In fact, I have many. I am a perpetual dreamer. I am the type of child who would sit staring out of the window during class with big ideas, seeing the end of the journey before I had seen the step in front of me. I was the university student who whilst checking out biochemistry books from the library, also checked out books about special effects make up techniques because I had this gnawing desire to run off to Hollywood and become the next Stan Winston. I am the adult who read The Beach by Alex Garland and even when I was finally working in Cardiology as I planned, gave another serious thought to jacking everything in and going travelling through Thailand. Most of my ‘dreams’ however were just fantasy. I was never seriously going to become a make-up artist in Hollywood, and it was very unlikely although slightly more realistic that I would end up going travelling in Thailand. These aspirations were ideas that I thought sounded nice, and yes, seeing my name on the credits for The Lord of the Rings would have been nice, but there were other things I always wanted much, much more. So it begs the questions, were these ever really my dreams in the first place?
I read recently that some dreams were just not supposed to be followed. There is a very good article by Mark Manson called Why Some Dreams Should Not Be Pursued. The article is really not as negative as the title might suggest, and certainly isn’t about compartmentalising your dreams and aspirations into keep/throw boxes. The point of his article was that sometimes we think we want something, but the reality is that we don’t. I might have thought being a special effects make-up artist was the answer to my prayers when I really couldn’t be arsed to read another alchemic reaction, or when reading about genetics seemed about as interesting as sitting watching the washing machine whirl around. But in truth I didn’t really want to do it. Moving to Los Angeles and living in a bedsit because I had no money? Creating a broken bloody nose whilst suffering an unnamed muscle-heavy actor letting his towel ‘slip’ off? No thanks. Biochemistry was by far the better option. The other was just a distraction. But what if I had got it wrong? What if I did give it all up and run of to Hollywood? If it all went wrong, would society just say that I was a failure?
Let me tell you a story about me. Once upon a time I moved to Cyprus. When I did so I gave up a job that paid well in a department where I loved working. My colleagues were great, I had a managerial position, liked my house, my language, my family, my friends, and my hobbies, and I think you get the point that life in general was pretty good. People honestly must have thought I was mad. After I moved the dream I was chasing had its first test. The job I thought I had disappeared within the first two weeks of being here so I spent four months unemployed after just moving to an island with a population of less than one million people on the brink of a worldwide recession. I got another job but then the country actually went into recession and I was made redundant. I spent at least eighteen months (some will attest to longer) with a completely gormless look on my face that communicated ‘I don’t understand’ when anybody tried to talk to me in Greek. This occasionally still occurs, but less. The cherry on top of the icing was when I also got arrested for having the wrong number plate on my imported car and was escorted from the motorway in convoy as if I was en route to bomb the nearest embassy. In their defence, the police did assure me I hadn’t been arrested, but I have to say when you sign a statement and spend three hours in the police station, I’m not sure what else I am supposed to call it. In all my time in Cyprus, never had I looked so gormless.
So did this mean that I had got it wrong, and that I should never have pursued this dream? Was this even really my dream? Did everybody back home think my dreams had gone up in smoke along with the finances of my new country? Some might say so, but I don’t think so. Before I came here there was never a question in my mind if I was doing the right thing or not, and even in the hardest moments since coming here I have never thought that I should go back to the UK. I came here to follow a dream and I stuck to my plan. If I hadn’t stuck through the tough bits, it was over. No marriage or future as I had dreamt of. I’ll grant you that sometimes I had to dig my sandaled heels right down into the nearest sandy beach, but I never gave up. But this isn’t because I am a type-A personality who believes you can achieve anything you want if you just work hard enough. I didn’t give up because I actually wanted this. It wasn’t just a flippant fantasy like my dreams of Hollywood. Would I have given up with so many setbacks en route to becoming a special effects make-up artist? Maybe. Probably. But I didn’t give up on Cyprus because I really wanted it. I knew before I had even started the journey that it didn’t matter how hard it got, I would stick it out.
This for me and many other writers is much like writing. Nobody ever promised me success before I started writing a book. In fact, most people promised exactly the opposite. But I just started writing it anyway. Nobody promised me a publishing deal, so I self published and wrote another book to follow without knowing if it would sell a single copy. I keep going. I keep writing. They have to be pursued because they are the real dreams, not the fantasies. Mark Manson suggested that you have to fall in love with the process of achieving your dreams, rather than the end result, and when it comes to writing this couldn’t be closer to the truth.
For an idea or a fantasy to become a dream, you have to really want it, and those dreams should always be pursued. Real dreams are exactly that because you are incapable to stop your path towards achieving it. They are simply a part of you. I am sure when Martin Luther King first uttered these four famous words and told the world he had a dream he didn’t do so lightly or without consideration of what it might take to move forward, no matter how hard the steps might become to achieve them. And I can bet all I have achieved so far that he really, really wanted them to come true.