The Decline of Dreamers

I have always had the privilege to dream. It is my understanding that fewer and fewer people can say that as the window to dream has become drastically smaller these past few decades. Why you might ask? I am only eighteen and have not lived through all those decades, but I have a few ideas. The reason may be as blatant as the lasting impact of capitalism on an inherently competitive society, or as widespread as our global community getting caught up in this trend of perpetual progress and industrialization. Anyone who has attended sophomore year of high school can tell you that industrialization has rarely been associated with the abstract and artistic. We have this idea that science and technology are the clearest ways to move society forward, but a crucial part of humanity has been left behind.The other day, I was talking to a few of my friends about what we wanted to be when we grew up. As young women, that childhood question still lingers on our minds. We threw out careers like candy: novelist, elementary school teacher, museum curator, film director. For a brief moment, we were ten years old again, trying to imagine what this unforeseeable future might hold for us. “But I could never make a stable career out of that,” my friend interjected, breaking the silence. By “a stable career,” it is implied that you have “a stable income,” which means you never have to worry about money. I have been watching this realization dawn on my friends these last couple of years and it breaks my heart. Their dreams have been suffocated by the fear of money. And it is fear because you can never be sure whether you will have enough, or the people you are indebted to will be repaid, or what kind of person you will be if you have too much. Sometimes it feels like there are only three jobs you can have in today’s world: a lawyer, a doctor, or a software engineer. There is no doubt that they will provide you with a stable career.  My counterpoint has been (and probably always will be) “but what about stable happiness?” I refuse to believe that happiness is a luxury because that would make life a little too unfair. You’re a lucky one if you become an acclaimed doctor or some genius software engineer and you love what you’re doing. For the rest of us, we find solace in our dreams. But if you’re not allowed to dream, then what do you have? That right there is our problem. 

Is this fear of money and competition so ingrained within our society that those who have radical dreams are doomed from the start? Are we progressing in a direction where we no longer value philosophical thinkers and playwrights? Are childish dreams bound to childhood forever?

Perhaps it’s an immature wish to want all my friends to be museum curators and famous authors if that’s what they really want. Yet, I recognize the fact that not everyone can do what they desire. Society needs plumbers, construction workers, truck drivers, etc., to function. You may not find those to be the most attractive careers, but they’re crucial. The people working those jobs are the backbone that allows dreamers to dream. With that logic then, someone has to dream. 

I find it excruciatingly hard to protect your dreams. If your parents haven’t vetoed them or your high school guidance counselor informed you of their impossibility, then college might be the place where dreams go to die (not to be dramatic). This is because it is the first instance in most people’s lives where you finally get to choose what you want to pursue and, nine times out of ten, you must pursue a career. If someone is paying thousands of dollars a semester for you to gain higher education, it is implied you need to get something out of that. Work yourself to death, find the best grad school, take all the classes you need to take and as quickly as possible so you can become a doctor at the age of twenty-six. Then, make thousands of dollars to repay those who paid for your schooling, make more money for yourself, and restart the cycle with your own kid. Are you happy being a doctor? Is it a sustainable lifestyle if you hate it? College is the start of all this. The stress did not end after senior year applications. I do not pretend to know the answers, but if I’m old enough to choose my life’s path then I’m old enough to share my opinion on it. I’ve seen too many people close to me suffocated by realism, often unnecessary realism, when they had perfectly good dreams. If you’re going to be a dreamer in this day and age, be a practical one. It is true—we grow up, become aware of the functioning society around us, and learn how to be a member within it. Yet, I hold onto the belief that you can be a functioning member of this society and have dreams. As cheesy as it seems, money controls everything we touch but not everything we feel. What I’m saying is if you have the privilege to be the next Shakespeare or Toni Morrison or Billy Wilder, then please pursue that. If not for yourself, for me.

 

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