Today's guest post from YBCer Victoria is a reassuring read for anyone (and we've all been there, I think) who has had a dream and worked towards it, only to realize it wasn't actually what they wanted. Hope you guys enjoy! xoCandace
“Thank you!” I squealed, excitedly. “What should I do?” I followed up.
What should I do?
What does one do? There’s no road map for this, and they certainly don’t teach you in school. "Follow your dreams!" they all say. What no one tells you is what you do after that. What happens when the chase is over? What happens when you create a dream that takes years to cultivate, to sow, to let grow and flourish, but at that point, who are you, and is this dream even yours?
For two years of my life, every weekend was freely given to the hospital in the low income area. Spending my days in the lab at my 9-to-5 and rushing to night classes to learn the intricacies of the human body was fascinating... and exhausting. "Never give up," they say. So I didn’t. My vacation days were spent shadowing the woman I wanted to be, watching her comfort her patients, not only with her touch, but her words. I stood, watching the exchange between provider and patient, willing myself to be her already because come on I’ve put in the years of studying, of giving up weekends to volunteer, of night classes, of degrees with honors, of joining clubs, of side hustling, of missed happy hours, let me just nab this dream already!
It takes about 11 years to become a medical doctor in the United States. Eleven. Years. The iPhone wasn’t even out 11 years ago; you know the device that transformed the way we live, but please, know what you want to be doing with your life in 11 years. Eleven years ago, I was practicing for my driver’s license test and worrying about what university I wanted to attend. I liked watching TV and hated going on runs. The Victoria I was eleven years ago had no concept of what adulthood was like, of what she wanted out of a career, of what type of lifestyle she wanted to live. Eleven-years-ago-Victoria was me, but she was the modern-day-Victoria in the making. Modern-day-Victoria doesn’t have cable and runs twice a week. Modern-day-Victoria wouldn’t be who she is without the experiences eleven-years-ago-Victoria went through.
So when I received my acceptance to the graduate program I had been dreaming of, I was presented with an offer to change the course of my life in pursuit of this goal I made years ago. I had dedicated years of my life/time/study/weekends to make this happen. So why the hesitation?
I had a conversation with my mom a few months before I received the call. I had started having doubts about pursuing the graduate program, but I was too nervous to tell anyone. I floated the idea to her over lattes.
“What?! Uh-oh. Well, it’s a lot of work. Besides, if you become a mom, you’ll want to stay home with your kids.”
My mom was a nurse turned stay-at-home mom. She wasn't suggesting what I would want, but rather she was speaking earnestly from her own experience, demonstrating how one of her life's monumental moments changed what she wanted. She was understanding how I could change my mind.
We all know people like this. I have students who used to think yoga was really weird, but after a few classes, they loved it. People who swear they’ll never get married, but then find their true love to commit to. I know people who hated running but after a few jogs, sign up for a 10k. These people aren’t hypocrites; they’ve gone through experiences that have changed their view and thus, what they desire.
When you set your sight on a dream for so long, that vision becomes ingrained in you; it becomes part of your identity. You don’t quite remember why you are pursuing it and the process of pursuing doesn’t allow you time to think, anyway. You just know that you’ve been telling yourself this story of who you want to be, of what letters you want to follow your name, and the way to grant you these wishes is to follow this dream.
I knew I didn’t want to go to my graduate program. This dream was no longer mine; it was two-years-ago-Victoria’s. But I believed in the story I had been telling myself for so long, so this dream was now part of me. It was hard to give up and even harder to tell myself and the people around me that I was no longer pursuing it.
What did I see in the woman I once wanted to be? Value to her community. Commitment to serving people. Dedication to using her education for a purpose. She was using her position as a medium to check all those boxes. But I didn’t need to. I wanted aspects of what she had without the repercussions of her career choice. It wasn’t her career that I wanted, it was the value she was bringing to the world. And I didn’t need, or want, her career to get that; I wanted to do it my own way; it just took me going through the process to understand that.
Most self help books tell you to follow your dreams. Grit your teeth. Make your wish come true. Never give up. Don’t let your dreams be dreams. I would know, because I read them. But what if the goal you dreamed up years ago and worked toward is no longer what you want?
It’s okay to let go of dreams that are no longer yours. It’s okay to want something so badly for so long, but in the process, change your mind. It’s okay to have second thoughts, to take another look, to reevaluate, reexamine, retrace, reconsider, realize you want something else. You’re not giving up on your dreams, you’re giving yourself the space to grow and change. Let your dreams reflect that.
Letting go of a dream that has set roots inside of you is uncomfortable, but chasing the wrong thing for the right reasons is misguided. I told myself a story that this dream was the only way to get what I want and I believed it. So, what should I do? Tear out the pages, let them burn. Uproot that dream and throw it into someone else’s garden. Rewrite my narrative, starring today-Victoria. Revisit time and time again to make sure I’m writing the story I want to read. Read. Edit. Repeat.