Summer reminds me of being young. Grown-ups made a big deal of New Year resolutions but for kids summer was the bridge between what we were and what we would become. In childhood, we made outlandish goals for summer (and for our lives). "I'm gonna build the biggest chewing gum castle ever!" "I'm going to grow my hair to my knees." "I'm gonna build a three-story tree house in my background." And you knew you were going to do it too. Maybe that dream would not work out as planned. You'd realize by August, after repeated rows with your mother over the state of your bedroom walls, that chewing gum was not the right material to build a castle. But then what is? What about marshmallow? If castle-building was in your blood, eventually you'd come to love more durable materials apt to make your dream come true. Maybe you'd become the next Louis Khan and go around saying "even a brick wants to be something beautiful."
As an adult I continue to feel the promise of summer. It reminds me of the power and magic of "childish" dreams. If you are hoping to kick-start a big dream this summer, here are a few ideas that help me push for my own chewing gum castle:
Don't let someone else live your dream. Do you know that icky feeling you get when you see the article you meant to write signed by someone else, the invention you dumped because you thought it was just an OK idea now patented, the suggestion you thought no one in the room would like now hailed as the next big company project? The world is full of critics whose job is to tell you when they do not like what you have produced; your job is to create. Stick to it.
"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age."
-"Self-Reliance" by R.W. Emerson.
Don't line up your ducks, just get them in the same raft. In the romantic comedy A Lot Like Love, one of the main characters meets his dream woman but he's not looking for anything serious because he wants "to get his ducks in a row" first. He has the opportunity to meet her again and again but he's still wrestling those ducks in a row. Nearly a decade later, she's getting married and he realizes he had been too busy organizing the ducks and had forgotten to think about where he was taking them. Forehead slap moment: he wanted to end up next to her. So maybe just working in the right direction is enough; no need to invest in stock in the post-it company.
Prove George Bernard Shaw wrong. He famously said "youth is wasted on the young." If your dream is to become a record-breaking bungy jumper, do it now. You may wake up years later with a knee replacement after years of doing tons of work that seemed more practical and your chiropractor will tell you that bungies are definitely out.
Whatever it is, start today. Now is the time to take the risk because desires have a catalystic energy in them that propel you forward. When you put off what you want to achieve until later, you squander precious fuel. You have a greater chance of getting what you want right now if you go after it right now.
Life is a tabula rasa. If you don't fill it up, you miss the point. In Ben Loory's The Book, a woman becomes obsessed and publicly enraged at an author for publishing a blank book. Cry as she may on radio and television shows that the author is making fun of the public with the empty book, no one heads her warning. People love the book; it flies off the shelves. Years later, when she is an old woman, she finds the book again in her basement. She reads every single page. She weeps uncontrollably. Forget what others are doing, focus on your own tabula rasa.
Shrinking your dream does not guarantee success; might as well go with the wild one. Everyone one of Richard Yates' short stories begs the question: What if you are smart, talented, dedicated and yet your life is a series of smartless, inept fumblings and Sisiphean tasks? All of the characters are shrinking into small lives because they are too afraid to dream big. They crouch around that small dream protecting it with their whole beings. They still risk failure but the stage is so small and their tragedy so self-conscious that it leaves no space for heroism. No space to do anything outlandish, surprising, or meaningful.
"The heroism we recite would be a daily thing, did not ourselves the cubits warp for fear to be a king" -Emily Dickinson
From the mouths of babes, the wisest stuff. Take a stroll over at TED Talks to hear 12-year-old Adora Svitak share more about what adults can learn from kids.
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