'You Don’t Need To ‘Follow Your Dreams’

'Put simply, without my dreams I don’t know who I am.'
Colette Kaines Lang
February 21, 2024

‘But that’s just what she’s like. I guarantee she’ll be working in London this time next year.’

This is what a friend of mine said in response to hearing my plans for the upcoming year – which currently don’t include being in London.

The words stuck with me because I didn’t know how they made me feel. If I did end up in London, would that mean I failed to pursue my dreams? A kind of ‘told-you-so’ failure. Or, if I found myself wanting to go to London would my dreams of moving abroad look like a silly desire to be different.

So, how important is it to have dreams and what does dreaming mean to me?

A part of my character is always declaring big statements of intent. Dreams.

Not too long ago I was certain I wanted to be a police officer.

I used to say I didn’t want children.

When I was younger the Prime Minister, an Olympian (in any sport) and a farmer were all on the dream list.

In truth, none of these are likely to make my final career-cut.

Is this evidence that my dreams are useless mind doodles?

Despite my friend’s statement, I don’t think it is.

I wanted to be a police officer as I wanted to see change. I still do. I just no longer see the Police Force as a way of achieving that.

I used to not want to have children as I quite simply wanted to fuck the patriarchy. Now I realise I can do both. I guess I thought no kids left you ‘free’ to excel in a man’s world?

A farmer? Animals and the outdoors are still things I love.

Everything I have declared I still want – but maybe time’s allowed me to clarify my dreams.

We should never be afraid to declare dreams and then alter them.

If we don’t explore our dreams, even just within our own head, we won’t realise why we even dreamed them.

I didn’t just dream I wanted to be a police officer, I dreamt about a less unjust world.

I didn’t dream to not have kids. I now understand I was dreaming to be equal to men.

Big dreams indeed.

Maybe even harder to achieve than being an Olympian.

But these hopes for the world don’t rely on whether or not I achieve those exact things.

We can be too hard on ourselves. Feel we’ve failed before we’ve even begun.

Dreams don’t have to be face value, we can unpack them.

We may never write that book. Circumstances may mean we never can. But never forget atone point you just dreamt to write. Or even to be creative.

I once had a teacher tell me he accomplished his dream of being an actor by teaching economics.

To him his classroom was the stage and engaging his students, making them enthusiasticabout his subject was his satisfied audience.

Revolution only needs good dreamers who remember their dreams. - Tennessee Williams

I am not saying we have to start a revolution. Although…

…a revolution is often a fight for something that is out of the current reality - a fantasy.

What I am saying is, don’t forget your dreams just because they feel fanciful or unachievable.

There is so much in life we can’t control, it’s easy to let that seep into our imagination. To only dream the realistic rather than let our mind run wild.

Let’s not confuse this with ‘just follow your dreams’, a saying often packed with the privilege that ignores influences such as luck, security and money. The factors that heighten the chance of living your ‘dream’ life – or at least something approaching it. This idea we have to follow dreams diminishes dreaming: to learn, discover and even escape.

That’s not to ignore that dreaming can hurt too - reminding us of what we can’t have or what we haven’t done.

If I end up in London next year, I don’t think that means I’m flaky. Changing dreams or never achieving them does not make you less or make your dream trivial. It is a strength.

You are strong enough to consider change, to explore circumstances. To break open the box of life’s possibilities.

Dreaming is part of being human.

Put simply, without my dreams I don’t know who I am.

Header Image by Iona McVean