I wanted to be a Broadway singer for pretty much as long as I could remember. Or, I guess as long as I could remember after first wanting to be an inventor–complete with a backyard shed full of chemical beakers. On my path to inventor fame, I took up violin just because I heard Einstein played as a child. “Couldn’t hurt,” I thought. And then I checked out Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from the library because I learned Thomas Edison read it before age eight and I wanted to beat him.
I didn’t beat Thomas Edison.
After my talent for the stage went undiscovered, I moved on to pursuing something less exciting: President of the United States. I spent my teenage years with nextprez35 as my AIM (remember that??) username while aiming for a perfect SAT score to guarantee a spot at Yale: the first step on my rise to power as the youngest POTUS in history.
I didn’t go to Yale.
But I did find new goals, like becoming a student senator at my college, getting a job, and buying a car. And then saw even more dreams come to life, like helping people in need, earning my master’s degree, going to Europe, completing a half marathon, and marrying the best man I’ve ever met.
But somehow in the mix, my dreams have become more practical. Dreams that now include things like “financial security,” “health,” and “stability.” Dreams that require me to examine the the earning power, occupational growth rate, and retirement benefits of any future career decision. In other words, not a Broadway singer.
But here’s the thing: I think I’ve accomplished my goals. Being accepted into a competitive PhD program was kind of the last thing on my list and even if, for some (drastic) reason, I don’t finish, I’m still set with education and experience that will keep me employed and financially secure for the rest of my career.
However, there’s something about achieving this security that makes me want to return to my unpractical dreams. Something about reaching my goals has made me realize that I need new ones. Yes, I could take my PhD and work in a clinic for the rest of my life and achieve continued “stability” or I could use it to work for the United Nations to solve global psychological concerns while embracing adventure. I could use my LCSW to continue working as a therapist or to run a national non-profit.
Or I could take this conducting class I’ve been eyeing.
I think I’ve been making a lot of decisions to be “safe.” But safety can stifle you. And job growth rates can distract you from your gifts, low salaries can change your path, and a 401(k) can dim your spirit.
I think the world can handle a few more unpractical dreams.