I was never much of a dreamer as a kid. Forget being a princess, pilot, pop star or police officer. All I ever aspired to was to be an accountant – a short degree with strong job prospects.*
I’m not even kidding. To tell you the truth, I was an unambitious and cynical child.
The funny thing is that somewhere along the way into adulthood, I did start dreaming.
I dreamed of changing the world. Perhaps it was born of a desire to prove that my unambitious and cynical younger self was so, so wrong.
Changing the world hardly seemed a dream to me, though. In my early-to-mid-twenties, I started to appreciate that changing the world is within reach of each of us, that the smallest gesture can be a part of a bigger picture. That it doesn’t have to be dramatic or headline-worthy to be, well, worthy. To count as real change.
And since it was something I was already in the process of doing, it never seemed a far off reality. It never seemed far away enough to be called a dream.
So whaddya know – it seems I’ve been living the dream.
But there are also dreams I’m yet to live. These are not things I hope I manage to do before I die, nor will I feel unfulfilled if they don’t happen. Far from being a bucket list, this is a set of six longings that speak to the core of who I am.
I’m sharing them with you here, to encourage you to discover (if you haven’t already) and reflect on your own dreams.
#1 Live in Europe
Once in primary school they got us to create a timeline of our hypothetical life, imagine how our personal future might pan out. I think my accounting ambitions hadn’t quite crystallised at this stage, but the first item in my ideal future was “travel to Europe”.
This dream was realised in September 2003. I’ll never forget my first day in overcast Italy, driving from Rome to Venice. I was later fortunate enough to make a few more visits to Europe, including spending a semester in Madrid.
I’m still dreaming of Europe. It’s the most irrational of all my dreams in the sense that I haven’t figured out why I yearn to live there, but yearn for it I do. I don’t have words for this, still. I just know it’s deeper than my hopes of going to a FIFA World Cup, being able to play Debussy’s ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’ properly on the piano or meeting Gael García Bernal.
It’s also the easiest dream to fulfil – it only remains a dream because I haven’t yet chosen to go.
#2 Write a novel
Okay, so maybe “unambitious and cynical little me” is an incomplete picture. I was unambitious about this life, this world. So I dreamed of other worlds – I dreamed by reading. It filled my heart to yearn for worlds where life was a little rougher, but things were sweeter because they were fought for. There was adventure, courage, wonder, purpose greater than oneself.
And I dreamed in my writing. I often bemoan how difficult it’s been for me to write the novel I began plotting in my teenage years, mostly because I can no longer suspend reality. I question whether I can write fiction anymore, let alone fantasy. But then again, isn’t there a good dose of truth in the best fiction? And isn’t fantasy ultimately about our present reality?
For me, this isn’t about seeing my name on a jacket sleeve or doing book tours. It’s a weird and wanky wish to somehow distil my essence into a created work. And that this created work would somehow be far more than me and take on a life of its own.
#3 Present a TED talk
I have a confession to make: I have often sat in the pew on a Sunday and instead of listening to the message being preached, I have written an alternative sermon in my own head and imagined myself delivering it.
Look, maybe I’m not the best public speaker – but I’m not shy about being in front of an audience and I think I could scrub up okay, given more opportunities to hone the craft.
Why a TED talk? There’s the speaking on stage and connecting with people in that way. But mostly it’s about deserving the TED stage. I’d like to have been involved in some sort of awesomeness worth talking about, worth sharing – something bigger than my own existence.
(Incidentally, it occurs to me that TED talks are pretty much secular sermons).
#4 Love more deeply
Kids are cute and all and I like men and stuff, but if you know me, you’ll know I’m not super domestic. Dreaming of family, for me, is about dreaming of knowing and experiencing the love of God in a whole new way.
I’m very aware that our perceptions of God are very much shaped by our earthly fathers. And I’m very aware that it’s been easier for me than for many others to understand and embrace the idea of a gentle, giving, gracious, present and loving Father God because I have been blessed with parents who have been all of those things to me.
But while I can conceptualise what it takes, because I’m not a parent myself I don’t feel that I can fully grasp either the cost or the joy of what it means to be a mum. And I’d like to.
I long for greater emotional investment – that I could invest more of my heart in another person, that that person would likewise invest in me, and that we would be jointly invested in our kids. I dream of a team like this, that’s better together and more than the sum of our individual parts.
#5 Participate in intentional community
I reflected on this in my previous post, the desire both for more global and more local in my daily life. This last week I was reading about apartments in Denmark that have a communal kitchen, laundry and other facilities, and where residents can choose to share cooking and child care responsibilities. It’s called co-housing.
Frankly, this sounds fabulous to me. And I think what I find attractive about the setup is that it is, once again, about being part of something bigger than myself.
We should be more connected to each other – and not just on Facebook. Modern life is so siloed on multiple levels and I’m convinced that allowing others into the “domestic” spheres of our day-to-day (not just by invitation, but by design) will transform how we understand our shared humanity, what we believe about ownership and rights, about the private and public realms, and about morality and ethics more broadly.
#6 End slavery
Speaking of humanity, can you imagine a world where human beings are no longer bought and sold? A world where there is no impunity for the powerful? A world where the vulnerable are cared for? A world where every child, woman and man thrives?
From the time I was a kid, I’ve been struck by how the world isn’t quite right. In fact, a great deal is wrong with it, with us. It isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. We’re not the way we’re supposed to be. We were meant to be so much more than we are and it’s this sentiment, perhaps, that forms the common thread running through these dreams of mine.
All our striving, our delusions, our selfishness, our fears – it grieves me. When I do all my “justice stuff”, when I talk about helping poor people, changing the world, it really comes down to this: a longing for what’s wrong to be made right, for restoration and renewal.
Ultimately, this is a dream of heaven on earth. It’s a dream I hope all of us – whatever our concept of perfection or paradise may be – can share and work towards.
*No offence whatsoever meant to any of my accountant friends! Even if you love your job now I bet it wasn’t your burning ambition as a child.
Header image credit: Sarah Mak.