What Dreams are Made Of
It was a night of self-introspection, something which I (secretly, well not so secret anymore now) enjoy. During my childhood and teenage years, I could be said to be a dreamer living in my own fantasy dream world. When asked of my ambition as a child, my answers were routine, “I want to be a writer or a singer!”
Write I did. I became engrossed with reading fiction and fantasy novels and writing stories of magical lands and the adventures of five children, whose ages seemed to keep progressing with me as the years went by. When the troubled, emo teenage years came, class hours were spent writing world war 2 fiction and study hours filled with my fascination with the psychology of the totalitarian state of WW2 Germany.
Sing I did. In the bathroom. (I’m still hoping to memorize a Hindi song to sing at the top of some mountain)
Looking back, I am left with one question. What happened to my dreams? What are my dreams really? I have long since stopped writing fiction; I’ve just moved on from it.
I enjoy asking people about their dreams and goals. When I see the future they envision and how they could improve society, I feel so glad for them that when I find out some little obstacle stands in their way, I am immediately motivated to take some action or another to aid in removing that barrier. It is thus, with awkward embarrassment that, when the question is suddenly reversed to me, I find myself speechless at what to answer. The first time it happened, it was a shocking moment for me. All this while I have been asking countless people for their dreams and I somehow haven’t thought to ask myself.
Perhaps, I thought guiltily, the reason I am so eager to help others reach their dreams is because I have none of my own. I thought very hard about it. If I had all the money in the world and could do whatever I pleased, what would I do? I would probably choose to live in different countries several months at a time, befriending the locals, learning the language, getting accustomed with the culture and helping with whatever I can. The thought dismayed me more, my superfluous dream didn’t seem to align with envisioning a “proper” future.
Society has always taught us to dream big and every parents wish for their children to be the brightest star of the group. Similarly, I too aimed to be extraordinary. I wanted to do BIG things (whatever they may be) and make a BIG difference, partly also because I like the excitement and I get bored easily. While I don’t deny the empowering benefits of having such mentality and the importance of having goals, lately I’ve begun to appreciate the simplicity of being ordinary; and that behind every extraordinary person in the world, there needs to be the backstage crew who does the hidden work. I’ve begun to stop caring about whether or not I find this “dream” of mine. Whether or not I get on the right career track to get there. Maybe I don’t have a solid ambition like some people, but I do know I enjoy serving. But I’ve learned with everything, there needs to be responsibility and sensibility. (thus still working out ideas to become a better family-contributor and self sufficient server)
I’ve also realized something about dreams. When my friend first shared of his dream to be an architect, I thought what an admirable solid ambition. He wanted to contribute to his country, and help shape the landscape while still preserving traditional elements. Since there were not much opportunities to study that in Myanmar, my thoughts hastily went to: You have to get a scholarship abroad! Then get some work experience. Then return to your country, build your country’s landscape. Guide other aspiring architects etc. etc.
I sent him all kinds of scholarship applications and even wrote to architecture schools to see if they have a scholarship available. And then one day, he told me he was building a mud house for a village.
“I feel so happy,” He said, “It is great work for me and the community can dream to live in a safe house. They also offered me to design another school building.”
Then it hit me that he was already slowly realizing his dreams. Of course he is capable of more, but here’s someone who wants to help his people, pursue his love for architecture, and build his country. I can’t deny that he’s currently living his dream, no?