It was the summer of 2015, about three years before this writing. As I drove my car I truly considered ending my life, picturing all the ways I could do it. I recall promising myself something cheesy, like “when I feel better, I will work to make sure no one ever feels this way.” Little did I know I was not going to “get better” in any traditional sense. But I also didn’t know I would have to pursue my passion in order to finally get onto a healthy path. By no means do I recommend getting to your worst before you finally chose to make things better for yourself.
I simply think it might be helpful for someone out there to know that listening to that small voice in the back of your head that does believe in you, while the rest of your body succumbs to depression, might be worth it.
In a world where it feels like the news is getting worse every day; where so many of us day-dreamers are stuck sitting at an office desk with no windows; I can’t help but smirk when I hear some celebrity advise me to just “follow your dreams.” My dreams don’t pay my bills and are the reason I am still forty-five thousand dollars in college debt. Not to mention, anytime I have attempted to entertain those dreams, I normally spiral into a panic about all the things that could go wrong, which in turn, has successfully kept me away from doing anything that wasn’t immediately realistic. Until finally, I’d beaten myself into submission to follow a steady flow of income and just be content.
To this day, I insist that following your dreams is not what makes you happy anyway. If happiness is the goal, then giving yourself permission to explore and finally act upon that small voice will more likely bring long-term joy. Chasing your wildest dreams is just not realistic for most of us. We need 401Ks, rent, and groceries, especially those of us who grew up without stability in those areas. But nurturing a smaller, more attainable piece of your biggest dream is very much within reach.
My dreams simmered on a low heat in my head until the constant bubbling became more exhausting and more taxing mentally to continue disregarding. Years of beating myself up for not being “good enough” “worthy of listening to” or, my favorite, “too much of a piece of garbage to do it,” eventually took up so much of my headspace that it made it impossible for me to continue living. Again, I don’t recommend waiting for it to get this bad before you do something.
The relief of letting myself be was palpable
Having finally given into the tiny voice that believed in me, has undoubtedly changed my life. It’s given me more energy to write and have two jobs (one of which is full time) because I am not using precious brain bandwidth needed to even just tell myself that my life is worth living. I believe now, that my dream was truly also my purpose, something that made my life distinct to me. It helped me understand how I should see myself in a sea of seven billion (and counting) people on the planet.
My worth, like that of many, was/is incorrectly tied to my work and my accomplishments. If out of 24 hours in a day, I had to spend 8 asleep and 18 awake, pushing myself to be the best at a job I didn’t care for, I knew I couldn’t last. Yet still I have given myself permission to follow what I want, the time I spent jobless and without a plan was just as stressful as keeping myself complacent with something I hated. Shitty catch 22 if you ask me, but as stressed as I am now juggling two things and a personal life, I am happier even though I am spread thin because I get to do what I love on top of a 9-5 I do not loathe.
I don’t wish I started sooner even though I know that I am happier now
You might note that in this essay, I have not mentioned what my dream was, because I find that irrelevant to getting anyone to be motivated about starting on theirs. Maybe even just figuring out what that might be. Starting work towards my dream was not easy and it took a lot out of me. Which is also why I would never advocate “just going for it.” Doing that will never create as good of a result as spending hours getting the details you want to be proud of right. I knew my idea was bumpy and needed lots of polishing, but I was able to start on it because I was no longer a slave to my mind insisting I couldn’t do anything. I could prove it wrong with my new actions—literally completing a task, checking it off and then knowing that I could coninue and do it again.
Here are some other benefits I have found about following my dreams:
- I have found others who were passionate about the same thing; and some who were working on discovering if this passion we have in common would be something they could be pursuing further.
- My mental health is better because I can now affirm to myself that sometimes thoughts are just thoughts. I was able to push them away and just act instead, and that means I can do so again. I no longer have to keep hypothesizing and being afraid, I know that just doing it works faster, even if I hit a few unexpected bumps.
- My personal life is richer for having more people in it, as my passion has brought out new aspects of my old friends, as much as it has helped me reach some incredible new ones.
The most difficult thing to commit to, believe it or not, is failure. It’s hard to accept—it pulls on you, convincing you that you should just give up. It feels easy at first because it’s all you know, but eventually, the weight of knowing you could have tried harder is too much to bear. Listen to that small voice in the back of your mind that believes in you, because it’s too full of hope to smother and too tenacious to keep pushing away.