This week, my husband submitted his $300 deposit for entrance into the Poole School of Management at N.C. State University. It was a milestone. His MBA journey got me thinking about Dreams. Dreams with a capital “D.” You know, those pesky ambitions we invented in first grade? I think 65% of my first grade class wanted to be teachers. Including me.
As twenty-somethings, we were trained to breathe, execute, and annihilate dreams like no other generation before us. I’m sure you were told that you could “be anything and do anything you want to!” or “ if you can dream it, you can do it!” It seems as if our whole lives have been in anticipation of achieving our potential.
Some of us Stumble Into Dreams After College
In college, I was wary of those people who had a ridiculously specific notion of a dream. (read: I was wildly jealous)
Let’s just say I met one too many people who told me their ambitions were to be a marriage counselor or a speech therapist for pre-schoolers with dental problems. I always wanted to shake them and scream, “BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW?!”
They not only knew what they were studying, but they were also well on their way to a very SPECIFIC dream. I felt like a loser. I had no idea what I wanted to do.
But the truth is: dreams shift and change like the ocean filters into different greens and blues. You’ll often end up doing something that applies the gifts and talents that people recognized in you at the tender age of five. It might not be what you imagined. Or it might.
My husband, Chris, is an incredible Biology teacher. He can explain biochemistry to a five year old. He is articulate and super smart, and when he left his teaching job a year ago, I thought I was tearing him away from a passion. But over the course of this year, we’ve realized that Business is perfect for Chris. It uses all of his skills: negotiating, conflict resoluton, communication, and detail-orientedness. One day not too long ago, he grabbed my hand and told me, “Briana, I want to get my MBA. That’s my dream.”
It took 4 years for him to find this dream.
Real Life Dictates the Types of Dreams You Choose
We couldn’t afford for Chris to be a teacher. That is the gosh darn, hard truth. Chris loved teaching, but our family was living paycheck to paycheck while camping out at our in-law’s house.
I used to think that one of the rules was you should never let go of a dream. Now, I simply don’t believe that. Chris chose to prioritize his family (which was also an actual dream of his) over his teaching career. He made the leap into business, which ended up to a better fit in a million ways.
I’ve learned this the hard way, too. About a year and a half ago, I was accepted to Physician Assistant school. When I tallied up the cost, I realized that I would have to shell out over $100,000 and put my family into serious financial straits if I wanted to go. The day I hung up from the acceptance call, I set my cellphone down on the table.
I put my face into my hands and sobbed.
I knew that I had to to say no. It flew in the face of everything I thought about dreams: to work as hard as you can, stop at no obstacles, and keep reaching for the dream. Hard work will get you the whole way, right?
But I also had another dream: that of raising my kids and of not sinking into debt. I dreamed about riding bikes, and being there for warm soapy baths. So I let go, hung up that dream, and I reached for another.
Women Have It Much, Much Harder
In college, we were all equal. You worked hard, you got an A. Or so it felt. I never felt like I was at a disadvantage of achieving a dream because I was a woman. Then I graduated.
I started to notice that the men were being funneled into high-paying sales jobs and investment banking. Other men were pursuing their M.D.s. But there were also women kicking butt. Here is the problem: at some point, and often very soon (i.e. marriage, babies) women face incredibly difficult decisions: move to New York for their husband’s law school, versus stay in Chicago and pursue their marketing career.
Women still earn 77 cents for every dollar men earned across the country, and their career often hits the back-burner fast. Just this week, I learned that if HR professionals are given a series of random resumes with different characteristics, they will look the MOST unfavorably at the resume that belongs to a woman with children. I was floored.
I’ve experienced this first hand. From juggling a 10-hour/week job for Physician Assistant school, to trying to hold down a part-time freelance job to keep my resume intact, my dreams have taken the back-burner, through no fault of anyone. I now earn markedly less than my husband. My husband loves and supports me, but truthfully, we have made the choice to pursue his career first. It has been the most practical, logical consideration for us as a couple who plans to stay married for a lifetime.
A Part-Time Dream is Better Than No Dream
I know men that don’t have time for dreams because they are working 40+ hours a week. I know women who have babies and lay down their masters degrees. But then I have friends like Peggy, who works at a nonprofit part-time helping women in the sex industry (with a baby!), and there’s Ben, who’s trying to make movies on the side.
A part-time dream is better than no dream.
I started to chip away, little-by-little, at my childhood dream of writing. I have a part-time job in professional freelancing.I negotiated a schedule with my mother-in-law to take my one-year old once a week. I fought to be the person I knew I wanted to be 10, 15, 20 years from now. I’m nowhere near the place I want to be, but I haven’t giving up. I’ve found a dream flexible enough to fit snugly into my other dreams, and I choose to write for 30-minutes a day because it matters.
When I was a dorky-sweet ninth grader, I wrote and made journals.
This was written in sparkly pen all over one of those journal scrapbooks:
- We are the music makers,
- And we are the dreamers of dreams,
- Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
- And sitting by desolate streams;—
- World-losers and world-forsakers,
- On whom the pale moon gleams:
- Yet we are the movers and shakers
- Of the world for ever, it seems.
I love to think of ALL OF US as the music makers (okay, I can’t carry a tune to save my life) and the dreamers of dreams.
We are the future generations of writers, musicians, doctors, and pastors. And full-time or part-time, men or women, your dream matters. Even if it doesn’t look the same as it did when you held a handful of Crayolas in your hands.
photo credit: Fibonacci
photo credit: Nicole Pierce via Flickr