Little Friend informs me she doesn’t think I’d make a very successful preschooler. We discuss my viable candidacy as we walk to her first day of Pre-K. Little One happily sucks on a toothbrush in the stroller. A woman walking in front of us steps aside, embarrassed, explaining she doesn’t want the smoke from her cigarette to drift back on us. Aside from the occasional curl of smoke, the air is cool, fresh, the blue sky stacked with cloud towers.
I offer to take Little Friend’s spot in preschool if she’ll come home to clean up the kitchen and put Little One down for a nap. She doesn’t have to consider my offer for long. “Well,” she responds with a notable degree of equanimity. “I don’t think you can do preschool. I don’t think you’d be very good at pretending. You always forget about your imaginary friend. How would you take care of the baby dolls at preschool?”
So strike caretaker from my resume. Apparently, my ability to care for the invisible needs of invisible people is suspect. Further along the walk I discover that Little Friend is excited to be grown up because she can’t wait to see what she’ll become. “I wonder what I’ll be when I’m even more grown up,” I muse aloud. “You have to be a mom still,” Little Friend commands with finality.
I suppose she’s right. Once certain decisions are made in life, there’s no escaping the consequences. No re-reading the chapter to try for a different ending. No shedding the mantle assumed. Sometimes choosing one dream means cutting free others.
I’ve been thinking about the power of dreams recently since reading my friend Anna’s post on the subject. Her blog post has given me pause to consider the dreams, past and present, in my own life. I’ve come to the conclusion that the nature of our dreams tells us more than anything whether we’ve grown up.
When I was young, peeking through the windows at what it means to be grown up, I dreamed of college and first jobs and writing and traveling and marriage and homemaking and children. Now, when I am something other than young but still hesitant to use the word “old”, I spy check marks next to many of my dreams.
Perhaps we’re grown up when, instead of dreaming of what’s to come, we get to sit back, relax, and live the dream.
My next round of dreams (continue this writing thing, explore the world, work toward a PhD, etc) are in danger of being deferred while I live the dream of raising a family. In many ways, I feel like my dreams have been pushed toward a corner of the hazy future so that in the immediate clarity of now I can be the support for my children’s dreams. Dreams of ubiquitous toothbrushes and school days and baby dolls and what they’ll be when they grow up.
“Grown ups do boring things,” Little Friend observes as we’re almost to the preschool doors. From her perspective, adults do boring things. Sure. Here’s the secret I didn’t share with her, though. I’m never bored. Not just because there’s always a load of laundry to switch or a kitchen to clean or a child needing attention, although there’s always that. I’m never bored because I’m in an active state of living my dreams. Of daily getting to experience the joy of what it means to be a wife, a mother, a writer, a thinker.
Sometimes, when I neglect to appreciate, intentionally, the joy of a dream realized, I let the discontentment of a dream deferred char the edges of my bliss. I start to worry that I’m not making enough headway toward what comes next. I fear I’m not dwelling enough on what I’ll be when I’m even more grown up.
“What happens to a dream deferred?/Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” asks Langston Hughes in his poem “A Dream Deferred.” I get his warning. I get his concern. Being a dreamer is a beautiful thing. We dreamers create tantalizing visions and push ourselves to make them real. More often than not, we succeed. Take dreams away from a dreamer, and I do think we end up as wrinkled raisins of human beings. Ain’t nobody want to be that.
However, in answer to Langston, dedicated dreamers deserve a break every now and then. Once one dream is achieved, we must be careful not to immediately scan our list for the next item to pursue. Here’s my little note to myself: Live the dream. This stage of life is new. It’s what I’ve been working toward for decades. And if it feels funny not to strive toward a goal just a few strokes away, that’s an okay funny feeling. I’ll tread water for a while and enjoy how easy it is to float.
Also, with my Pre-K candidacy in mind, maybe if I’m not working on a PhD I’ll have more time to hone my skills in caring for imaginary friends. Check.