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Hold On To Your Dreams

Lately I have been thinking alot about dreams. I don’t mean the dreams we have when we’re sleeping. Rather, the dreams that are our heart’s desires. We all had dreams when we were children; dreams about what we would be and do when we grew up. My personal dream since childhood was to be a famous actress. Being young and naive (in the best of ways), I was completely certain that I would achieve this goal, because I was talented and very determined, and life held endless possibilities.

From the time I was a teenager, I did all the things necessary to “make it.” I spent most of my time performing and taking acting, singing and dancing lessons. I even studied drama in both high school and college. But as I got closer to graduating college, I realized achieving my dream might be more difficult than I thought. But no matter, I was driven and I had no intention of ever giving up.

My dream of being a successful actress has never died. (In fact it is quite alive.) Luckily I’ve been able to spend the majority of my adult life supporting myself by acting, teaching and managing professional theater. I am grateful and proud of the work I have done. But I’d be lying if I said I was satisfied and at peace.

As the years have passed I’ve had other dreams too, like love, marriage and starting a family. Those dreams were important ones and accomplishing them has been fulfilling and joyful.

For a while I was able to juggle being a mother, wife and homemaker alongside a life in the arts. However, over the past 6 years I have had to make choices that have pulled me away from my craft and left me feeling somewhat empty inside.

I recently saw the movie Tick, Tick…Boom!, the story about musical theater composer Jonathan Larson’s quest to make something great before he turns 30. Watching this journey of a young artist struggling to make his mark in the New York City theater world, really hit a nerve.

It was impossible to watch it without seeing myself within the story. I too spent years in Manhattan knocking on doors and doing whatever it took to get a break. I understood the drive, sacrifices, anxieties, disappointments, and lifestyle of an artist trying to succeed. At times I wept because thinking about this brought up feelings of great loss and with it, great pain. In the moment it felt like my heart was actually broken and would never heal.

What happens when it feels as if your dreams have died?

What kind of life can you have if you have nothing to look forward to? How can you fill the pain when your dreams are crushed? Is it ever too late to keep dreaming? These are really important questions.

I don’t mean to sound dramatic, because I have so much in which to be grateful. I live in a beautiful home, have a wonderful husband, a magnificent daughter, great family and friends, good health and many other blessings. I am truly grateful for the life I have, but every once in a while I feel an aching in my heart, like something is missing. And I know exactly what that something is.

I recently stumbled upon a very moving and thought provoking Ted Talk entitled, My Dream Died, Now What?, by author and motivational speaker, Lynette Lewis. (To view it, (click here.) I was drawn to many things she said, but mostly her encouragement to pursue new dreams while other ones are "on hold." Ms. Lewis says, “Dreams tell our hearts we’re living, not dying.” How glorious is that? And how life affirming. I completely agree that you have to keep dreaming, because having dreams and pursuing them are powerful reminders of hope. Hope keeps us going even in tough times. Plus I believe having dreams keeps us young, increases our imagination and opens us up to a life where all things are possible.

Your dreams don’t have to be huge or life-changing, they just need to be yours. Dreams are deeply personal. You don’t even have to share them with anyone, but you have to have them. And you have to keep those wishes in your heart alive and care for them, like you do with children.

I think the challenge in having dreams is not to focus on regrets or to look to the past to figure out what “went wrong” in terms of obtaining them. This is actually the kind of thinking that kept me stuck in a loop of depression for many years. It was also something that got in the way of achieving some of my goals. I thought pushing myself and holding such high standards showed my level of commitment, but now I see it for what it really was: a way to beat myself up with constant criticism.

Once again, it all comes back to living in the moment. We can’t look back. Our power lies in the here and now. And when any fear or sadness attached to our dreams comes up (which it will), we need to just sit with it. It’s the same with the negative, engrained thoughts in our heads; we need to notice them without judgement, acknowledge them and let them pass on by.

Acting is my life’s passion and it doesn’t matter what my resume looks like or how “successful” the world thinks I am. I still keep the dream alive because it brings me joy and hope, and gives my life meaning. A life without a dream is not a life any one of us deserves. So hold on to your dreams as if your life depends on it, because it does.

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