Live your dreams – really?

What’s stopping you from taking the plunge?

This is one of those posts that’s winding me up even before I’ve written it because I can’t bear it when people hold themselves back just because of what other people expect of them.

I’ve reached a stage in life where I’m disappointingly far from where I’d like to be (even though I don’t know where I’d like to be) and slipping further away from my dreams every day (even though my dreams change all the time). Let’s go over that again: I’m not where I want to be in life … even though I’m not sure where I want to be … and my dreams are slipping out of my reach … even though my dreams are not set in stone.

So, in other words, I’m fine just where I am.

I realised a few months ago that rather than being far from where I’d like to be, I’m far from where society tells me I should be. And where’s that? It’s simply where the majority of people my age are. That’s precisely why I’m not one to care. I’ve never been swayed by peer pressure – in fact, I actively rebel against it.

I’ve been unable to do anything but follow my own heart since I was around 16, even though I jumped onto paths that led me down some dodgy little alleyways that I was, in all seriousness, lucky to get out of. I took extraordinary risks, experimented, drifted where the wind blew me and had some incredible experiences along the way. I learned pretty early on that I was gutsy, brave and rebellious and I enjoyed that side of myself. I loved my free spirit, my inability to act ‘normal’, my need to push the boundaries and the rewards that came with that. The problem is that I always felt like I was doing something wrong, that I was being frowned upon by those who tow the line. I openly reject responsibility and society frowns on that.

Society’s a little bit hypocritical and not a little bit baffling, to me.

We’re told, ‘find your identity!’ but it’s a message delivered with an undertone of, ‘so long as you fit in with a version of who we’d like you to be.’

We’re told, ‘you’re only here once – enjoy life to the full!’ but are then described as selfish or hedonistic if we enjoy life to the max.

We’re told, ‘go after your dreams!’ but are reminded of how we should ‘grow up’ if we dare to put dreams before responsibility.

It’s like that saying: 

Society: “Be yourself!”
Society: “No – not like that!”

Society tells us that we’re missing a trick if we’re not working hard towards buying a home, upgrading that home, breeding children, building a respectable career, finding good friends, buying things to give us status, buying more things when we’re told the old things are no longer worthy – doing everything by the book for 50 years of our adult lives so that we have a bit of comfort in the last 10.

Being sensible, basically.

The thing is that society engrains that train of thought in us so tightly that when we see someone who lives even slightly outside the box we think they’re dicing with danger and assume there’ll be grave consequences. We see them as adventurous, unruly, naughty – mad even. It makes us uneasy when we see people living without the safety blanket of conformity.

Depending on their age …

If you spoke to a 90-year-old and discovered that for 10 years of her life she’d stripped down to her underwear and twirled round a pole for the sheer hell of gaining money and attention, you’d likely pat her on the forearm and chuckle, ‘good on you!’ whilst admiring her wild ways and wondering what other things she must have got up to. If you spoke to a 20-year old who was doing the same thing, you’d likely refer to her as a degenerate and assume she’s on a path to nowhere. How’s that fair? She’ll be that 90-year-old one day – and then, what, it’s somehow acceptable for her to have followed her wild side for a while?

All I know is that the overwhelming majority of old people that I’ve spoken to during my life have all said something similar: they wish they’d thrown caution to the wind a bit more, walked on the wild side, lived their dreams, been true to their hearts, done those things they were too afraid to try. And why didn’t they do those things? Because they were towing the line, doing as they were told, bowing down to peer pressure and worrying about what other people might think.

“Why didn’t I do what I wanted to do while I had the chance?”
“Why didn’t I go after my dreams?”
“Why did I care so much about what they’d say?”
“Why did I worry that I might fail?”
“Why didn’t I just do it anyway?”

For me, that’s a tragedy. And it’s a reminder that I shouldn’t feel guilty about living life the way I want to live it, just because it’s outside the norm. Not that I’ve ever felt guilty about doing that, if you want the truth. I must be too selfish – oh well!

Where should I be in life? Exactly where I am now – going after my dreams and living what’s in my core while I have the chance, no matter how old I happen to be and no matter what other people think about it.

“Why didn’t I do what I wanted to do while I had the chance? Why didn’t I go after my dreams? Why did I care so much about what they’d say? Why did I worry that I might fail? Why didn’t I just do it anyway?” are all things I know I won’t be asking at the end of my life.

So, where should you be in life?