Let your dreams evolve with you
Dreams can and will change, as we can and will always change. It is the nature of the human, and of the dream.
I recently returned to South Africa for a brief visit. The purpose was to a) allow people to give me presents for my 40th birthday, and b) meet the newest additions to the family, my niece and nephew. Typically, on a birthday as "momentous" as a 40th, people have asked me whether I feel old, or whether I have achieved my dreams etc. Firstly, it seems weird to me that a 40th birthday is a more important day than any other day that we are alive. Our fascination seems to come solely from the fact that we work in a base-10 number system, so it doesn't actually bother me that I've entered my 5th decade. But it did get me reflecting on where I find myself compared to where my father found himself at the same point in his life.
I remember my baby sister, the same one who recently popped out the twins, jumping out of a cake, along with the rest of us. I remember the house where the party was held. It's the same one that I'm currently staying in during my brief visit. I remember the large number of friends who came to celebrate the day with him, and I've compared it to my own situation.
I don't even have somebody who I've managed to convince that a life with me is an intelligent and rational decision, never mind producing offspring. I had 17 friends at my party, the majority of whom were relatives, and my house is a Thule pram. We did spend a ridiculous amount of time riding bumper-cars though, which might be a point in my favor.
And yet I can't say that either one of us was/is happier than the other. My father and I had very different dreams growing up, and so our lives are simply different, but neither better nor worse.
My holiday is only a week long, before I need to return to the USA and continue with my dream of running around the world. And then I thought about my dream. It's still a mystery to myself as to how I got involved in these sorts of projects in the first place. True, I had always seemed to gravitate towards a lifestyle that kept me outside of an office. And there has always been a physical aspect to the lifestyle, and I distinctly remember once contemplating a run around the world during my 20’s. The idea popped into my head after I had read an article about a rowing race across the Atlantic. While I was interested with the concept, when it came to deciding on what to do, I didn't even need to think twice about dismissing the idea as simply foolish.
My dream at the time was to travel the world, do some farming and fall in love, preferably with a number of different European women, as I traveled across the continent. Unfortunately, my dream was incomplete as I managed to fall in love on a regular basis, but failed to dream up a situation where they would, in turn, fall in love with me. Ignoring my many broken hearts for a moment, the point is that I never once dreamed of running anywhere, let alone around the world. It was a world reserved for others, who were perhaps slightly more unhinged in the head than myself.
And yet, over the years, my dreams have changed. I became a dive instructor. Learnt how to fly small engine aircraft. Studied plumbing & gas-fitting. Took a course to teach English to foreigners. Jumped out of aircraft because an angry man with stripes on his shoulders would have shouted at me had I refused. And each of these things came about because of a dream. And they were genuine, heartfelt dreams. None of them, however, stuck. There was always a point where the dream no longer fitted, and so I moved on.
Around me, amongst my peers, there was enormous pressure to follow the established life path. Get a decent job, get the house and family, and set oneself up for a life of retirement ease. And most of my school friends have achieved this with varying degrees of success. I can't say that I am better off than them for following my dreams, but I will go out on a limb here and say that I believe that being allowed to pursue a path, to attempt it and grow tired of it and to then pursue another path, has brought me to a set of circumstances where I am truly happy with not just where I am at this moment, 40 years-old and living out of a pram, but also to where this will take me into the future.
I tried many career paths along my way to this point in time, and in doing so, I had to admit that I made mistakes in my rationalization and life choices. Sometimes I had to admit that I had misunderstood what was required of me and sometimes I had to admit that I simply didn't have the right skills or strength of personality, for the job. But each admission was not only a humbling dose of reality. They served to teach me more about who I am, and what I genuinely value in life.
My only advice from all of this is that we must recognize that our dreams will change, as we grow older and change. Our dreams might be too big for us at this moment in time. We might find that the reasons we give for wanting to do something might not be reason enough to continue until the end, or the reasons we give might not actually be the true reasons behind our motivation in the first place.
I'm human, and so I will make mistakes, and I will fall victim to the normal trappings of life like pride, vanity and ego. The biggest lesson I continue to learn on my runs is that I am an idiot. Mostly I am a harmless, and endearing idiot, but an idiot I remain.
And I am okay with this, because the idiot I am, is the same idiot who wakes up feeling valuable, excited, and who feels like I am using my time and skills to their maximum.
Dreams will fail and dreams will change, but to give up dreaming is to give up living.
I dream because I live, and I live because I dream.