Have you ever had this feeling that when you were younger, life felt more certain?
Like, you could project your life ten years from today according to what you did today without much variation?
That if you had a dream, you could reach it.
As you got older, every dream became more impossible, exploding into nothingness as it collided with reality.
I had two dreams. The first was to become a performer.
I loved singing, dancing and acting. I spent most of my school holidays refining my vocals and creating skits I acted out and recorded with my siblings, dancing in between.
At one point in my life, I was certain, I wanted to be a dancer.
Not for the applause, not for the audience, but for myself and the extraordinary feeling in me that I felt when I danced.
I first gave up this dream when I saw no else I knew had the same dream.
Then, as I grew up, school work became demanding and I performed less. The fire faded.
My parents were traditional and never saw any future with arts, so they never paid attention to this interest of mine.
At most, they saw it as a hobby I indulged myself in whenever I had time.
And they were right. I don’t think I would have gone very far where I grew up.
My second dream was to become a writer. It was something that I felt nobody could take away from me because it only took me, a pen and paper to do what made me happy.
I could even write in my head without paper. I saw stories everywhere I went, through people I met, both who I spoke to and never spoke with; places I would see, some of which I stepped into and some of which I have only been in my mind.
Each scene fired a story in my mind.
I stayed in this world for as long as I could.
But then, one day, someone did take this dream away from me.
She told me… no one can make a living from writing, Lu Wee. Do something practical. At least you’ll be able to eat.
I know I shouldn’t say ‘take’ from me. No one can take what you don’t willingly give. But, somewhere in our conversations together, I started to believe that having it was much more dangerous than not having it.
Like when you find a piece of lit coal and you like the amber on it and you pick it up. You think it’s kinda cool and you bring it around to show people. Maybe they’ll find it cool too.
But, what happened what that they saw fire and told you… you shouldn’t be holding that. You’ll catch fire. It’ll kill you.
I didn’t want to die.
So I gave it away.
I didn’t want to give away but who wanted to die?
What I didn’t know back then was that… most people can’t hold lit coal because they have hands that will burn. And they’ll die.
But what if there were people with a gift… so even when they held lit coal, they wouldn’t get burned at all?
And, what if I was a person like that?
I didn’t think about this back then. So I gave away something precious to me. And lost myself.
One thing that happens when you give up on your dreams is that you start telling people to stop dreaming too.
I think there’s a part of you that doesn’t want people to be able to get what you gave up on. Because it makes you look bad, like you didn’t fight hard enough.
So when someone tells you, I want to be a writer, you repeat the same thing that turned the fire off in you to that person:
No, don’t be silly. You won’t be able to make a living writing. Do something practical.
You say it often enough so they too become just like you. Cynical.
And the cycle repeats viciously, one person passing the same message to the next dreamer, squashing their hopes flat in the name of ‘reality’.
I didn’t think I had the power of extinguishing dreams. But everyone does.
Not with swords. Not with hammers. But words.
Words that destroy.
When I finally caught myself doing it, I had already done it for a few years. And I felt embarrassed.
I didn’t want be that way anymore. But how could I stop?
How could let other people dream, and allow them to make their dreams come true?
I had to begin with allowing myself to dream, and letting my own dreams come true first.
So I picked up writing again. I started working out again. I started to pick up dancing again.
These days, it’s not that hard encouraging people to go for their dreams.
I never say it’s impossible. Instead, I’ll ask: how will you make it possible?
I’m hardly the best writer or dancer or anything but what I’ve found is that if you have a dream, the best thing to do is to do as much as you can to make it a reality.
You don’t have to be the best, or even make money from it. Sometimes, the journey is the reward.
So, if you haven’t done it yet, reward yourself with a journey you want to be part of every single day of your life.