Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Embracing Uncertainty and Living Your Dreams

On a lot of travel blogs, you see articles about following your dreams.  What does that have to do with travel?  An awful lot, I've realized.  Both travel and following your dreams require courage.  Both travel and following your dreams require a person to embrace uncertainty and conquer their fears.

At it's heart, travel (and following your dreams) is a truth-seeking journey.  What is the prerequisite for a truth-seeking journey?  I think it's a willingness to break from routine, to stop giving a hoot about what society thinks is "normal" or "prestigious" and to leave behind creature comforts and familiarity for the uncertainty of the unknown.

I've met a lot of people who are too afraid to travel or follow their dreams.  They would really love to quit their 9-5 and switch careers, to make money off of that "hobby," to pursue that burning passion.  Or they would really love to sell all of their belongings and travel the world for a year or more, maybe working along the way, but they are too afraid.

Their dreams keep calling out to them.  (It's hard to silence our hearts.  I know.  I've tried.)  But every time their heart starts talking, they start making excuses:  "It's too difficult to pay bills overseas."  "I'd have to find someone to rent my house or sublease my apartment."  "Only rich people can afford to travel."  "Who would take care of my goldfish?"  "Parting with my possessions is too difficult."  "I could never support myself."  "I can't travel or follow my dreams because I need money so that I can afford a bigger house, a nicer car, and better clothes so that I can impress other people."  "I'd fail and become disillusioned."  "My family and friends will think I'm weird, a disappointment."   

All those excuses are fear talking.

Recently I read a CNN Opinion article about how new college graduates are struggling to find a job (or a job in their field of study) right out of college.  It effectively said, "Don't become a journalism major."  "Don't become a history major, a geography major, a French major, a social work major."  Do something "sensible" like Engineering or Nursing.

On one hand, this article is right.  An Engineering or Nursing major is going to land a job easier, and a higher-paying one at that.  That's common sense.  That message has been drilled into me since the age of five.  But is a higher salary and promises of "security" worth selling your soul and your dreams?

This article is fear-mongering at it's finest.  I'd love to walk up to Carl E. Van Horn or Cliff Zukin and give them a titty twister.  Or maybe a swift kick to the balls.

After I read their article, I wondered how many dreams it crushed.  I wondered how many 20-year-olds read that article, let fear do all the talking, and relinquished their passions, never to follow their dreams again.  (It's amazing how many people give up their dreams early in life, years before they even enter the job market.)  I also wondered how many 40-year-olds, considering a mid-life career change, read that article and returned to their cubes, dejected and defeated, never to emerge.

Look, in following my dreams and becoming a writer I know I'm going to struggle.  I'll most likely have to take a second job to supplement my writing income.  I'm not going to be earning $90 to $100 K per year.  But you know what?  At least I'll be living life on my own terms.  At least I'll be able to look myself in the mirror every day and know that I'm living the mantra, "To Thy Own Self Be True."

Here is my take.  Life is short and we only have one.  Do that thing that you're really passionate about, that thing that energizes you, that thing that keeps you awake at night thinking about it, that thing you've wanted to do forever but were always too afraid to do.  Be creative.  Be adaptable.  Work hard.  If your dream is to become a writer, a photographer, a chef, a fashion designer, etc. realize that you are probably going to need to do unpaid work, unpaid internships, take a 2nd (or 3rd job) for a couple of years in order to break into the field.

Following your dreams are worth those sacrifices. 

Know what no one ever talks about?  The millions of "rich" but miserable people in the world.

I want to clarify one thing.  It's hard to know what we want to be when we grow up.  To quote Baz Luhrmann, "The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives.  Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't."  Don't be afraid to switch jobs, to do volunteer work, to experiment.  Take classes, read books, ask questions, chip away at another degree.  All of these efforts will help you differentiate your "likes" from your "loves."

If you're not willing to work hard, to make sacrifices, to be creative, to be adaptable, etc. then you might be afraid.  Or it might not be your true passion.  There is a quote, "Distance to love is like wind to fire.  It extinguishes the small and kindles the great."  I think this quote should be reworded to read, "Stumbling blocks to dreams are like wind to fire.  They extinguish the small and kindle the great."   

And if you decide that your "love" is math or the hard sciences then don't shy away from it because you think it's too difficult, because you're scared to fail.  Don't become a liberal arts major just because you think it'll allow you a better social life or more time to sleep.  All of these things are examples of fear talking, too.

People tell me all the time that they are looking for the "truth" and that they can't seem to find it.  That they are stuck in a rut.  That they feel spiritually dead.  That they feel like there has to be more to life than this.  I think the biggest obstacle to a spiritual life, to a life of evolution, to a life of being true to oneself and following ones dreams is an over-reliance on SECURITY.  When we relinquish that need for security and embrace the unknown, that's when we really start to evolve, that's when we really start live.

"The search for security is an illusion. There's no evolution in it... Uncertainty, on the other hand, is the fertile ground of pure creativity and freedom. Everyday look for the excitement of what may occur in the field of possibilities. When you experience uncertainty, you are on the right path..."
~Deepak Chopra 

 * Pictures are from the countryside near Plovdiv, Bulgaria. 

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