When we were young, we all had hopes and dreams about our future, but often those dreams and hopes would naturally change and evolve into something else. I wanted to be an archaeologist space explorer, but as I grew up, I realised that wasn’t possible for several reasons. It didn’t hurt to let go of that dream, it felt natural, and, in the end, I found new dreams to chase.
Some hopes and dreams were more difficult to let go of, like the hope of finding the kind of friendship I yearned for as a child, or the hope that I would have a family one day. Of course, it wasn’t really dreams or hopes, but expectations. I simply assumed at a specific time in my life, I would have it all figured out; I would have friends who cared about me, a partner and children, a house in the countryside and maybe a cat and maybe a dog as well. I had this expectation that life evolves in a certain way and that we all have to follow the same path. Of course, I was terribly wrong about all of that and I am not even sure if any of the things I expected in life would actually have made me happy, but one thing I do know now: We all get to walk our own path. We decide how we react to life, not what actually happens. It was difficult for me to let go of my expectations, and I will admit, some I still struggle to let go of. The expectations that are the most difficult for me to let go of seem to be the ones that I am most aware might not make me happy. Isn’t that odd?
What I want to talk about, however, isn’t expectations, but dreams and hopes. Hope and expectation is of course very similar things, except expectations feel more limited. When we hope for greatness, greater things than we could dream might happen. When we expect, we see only what we look for. At least, that is my experience. Maybe the reason for this is that my expectations are clearly shaped by my past experiences and my hopes shaped by possibilities in the future. I don’t know if you feel the same, but in my experience, expectations always lead to disappointments – either because something didn’t live up to my expectations or because it did.
Are dreams build on expectations or hopes then? Perhaps neither? Then what are dreams made of? Why are some dreams so difficult to let go of when we find new dreams? It wasn’t until I realised my dreams have changed that I understood why I had been so sad. I was sad because the dreams I had for the future had changed, but I had not realised it, and continued to chase old dreams. Letting go of those old dreams doesn’t even mean that I won’t chase them ever again or that they have lost their meaning, only that I have discovered new things in life that make me happy. It doesn’t mean that they were fake or wasted, but that they evolved and grew like me.
It seems only natural that if I change my dreams change too, right? In fact, my expectations too should have changed over time, but I don’t really think they did. Maybe that’s the problem? Even though I changed, my dreams, my hopes and my expectations has always been pretty close to what they always were.
I don’t know what to expect in the future, but honestly, I don’t think it matters. What matters is where I am now and what I am doing with my life now. The future will come soon enough, I will have to deal with that when it happens.
I do believe that goals are important. Hopes and dreams are important. Even if we enjoy our daily life, life right now, it’s not enough – we need to keep the future in mind as well. But, is that not part of what makes the present moment even better? Having a goal that you work towards, or a dream of something we wish to accomplish in the future? It makes the present moment mean more than just be a passing moment of joy, it adds excitement as well. Maybe that’s just me though, what do you think? Do you feel, like I do, more inspired and passionate, not just doing something you love, but feeling your skill and ability grow closer to some goal you set for yourself? As long as the goal is not unrealistic, I definitely feel more excited when I see myself move closer to a goal I set and when I reach it, I feel ecstatic and excited creating a new goal to pursue.
Not that I have that many successes in my life, to be honest, but the few I have was well worth the work.
I knew that finding new dreams would mean leaving old ones behind, it would be painful, but it would be a process that was necessary to create a different life for myself. A different life was essential, because my past is filled with traumas, abuse and heartbreak. I needed a new life to accommodate the me that doesn’t accept being mistreated, the me that pursues life with passion and joy every day and the me that isn’t held back because of lack of self-worth and self-love. You see, the dreams and hopes and expectations I had was based on a belief that other people were right to treat me badly, that they had a right to abuse me and that I had no value being alive.
Of course, I was wrong. I am not broken, like I used to believe. The things I want to hope and dream about in the future, it has to be different because I am different. I know, you might even think I am being awfully silly thinking so much about such an obvious thing, but there’s a reason for that.
I realised, just the other day, that I no longer have the same dreams and hopes as I used to. In fact, my hopes and dreams for my future are far more flexible and undecided than they have ever been before. What surprised me, in fact it almost made me cry, was realising how little I felt about the old dreams I used to have. I no longer feel like I hold on to dreams with longing and need like a child desperately grasping a balloon in a storm, but more like my dreams change and move around me like the wind itself. It feels different in every way, simply because my self-worth is no longer tied to the idea of whatever accomplishments I might have in the future. My self-worth is in me.
It’s odd, because in some ways all of the work I did in the pursuit of my dreams and hopes in the past are wasted. I no longer need or long for the goals I used to set for myself. They were unrealistic because they disregarded who I am in place of who I thought I needed to be. Wasted dreams. Yes, I felt sad that so much effort was for nothing. I cried, struggled and fought for my goals in the past, even though I never reached them. My dreams never came true, but the effort was only too real.
Recently, I changed carriers from a rather unsuccessful one in humanities and useless masters degree, to a new and strangely promising career in software development. I was sure that my past degree and all those years struggling to find work and improve my skills would be wasted and that, even if I told myself and everyone else that I would find a way to make use of it, I never would. I felt like I was lying to myself, because I never felt like I really learned anything in all my years of university – I certainly never became skilled at anything no matter how hard I fought to do so, even sacrificing everything in life except my studies didn’t bring me much closer to the success I desired.
IT was never really something I had high hopes for or big dreams, not like the dreams of my past. In the past, a dream would come into my mind almost in the shape it would always be and clear as day. I knew what I wanted and how I wanted to get there.
Now, as my old dreams have slowly disappeared out of my heart, new ones are started to grow. It’s not in any way complete idea and I have no idea how to get there, but I don’t mind. I am still new to this career path and there’s a lot I don’t know, but I am truly enjoying it and the prospects for the future are not bad. I signed a 4-year contract with a great company, a publisher, actually. It’s funny, because in the past I always wanted to work at a publisher, but I never thought it would be in their software development department. So, you see, some aspects of my dreams didn’t change. I don’t have time to study the languages I want to study every single day and become fluent in every one of them, but I still enjoy studying languages when I have the time. I don’t need to become fluent like I felt I needed to be before, I only want to enjoy the beauty of languages in all shapes and forms. I thought I had to be fluent to justify all the work I put into studying these languages. So many of my classmates and friends didn’t need to struggle or work hard to improve their languages – it was like they just had this talent I never had. I thought that I had to be like them to justify my interest in learning languages – I mean, be honest with me here, how can I love something so much and never be as good as people who don’t care half as much as I do?
I don’t know if I’ll ever be good at anything, but my dreams no longer require me to be good enough to justify anything. My dreams at most require me to be good enough to accomplish something I want to do. What’s even more important, my dreams no longer need to be accomplished in a specific way or with a certain result, it is just me enjoying something in my present and seeing many different possibilities as to how I can enjoy that in the future.
Something very unexpected is, learning languages actually help me now. I have studied culture, society, languages and history for half my life and now, even though I am not using the skills I thought I had acquired nor in the way I assumed I would use those skills, I can feel a difference in how I approach this new chapter in my life. I’m learning a lot of new things, but I have made so many mistakes trying to learn things in the past, I don’t need to make them again. The skills I acquired are slowly becoming clearer to me and so does their value and usefulness in my new career. I don’t regret having spent my life as I have, I am not sorry I didn’t get into software development earlier in my life. No, I think I changed to this at the exactly right time. Sure, a lot of younger people are far ahead of me when it comes to pretty much everything at work, but I am not afraid. I am learning better and faster than I was ten years ago, so I’ll be of use to my company soon enough. I am curious as to how my past will help me approach my work differently and in what ways my past education will be useful to me in the future, because the only thing I know right now is that it was not a waste at all. There is no such thing as a wasted dream. Dreams, old or new alike, are not the problem, but how we attach our self-worth or self-love to the outcome of the dreams is. Allow yourself to be sad when you realise an old dream is no longer something you want, let it go and embrace your future dreams without worrying whether or not any effort you make will be wasted, because it won’t be. Life is a collection of many moments, the effort you make towards one dream will definitely take you closer to your next dream as well, even if you don’t have an idea how or when – even if you don’t yet know what the next dream itself might be.