Keep Keeping On: How To Stay Strong with Naysayers Beneath Your Sails

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How about them apples?

There are a lot of things that I would like to have and experience in life. Some of my goals are more obviously tangible, and other desired accomplishments, perhaps, are what you might find in the realm of cloudy with a moderate chance of happening. Growing up, I was taught that I had to be ‘twice as good’ to be good enough and that I should enter a job industry that would allow me to experience as little racial discrimination as possible. But what is the point of life if you don’t go after exactly what makes you happy? Everyone should dream. If you ask me, people don’t spend enough time dreaming.


Here are some of the things I’ve learned while dealing with excessively practical and ‘realistic’ folks:

1. You must dream.

Dream big and make them come true. Have a backup plan (which, of course, you have no intention of seeing through). Get a day job that allows you to follow your dreams. Don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of your dreams. Dream some more.

2. Your family might not see what you see.

You might expect your immediate family to see what you can see, but sometimes they can’t. They see you differently than you do. They might not ever see all of you. In fact, the only person who might come close to seeing all of you (in every way that counts) is your spouse. Your dreams are his or hers dreams. His or hers are yours. In making a life together, you take on each other’s hopes and wishes and come together (as a team – hopefully) in support of each other. If you have this issue with your spouse, you might have to hash it out with them in a constructive way. That would involve wine, cuddles, and the age-old “Baby listen to me, this is very important….”

2. There will be setbacks.

When following your life’s passions, financial, emotional, psychological, and environmental setbacks are most definitely abound. I can’t say that setbacks are easy; they have really done a number on my psyche and given me the test of my life. But, guess what? You still have to do everything within your power to keep your eyes firmly on your dreams. Those setbacks cannot possibly be forever. Not when hope is all around us.

3. You might start to question yourself and your dreams.

When those setbacks happen, and people start to tell you that you look ridiculous (because “it’s not going to happen” or “it’s taking too long and you need to start looking into Plan B”) it makes you question what you’re really capable of (especially if it’s someone whose opinion you hold to a high regard). You start to question everything: ‘Am I really as good as I think I am? ‘Are my dreams really that impossible to meet in my lifetime?’ But really, who knows you better than you? I have spent more than a few years allowing other people’s fears about my dreams and ambitions masquerade as my own; I was insecure, unsure, afraid, and I felt unworthy of my dreams. What a joke! Reality check: There isn’t anything you want in life that you don’t deserve. It doesn’t matter whether that naysayer is the person who raised you, fostered you, or did anything formative in your life. If they’re telling you not to do exactly what makes you happy, they’re wrong. Work doesn’t have to feel like work. Your life’s work can be what your dreams are made of.

4. Get ready to dig in your heels and settle in.

When a setback looms it’s ugly head (the kind that touches every corner of your life, delays progress, causes people to look at you and wonder what in the damn hell you’re still doing “chasing that dream,”) you should think about taking an extended holiday to dreamland: Dreaming reacquaints you with your hopes and dreams, and is the thing that will lift your frequency, keep your mind’s eye on the prize, and lift your spirits. Dig in your heels and be ready to go to war. Protect what’s yours (that is, your right to dream big and be happy doing it). Big dreams aren’t just for Disney, you know. They really can come true (and they often do).

5. There are few things worse than giving up on anything that matters to you in your life when there is just the slightest chance that you might win.

Sure, hope is paralyzing, tormenting, and completely unbearable at times, no doubt about it, but the tides can turn at any time. Your dreams are worth fighting for. I would hate to be that person sitting on the edge of glory who gets up and leaves just because they got told ‘no’ one too many times. I’ll get that ‘yes.’

When it comes to my greatest passions in life, you cannot ever tell me ‘no’ and expect that to be your final answer. Sure, as a human being I stumble, rage, cry, curse God from time to time (sorry God!), go off about how hard it is to climb that seemingly insurmountable mountain that is institutionalized racism (note: it fucking sucks); I’ll do all of that and then I’ll get back up and work on getting that ‘yes.’

Frederick Nietzsche said:

“Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.” – xx

Emily Dickinson said:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all” – xx


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