...there is a very famous poem by Langston Hughes entitled 'Dreams Deferred'...
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Yup, that's what they told me repeatedly while I was growing up. Pursuing dreams was for ne'er do wells, pursuing *goals* is what successful people do.
Funny, try telling that to anyone who started up a company and ended up retiring long before the rest of us with a few million in the bank and some smart investing so that they can live off the interest. They pursued goals... *and* dreams.
But I think Mr. Hughes had it right - depending on the person, dreams that you don't pursue do all of these things to someone. They dry up, they fester and pick at you like a sore. They sit in the back of your mind and stink up the place, making you bitter and resentful that you never pursued it. A non-pursued dream can make you ill with tension, resentment, or just a great case of self-loathing.
The weight of the might-have-been just sits on you and tires you out when you're older, or simply tires you out at a very young age because you're too jaded, too scared, too unsteady to pursue it. After all, like I said before, dreams cannot buy groceries, and if you're not in a position to take a risk, you'll never take that blind step off the path no matter how tempting the dream may be. There are also those that are afraid of a hard day's work, and that too can turn someone away from pursuing a dream - because they would have to do more work for it than they think they should have to.
For the rare individual, it will drive them mad (thus, 'explode') with the lost possibilities and the sadness that has invaded every crack of your life. Now, before anyone starts pointing fingers, I don't really have any dreams that I can pursue realistically. I have a family that loves me, I have a decent job (but am yearning for something different), I have supportive friends, and a great education. Do I want more?
Who doesn't want more? I'd love to have a few million dollars in the bank so that I could pursue an MBA, or some other advanced degree that I don't really need. I'd love to have a show on the radio. I'd love to take the risk and be the photojournalist that I wanted to be for a brief month in high school before I realized that the love of money was just too big to ignore. But these aren't realistic and too risky for me to pursue with young children that need thier Mommy.
Instead, these dreams sit like the syrupy sweet that Hughes mentioned, getting crispy and crystallized with time in the sun and making themselves look golden and reflective and still mildly attractive as time passes. As if they've not been let go of, but still sit there neglected after all these years...
... and that's just something for all of you with dreams (old and new) to think about.