Not too long ago I posted a quote on Instagram about doing what you love. It was all about following your passion and seeing where it takes you. Now, I’m very picky about my quotes. I look for meaning beyond the surface sentiment. This particular Rumi quote said essentially, that if you follow what you love, you can do no wrong. It’ll lead you where you should be. I wrote a little blurb on my blog and was surprised to receive a few quick comments.
It wasn’t just your usual “Love!” type of comment, but a few concerns over the whole “follow your dreams” sentiment. Cheesy sure, but totally unrealistic? It seemed, that people think that this might be a cool thing to do when following passion projects, but as far as a career? One that you might possibly make a living off of, support a family off of?
Instantly, I felt myself silently justifying my post. But I am following my dreams. I am making a career of something I also happen to like doing. But I also see that it’s not necessarily realistic to live your dream how you’d always planned. Even if the dream itself doesn’t change, how you may achieve it likely will. When I was younger, for example, I wanted to be a writer. I imagined myself publishing stories or maybe working as an editor in a big publishing house. It’s not that I don’t still occasionally dream of it, but over time, I’ve learned that those aren’t the only ways to become a writer. In fact, some of the ways I’m writing are nothing I ever imagined were possible—like this website.
Not only did it make more sense to go this route, the other route wasn’t very realistic. I wouldn’t be able to support myself with writing if I only allowed one path as a possibility. So if you DO want your dreams to carve out a path for your career, you’ll have to make some compromises and maybe pivot a little.
Everyone’s dream is a little different. We all have crazy, far-fetched desires, some of which we’ll realize and some we won’t. But I think the point where the dream and the talent and the skill and experience intercept—all these things at once—THAT’S what you want to pursue. That symbolizes that you’ll be a success because you have the know how, but you’ll also be able to keep the success up because you’ll have the motivation and passion.
What if your dream is not necessarily something you know a lot about or are talented in? That’s where work comes in. And yes, it’s so much work. No matter what (even if you are insanely talented in said vocation). And yes, at times, it seems like you’re doing much more work than everyone else. Maybe you are, but that’s probably just because your dream is bigger than everyone else’s. Or rather, you’re realizing a dream where others don’t think of it as an option. (Side note, if you’re thinking of pursuing some far flung dream, The Creative Habit will offer up a much needed kick in the a$$.)
Are there instances when living your dream isn’t an option? Well, sure. A lot of people are in a lot of circumstances which don’t necessarily allow them to quit a job that pays the bills to write all day or make music or whatever.
I absolutely think that’s the case for some people but for most people? No. Most people I know—and I realize and really appreciate that we’re in a position to be able to do this—could follow a dream, they just choose not to. They don’t see how they could work fulltime AND come home and work every evening to realize a dream, to get better at something that may never come to fruition.
But what if we all thought that following our dreams wasn’t possible? What if we all thought we had to go to a dead-end job for 40+ hours a week and there was NO hope to do anything that even remotely sparked our souls? Where would we find art and music and entertainment? Wouldn’t there be no galleries and movies and best sellers? It’s a pretty radical idea, following your dreams, but when we believe that we can—and we work REALLY, really hard too—that’s when art is made.
PS If you want to help some hardworking, dream-chasing artists, see this post.