One time, in college, I was asked to introduce myself to the class, say my major and give a word that described me. I remember thinking about it for a while, and eventually settling on the word, “dreamer.” Content and confident with my choice, I stood up and described myself to the class:
“Hi! I’m Ryan. I’m a mass communications major with a digital media emphasis, and I think the word that describes me best is ‘dreamer’.”
Immediately I saw my professor’s face melt into sadness, with maybe a hint of disappointment.
“Oh,” she said, “that’s so sad.”
“What?” I responded, shocked and confused.
“Well, dreamer…” she trailed off, “isn’t that kind of a sad thing? Like, your head is always in the clouds? You never do anything?”
I hadn’t thought of that connotation. “Well, no,” I answered, “maybe we have different definitions of the word. You see, the dreamers I know and look up to and aspire to be like are doers as well. Walt Disney for instance. He wasn’t confined by other people’s ideas of what could and couldn’t be done. He had a dream and made it come to life. He was always dreaming!”
My professor never ended up agreeing with me completely, but that didn’t matter to me. Far more important was realizing that I was proud of the label “dreamer.” That sat well with me. I wanted to be a dreamer. I would be thrilled to grow into a label like that!
Similarly to the reaction from my professor, American culture/society(?) often looks down upon people who dream. It’s not even a conscious choice all the time. I can think of two reasons why this happens: First, dreamers seldom fit the mold of society and that bothers people. Different bothers people. Challenging the status quo bothers people. Pointing out the flaws in the world bothers people. (I’m not even sure why that is, because I love those things, and can’t even imagine why someone wouldn’t. Maybe it’s just the fear of change…) Second, everyone has been a dreamer at some point in their life. Whether as a little kid with an imagination that ran wild or as a young adult in high school/university believing you could change the world, everyone has dreamt some sort of big dream. But most people grow out of it. Nearly everyone grows out of it. So then, when a person comes along who hasn’t stopped dreaming. Who is still envisioning and chasing after the impossible, it makes other ex-dreamers jealous and self conscious. So, rather than encourage the dreamer and admit to themselves that they could live that way, but no longer do, it’s easier to put down the person with the “crazy ideas.”
The thing is, people need dreamers! The world needs dreamers. We need people who will envision a better world, better systems and work to make their visions come to life.
The song “Fools Who Dream” has been a massive encouragement to me lately. It’s my favorite song from the movie La La Land and so eloquently emphasizes the movie’s message. Better than me describing or explaining the song, here are some of the lyrics…
Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make
She captured a feeling, sky with no ceiling
Sunset inside a frame. She lived in her liquor
And died with a flicker. I’ll always remember the flame
She told me: A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us, and that’s why they need us!
So bring on the rebels, the ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets and plays…
And here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make
That song hits me so hard because so often people just don’t get the dreamers. That’s okay because your vision may not be their vision, but it doesn’t make being a dreamer difficult! It’s a lifestyle worth living though! It’s worth living in that space where anything is possible! Some of the best people live there, so you’ll be in good company!
If you’re a dreamer, or if you’ve ever dreamt of being a dreamer, I’d encourage you to continue! To keep on keeping on! Don’t be scared of the unknown or the people who put down or stomp on your dreams. Give yourself the freedom to explore. To imagine a better world. And don’t put limits on your dreams!
“Who knows where it will lead us? And that’s why they need us!”
“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
~ Walt Disney