The Stuff of Neglected Dreams


We all think we’re so smart, don’t we?

It’s our friends who choose awful mates. They get stuck in mundane careers. Our siblings, they’re the ones that settle for less in relationships, helplessly give up on their dream careers for the easy buck. Even our co-workers, it’s obvious that they don’t know how to speak up to the boss or even quit the whole thing and start over somewhere else.

No, we’re smarter. We’re more dedicated. We know every trick in the book. No one can sneak up on us and bribe us away from our shiny missions of happiness in life. No, we would never relinquish our burning passion, whether it’s love or work, and we can easily dismiss any sorry imitations.

Except we can’t. We really don’t. And, no, it has nothing to do with our intelligence, or even our street smarts. It’s simply that  you began to intuitively conclude dreams don’t always come true. So you compromise a little here, slow down a little there, and one day you wake up and realize you’re running yourself ragged for something  you don’t even care about.

I’m finding that as I age, the loved poems of my youth take on new, achingly poignant meanings. I believe wholeheartedly that they mean something only when a person has accumulated experience. Yes, you might love the music and beauty of literature as a child, but sometimes it takes maturity to really get it. One day, a certain passage in a poem or a book clicks. It jumps off the page and becomes life.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in the car with friends and Langston Hughes’ “Dream Deferred” drifted into my mind. I had chosen a career. I had chosen a family of friends. I had worked hard for years to make it work. I had battled fear, rejection, persecution, depression, discouragement and burn-out. Finally, I had reached a place of peace. But, I recalled “Dream Deferred.” I was not happy. It was not my dream that I was breaking my neck for. I was battling for survival. Who dreams of simply surviving? I had let my real dreams go.

I pulled out my phone and read the poem. As I perused Hughes’ argument about what happens when we allow dreams to slip away, I recognized myself in each one. Yes, I had found peace, but I had willingly handed over my dream as the price.

How could I have done this? Me? The one who was so determined and passionate. But it happens. It happened.

The question was what to do.

I sat myself down and asked myself what I really wanted. It wasn’t hard for me to remember my purpose in life. I was honest with myself about the possibility that my present circumstances were not going to help me accomplish my dreams. Then, I had to act. I changed my circumstances. I still don’t where I’m going, but I brandished my courage like a weapon to move somewhere, do something.

Now, I’m more hopeful that I will accomplish what I’ve been put on Earth to do. And I’m a lot more confident that I will stay on track and realize potential pitfalls (at least a tad bit earlier).

Even though you might be very familiar with Langston Hughes’ poem, reread “Dream Deferred” once more. Maybe it’ll make you stop and reflect about the direction of your life and the choices you’ve made. Then, let me know with a comment: Have you ever stopped mid-life and realized that you were on a completely different path than the one you had hoped for? What did you do about it?



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