Over ten years ago, a clinical social worker told me I was grieving; grieving, she said, for the life I had hoped to live. At the time, I thought, “I mean, okay, I can see that, but I’m in my early 20s. It’s not over.” What I didn’t know, or admit, then was that it was over. Those particular dreams, those hopes, never came to life. They were dead, and without grieving, I held on, ensuring that the grief would one day take hold in a way that stole my breath and left me on the floor.
Today, I am surrounded by dreamers. A few of them are achieving their goals, seeing their dreams come alive and experiencing happiness worthy of envy. Many, many more watch their dreams die one by one. I count myself amongst them. And what I’ve come to realize, through endless hope followed by empty despair, is that we grieve. Dreamers grieve. The social worker was right. To most of us, to dream is to inevitably grieve. And here, when our dreams die, we have a choice – we can fight, we can let pieces of ourselves die with our dreams, or we can keeping living on our own terms.
I’m not going to insert some trite #liveyourdreams hashtag or “never give up” meme – it’s hard, it’s absolutely devastating, to accept the death of our dreams. But the fact is, our dreams die. I used to get so angry at all the people in my life who told me to stop dreaming, to give up and live a “normal” life. I wanted to prove them wrong. I wanted to show them that dreaming paid off. Well, a lot of times it doesn’t. And those dreaming naysayers are of a reasonable mind – dreaming is painful and often ends in feelings of disappointment for which there are no words. Dreaming needs grieving. It is for that reason that dreaming is one of the most courageous acts I can imagine.
When that social worker told me that I was experiencing grief, I fought, thinking that to grieve was to fail. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Today, I try to grieve the death of each withered dream. It’s very difficult and I don’t always succeed, but I find that to fight their deaths only prolongs pain to the point that it is nearly unbearable when grief finally breaks through. Acceptance is infuriating and death is devastating, but to take any steps forward in my life, I must let go of what is no more.
Dear dreamers, let’s grieve. Let’s courageously let go so we can move forward.