What’s Your Dream?
I once asked my students what their dreams were for their futures. We were contemplating how the American Dream crosses through different works in American Literature (Gatsby: the green light, Of Mice and Men: rabbits/a farm, Streetcar Named Desire: safety/desire, Frederick Douglass: freedoms), and we realized how central dreaming was to us as individuals, quite aside from specific desires for nice cars, independence from parents, or saving the world. Dreaming lights us up inside and give us something to go for. It helps us feel alive. It matters.
Then one of my students asked me what my dream was. I fumbled for a moment, caught off guard, and I said that my dream was to become a better teacher. It was true. I valued my work and I was striving every day to be better at what I did, but when, later, I examined deeper, I realized my honest answer was more complicated.
I dreamed of being a better teacher, but I also dreamed of the freedom that summer would bring because then I would have time to write. Somewhere, under the daily joy, fatigue, and practical busyness of being a teacher, a sliver of me longed to write, too.
It was a dangerous moment, admitting that to myself. It was seeing a luscious cake in a shop window when I couldn’t eat it.
To clarify: I didn’t dream of being a writer. I dreamed of having time to write. I couldn’t act on it then, not enough, not the way that could satisfy my dream. I still had classes to teach and months of fulfilling work to perform before summer vacation. I had already set up plenty of practice for my primary dream of being a better teacher.
But I looked at my students, the ones I was hoping to inspire, and I thought, don’t I deserve a dream, too? Shouldn’t I have, somewhere deep inside me, a wistful, hopeful, light-me-up dream, and shouldn’t I be shooting for it?
I deserved that. I do still.
What’s your dream?