Every day, we live out dozens of dreams. Perhaps it is not of an excursion to the Bahamas or of winning the lottery, but we are living out what society has taught us to desire, to work for, and to expect. We are living out a Dream.
A Dream is handed down to us by our parents, our teachers, our communities. It contains all of the perceived expectations everyone else has of us, what we must think, do and feel in order to be a human and to be accepted. Not only do we believe others have these expectations of us, but we are taught to expect them of ourselves. We must be perfect. We must be beautiful. We must be successful, make plenty of money, be happy and fit in.
The society we live in shapes the Dream we live in, the Dream we see, the Dream we feel. It is shared by you, your best friend, your coworker, your husband, your wife. It tells us how we should act, think and feel.
Naturally, the Dream changes depending on where you live. You move from a cubicle farm to the University, from the inner city to the farm, even between different countries – the Dream changes instantly. What is perceived as being of value changes. The way of life changes. The very way people carry themselves changes.
I was once part of a different Dream. Fighting to the top of my class, striving for the golden standards of musicality, artistry, openness, truth, freedom… as a young student in a University, the Dream was of constant change and improvement. While improving for whom is a matter of contention, the air in places of higher education breathes newness – new life, new ideas, new discoveries. The push for bigger, better and faster is omnipresent.
In this great rush of continual improvement, everyone had to look and act a certain way. The Dream everyone chases: recognition by the profession, in your grades, in your pay. On the horizon was a good-paying job, a large house, a verdant green lawn and two-point-five children. It is a Dream of monetary and capitalist success.
But it is not the only Dream.
Moving across the country, I saw a new Dream materialize. Of meager means. A place where everyone is looking to escape: from work, life, harsh circumstances. The Dream grudgingly accepts the demise of all that is beautiful. The Dream accepts being ignored. The Dream accepts being forgotten.
In such a place, change is hard. Meaningful change is never easy, but doubly so when the world offers little in the way of hope and opportunity.
The Dream of Survival, the Dream of Affluence… I am certain if I moved to Argentina or Bulgaria, the Dream would be vastly different as well.
The real question is: which one is real? Which one truly matters? Will I be happy living the Dream I find in Argentina, or the one in Bulgaria? Or will it be somewhere else that my heart will finally be at ease?
Or perhaps it will reveal something even deeper – it will show just how shallow the Dream of society truly is. These things we sweat and worry and stress about – what of it all really matters? Is it really worth stressing whether or not you’re married with a kid on the way? Whether or not you own a house? Whether you’re getting that big promotion with the big raise? What your colleagues (or even your parents!) expect of you?
It is hard to step away from the Dream and even harder to create your own. Humans are social creatures and need community; the community doesn’t take it too kindly when its members start going rogue and breaking conventions.
But I truly believe that the only way for us to finally be at peace with ourselves and our surroundings is if we give up this futile game of living someone else’s, society’s, Dream. It may be the hardest thing you will ever do. But the stakes are much too high – the rest of your life.