Deferred Dreams

As a young girl, I was always dreaming of what I would be when I grew up–an actor, a teacher, a writer, a tap-dancing waitress (yes, really). When we are young, we are often filled with ambitious desires and an innocence that allows us to believe we can achieve them all. The reality is, life has a way of forcing us to narrow our goals into a college major and a career. And though this reality may be satisfying, it is important to recognize, and in some ways mourn, the dreams that did not come to fruition.

A friend recently reminded me of a poem I first read as a teenager, and had not read since college:

What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

There were times I would read Harlem by Langston Hughes and wonder for hours about the question being posed. What does happen to a dream deferred? Well, depending on the dream, and the day, the answer to that question could be just about anything.

Sometimes a dream fades away on its own, with age and changing interests. Those dreams, like tap-dancing while serving patrons, tend to crust and sugar over, leaving us with remnants of something that still allows us comfort and a smile. But what about the dreams that are taken from us by something outside of ourselves? What about when a dream is deferred because someone thinks it’s stupid, or because of family responsibilities, injury, or trauma? Those are the dreams, I’ve found, which tend to fester, stink, and sag; the ones you end up thinking about when you are sitting in class or at work, wondering if you are in the right place.

So, as an #EmpoweredBlackGirl, how do you know you are following the right dream(s)? How do you make sure your dream is not deferred by anyone, or anything, including yourself?

  • Take Your Time
    Just because everyone else is settling into something, doesn’t mean there’s pressure on you to quickly do the same. Take the time to be deliberate in learning about what interests you.
  • Try New Things 
    Staying open to new people, places, and experiences will allow you to see all of the creative ways dreams are turned into something bigger.
  • Make Time For Hobbies
    A good way to achieve a dream is by finding a way to make it a hobby. If you get your dream job as a doctor, there is no reason you can’t take piano lessons in your off-hours. Hobbies will keep you in touch with the parts of your well-being that are easily overlooked.
  • Spend Time Alone
    Knowing what entertains, motivates, and keeps you satisfied is important. When you are out of touch with yourself, you can be easily swayed and led astray from your intended destination. Alone time not only allows you to reset, it gives you the space to explore what it is you enjoy, and what it means to be authentic and true to your dreams.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Start Over
    Whether it is a new school, major, career, or city, you can make the choice to start over at any point in your life. Do not let yourself fall into the habit of thinking you only get one shot at living your most fulfilling life. It may be more complicated than it would have been at one point, but is never too late to start over and try your hand at something different.
  • Trust Yourself
    You often know what is best for you. It is not a bad idea to reach out for the advice and opinions of those you respect, but do not depend on others to make the big decisions for you. It is you, after all, who is most likely to face the benefits and/or consequences of your choices; any gains or losses will be easier to accept when you know they are coming from something you were genuinely invested in and wanted to pursue.

This post was originally shared on the Empowering Black Girls site, and was reposted here with permission.

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