I am not here to tell you that your dreams are shackled- that is for you yourself to decide.
Instead, I am going to tell you a story.
My story, actually. Of my own shackles to my own dreams, and how realizing them was the first step forward.
My story begins with words.
You must think I am crazy- words? Don’t all stories begin with words? Aren’t all means of communication just that- words?
Here is a little secret about how words began my life. No, it is not from my first words. It is not the voice of my mother or father, it is
It is the words that I carved out for my dreams. I was a dreamer, I was an achiever. I was a list maker. And in this list-making I sought solace, I sought a plan I could latch my heart onto- a goal. Lists of subgoals and dreams and steps towards my dreams.
Which was nothing of a surprise, I might say. I always saw myself as someone who aims high.
From a very young age, I was an overachieving little mackerel. I always placed my progress and achievement on the highest pedestal, putting anything and everything below just how good I needed to do.
I know not who to blame- my parents for their constant pushing. But who could blame them, I was an impassioned young girl with large dreams and larger talents, and it always seemed like nothing could stop me.
That, is where my dreams began.
When I first met the shackles
One day, I started to compare myself to others, I saw what others were doing and slowly, steadily, I zoomed out of my own achievements. Whatever success I had, no matter what anyone told me or complimented me on, it was nothing to me because I myself felt inadequate, I myself felt like I was not doing enough.
The bar was set almost too high for me too reach, and I knew not how to climb down. But I was laying upside down in an awkward vantage point now, feeling below no matter how high I climbed.
And that, my friends, is how my shackles came into being.
I began to notice a pattern, but I shoved it away as I continued in my downward spiral to nothingness. Nothing made sense to me- nothing even mattered except that I had lost all my potential, all shoved under the sand and washed away on a quiet Sunday ocean tide.
My thoughts would break in twos and threes and I would be sitting on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night with tears in my eyes clutching my mind- of course I wasn’t clutching my mind it was my head. But it sure felt like my mind, with the intensity of thought, the overflow of emotions.
I had dreams, I wanted dreams. Why couldn’t I see them clearly anymore? Why had I given up so early?
It hit me one day- when someone dear to me told me time and time again, that I am my own person. That my achievements are mine, that every person is going through a struggle, that no social media life is real. I knew all these things, I heard this over and over again but it never quite stuck with me until one day I sat down and gave myself The Talk.
This exact Talk right here.
I finally figured out what was preventing me from achieving my dreams.
Interestingly, it wasn’t that I did not want to, or that I did not have the motivation.
I actually felt unaccomplished. And at age 21, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to most.
But being the perfectionist that I was, I had much bigger plans for where I would have liked to been, the goals I would have wanted to reach by now. Knowing I was not there yet was an extreme struggle.
I knew I had my whole life ahead of me, but for some reason this nagging feeling of un-accomplishment prevented me from taking any steps forward.
Rather than motivating me to move forward, it too me two steps backwards.
With the social media raging on with the lives of others, no matter how many times we remind myself that whatever we see of people’s lives on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat is a lie, a life just waiting to be uncovered.
That smiling couple always posing for picutres? There is a change this portrayal of happiness is all they’ve got.
That girl always hanging out with people looking gorgeous in her selfies? Chances are she is lonely and unhappy, and she gets a high out of the addiction to getting likes to validate her self-worth.
Nodding your head in disbelief?
Hear me out.
This is much, much deeper than the simple jealous-factor. Most of us are beyond that.
What the core of the matter is, in truth, is a self-checking mechanism that happens naturally, to ensure we are on the path to our destination.
We check ourselves against things that are not just that- ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, it is important to see how others are fairing to motivate yourself- no doubt.
But what we do subconsciously to shackle our dreams and take them hostage, is to literally take a pair of handcuffs and tie our dreams to what we once thought they would be, and to what others think they will be.
Never mind where we stand today and where others do. We are always taking one step forward, we are always learning, experiencing, growing. Our thoughts themselves are forms of experience that educate us, whether we like it or not.
We are constantly changing. Everyone is always changing in this roller-coaster ride called life, Every aspect of every thing is always changing. Our outlook, our position in the timeline of life and the universe, our relation to others, our mental ideas and moods and God knows what else- everything else.
It is only natural that our dreams change to- and that doesn’t mean dissatisfaction must come along for the ride.
The invaluable life lesson
What I went through may not have included tying my happiness into projecting a fake life. But ir sure did take what I saw of others’ lives, and placed my happiness in the hands of an impossible dream.
I had dreams of greatness, of success, of achievement. Not of fame or money, but of identity, of worth, of purpose, of meaning. I wanted to live a life that meant something for people, I wanted to stand for causes and do things that mattered.
I constantly placed my happiness in this state of never being, looking at what I had not done, what I could have done. Inadvertently, I stamped my future as hopeless.
Even now, I look to my future with uncertainty. But now that I know that my life is not theirs to take, I also firmly believe that there is much more in store for a young 21 year old like me.
My struggle is not different from so many others. But it is worth telling, because it is a struggle that blinds us unless someone is brave enough to call it out when they see it.
I know now that life may not go the way I expected it to go. My achievements may not be exactly what I dreamed them to be. I may not achieve exactly what I charted to achieve. I have achieved, I have taken steps forward. I am not the same person I was before. I am moving forward.
Maybe, what actually reaches for us is what achievement is truly defined by.
Maybe, these dreams cannot be defined by other’s lives- let alone other’s fake lives that are framed to us on silver platters on Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat. I am my own person.
Maybe, our dreams are not what we dream them to be, but what feel like heaven when we reach them.
I am still on the process of figuring it out for myself.
Just write, I tell myself. Keep making those lists. It don’t matter if most, or even all of it is crossed off tomorrow. Even if I cross it all of the very next minute. I am achieving my dreams as I write each and every list because I am moving forward.
Write your experiences, close your eyes and let the stars and pixie dust merge and form ideas and words on a page that will inspire others.
Tell yourself, as I tell myself. I matter, my thoughts are important. My dreams are important, no matter how fleeting, how changing.
My words will one day matter.
My ideas will one day inspire millions.
And so will yours, if you set your mind free of its shackles.