It's easy to say it out loud: to look into someone's eyes and own what I daydream about every single day of my life. It's easy to think what if and when and someday I will when my dreams hover like white puffs swarming in mid-December air, visible as long as I keep talking, fleeting the moment my lips close.
It's easy to say because in the deepest bowels of my existence, it turns out that I do want every last thing I dream about. I do want to pour myself on paper and toss it out to the world and reach some distant soul who needed to read what I had to say at some particular moment in time. I do want to make something that lasts, that captures our lives, today, and add it to the enormous time capsule of contemporary history. I do want to drill into my brain, set up a rig, and shuttle my imaginative musings out of hibernation and into my fingers so I can come alive. I do want to open a package, find a book with my name on it, hold it up to my nose, shut my eyes, and breathe it in.
Like me, there are millions of people busy wanting and wishing and wondering. We are all trapped in a cobweb of hope, our fingers and toes stuck, tangled in strings of fear, doubt, duty, and insecurity. All of us dangle there, hanging, our past behind us, our dreams playing out across the room. We can see them vividly. We can even see the people who have already achieved them: those who overcame adversity, those who hit it big on YouTube or Twitter or Instagram, those who just so happened to catch the right person's attention through a forward of a forward of a forward.
Those who simply took a risk and managed to break free.
They're all there.
And I envy them.
I waste a gajillion minutes every single day envying them, wishing I could pull myself loose string by string, and join the conversation, wishing my dream didn't seem so faint and real life didn't seem so comfortable.
But then, a few days ago, in the midst of my comfort, I came across a video of Shonda Rhimes delivering her 2014 commencement address to Dartmouth College. Several of my classmates from Dartmouth posted the video on Facebook, and curious, I took a moment to watch.
"When people give these kinds of speeches, they usually tell you all kinds of wise and heartfelt things" Rhimes said a few minutes in, after explaining to the audience that she doesn't like giving speeches and she is afraid she is going to "pass out" or "die" or "poop her pants."
"They tell you: Follow your dreams. Listen to you spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big. As a matter of fact, dream and don't stop dreaming until all of your dreams come true."
She paused. Then, she said, "I think that's crap."
As she spoke, the videographer panned the graduate section, showcasing an array of black gowns adorned in yellow and orange and red and white hoods. Just behind them, we could see a few rows of undergraduates, some in the traditional black garb, others sitting on top of their split-open gown, shoulders bared, presumably hoping to snag a few rays as they float in time, lost in limbo between everything they knew and everything they dreamed.
I remember being one of them. I remember wanting to stop and greet honorary graduates Hank Aaron and J.K. Rowling as I made my way to President Wright's outstretched hand. I remember the weight of my degree. I remember leaving the stage, full of pride, full of sadness, full of grief. I remember wallowing in the strange reality that everything I worked for my entire life was ending, and I was now free to fly.
I remember feeling lost. I remember being scared. I remember wondering where my path would go.
That girl needed to hear what Rhimes was saying.
Heck, this girl still needs to hear what she is saying.
I leaned closer to the screen.
"I think a lot of people dream," Rhimes began again. "And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing....
Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It's hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change."
I paused the video. I felt the words on my tongue: dreaming without doing is crap.
I know that. As the girl who threw a hundred pitches rain or shine every single day of her life until the last day of her softball career, I knew it. As the girl who wrote ten page papers instead of five page papers, I knew it. As the girl who stayed up late to grade her essays in one week's time rather than two or three weeks time, I knew it.
I absolutely knew it.
I've always known it.
Anyone who has ever pursued anything worthwhile knows it.
I sat in my seat fully convicted. As much as I live it in every other area of my life, I don't live it with my dreams anymore, and I'm not sure how I ended up here as a non-doer or a partial doer or a when-I-have-time doer: as a dreamer.
That wasn't who I was when I sat on those white chairs littering the Dartmouth Green. It wasn't who I was when my starry eyes led me to New York City or my heavy heart propelled me to graduate school or my free spirit flew me to Florence, Italy.
It wasn't who I was and it is not who I want to be.
I no longer want to continue living in my brain and floating in the sky.
I want to push my words to the edge of the airplane and let them dive face first into a vat of ink, tumble onto parchment, and nestle into a piece of paper anchored to the earth.
I want to put myself out there. I no longer want to sit back, overwhelmed, unsure where to start.
I want to write.
And so I must write.
If I want my dreams to become real, I need to chase after them. I need to own them, dissect them, explore them, understand them and pursue them.
I need to stop theorizing and fantasizing, and instead, discover the gold nugget postulate that explains how someone like me can defy gravity. I need to sharpen my voice, find my path, understand my market, surrender my inhibitions and write.
I need to make a schedule, sign my name to it and work hard. String, by string, I need to pull myself down, steady my feet and find my way. It's about time I get off of my butt and stop making excuses for letting my writing dream trail further and further away as I focused on my students, or on moving or on my wedding or on becoming a mom or on any of the other thousands of things that simply make up real life.
Shonda Rhimes is right: dreaming without doing is crap.
And so, after a year long break, I'm back in the blogging sphere. I'm jumping in headfirst. I'm ready to learn. I'm ready to work. I'm ready to get reacquainted with the person I want to be.
I'm ready to do.