly into the opposing goal, it would be impossible. But if you dribble the ball — one dribble at a time — you could reach your dreams and have a blast with it.
One dribble at a time. That is what you need to make your dreams a reality.
Remember your free, passionate, and radiant 15-year-old self who played as if there was nothing to lose. You understood the essence of play. You played because you loved it, for the sheer joy of it. Because it turned you on.
When I started writing professionally, I came to my boyfriend on the verge of tears many times, saying I wanted to quit because my writing was rejected. But I stuck with it. I kept writing one article per day. One dribble at a time. With time, the rejections became approvals. Never hearing from clients again became a high-paying, long-term retainers. And the feelings of doubt and insecurity became a steadily growing sense of self-assurance.
You don’t achieve your dreams if you stay down after you get knocked out. You need to get up and start playing again. Like your 15-year-old self, you need to get your hands filthy and be messy.
Making your dreams a reality is playing something as many times as it takes until you nail it.
Achieving your dreams is about having permission to keep being a beginner. Over time, as you carry on, you will become an expert at whatever you’re pursuing.
But even as experts though, we need to be willing to learn something new.
Even after my blog started earning, I open my laptop and add something on the blank page. Just a sentence gets me going. And over a short amount of time — voila! An article is finished.
Repetition is a convincing argument.
For the last two and a half years, I’ve been writing relentlessly. That drive to walk in the direction of my dream still surprises me. I realize I’m still learning my own story, valuing the work over the outcome, finding my voice, and playing one dribble at a time. I’m still reaching, and hopefully, still growing.
Anyone who has achieved his dreams understands it does not come without hard work, dedication, and discipline.
Now, walk toward your dreams, even if they seem impossible.
You deserve unbounded success.
I have faith in you and all that you can be.
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