I’ve studied many poets over the years, but Langston Hughes always haunted me. He wrote about dreams—those precious, elusive things that we build up in our minds, hoping they will hatch into the light of day at some point if we nurture them enough. Sometimes they just don’t hatch—maybe because we fail to keep them warm enough or because they simply weren’t ‘meant to be’—and that’s why Hughes is still buzzing around me like a mosquito. He posed several uncomfortable questions in “A Dream Deferred”:
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?
Every Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., I am surrounded by people who would rather be doing other things. It’s not so much that they hate their jobs—well, maybe some of them do—but they’ve lost touch with what actually motivates them. It’s like the corporation is this giant vacuum that sucks out every last drop of energy, and there’s nothing left at the end of the day to pour into a creative dream. But we have nothing if we don’t have dreams. Something has to make us want to get out of bed in the morning. For me, that used to be writing. I didn’t particularly care what I had to do for a paycheck—I just wanted enough time and space to do my work, the work that mattered, the work that just might change the world someday. (Hey, you never know!)
I’ve had dreams begin to fester—some probably began to stink—and I did nothing to rescue them. I just let my day job take more and more, and I gave my writing less and less. This is how dreams die—they shrivel and rot because we don’t feed them. We give up on them. We say we can’t, it’s too hard, there’s not enough time, and who am I kidding?
Any dream worth pursuing usually means that you have to change something. You might have to carve out some time in your schedule, or maybe you have to move across the country to have enough space for your dream to flourish. You might have to finally sign up for that course you wanted to take or read that poem out loud in front of everybody in a writer’s group.
The incredibly cool, magnificent, wonderful thing that happens when you take that first step is that higher powers step in to support you. We are all given talents to use for the greater good of humanity, and when our dreams are in line with what we really should be doing down here in earth school…then we don’t struggle so hard. We flow with the current instead of flailing around and trying to swim upstream.
There’s nothing wrong with scrubbing toilets to pay the bills while you work on that art project or write that business plan. Just don’t let toilet scrubbing define you and make you forget about what you really want to do with your life.
I’ve had several job titles in my life, but somewhere deep in the recesses of my heart, I always called myself a writer—and that is the only title that ever truly mattered. So, this is me flexing my creative muscle, keeping my unwritten books warm and toasty, and knowing that someday they will hatch.