I’ve spent a big chunk of the last few days thinking about dreams and ambition.
I’ve been thinking about how we make those two words synonymous with “careers” – as in, in order to be an ambitious person, in order to have a dream, you have to have a dream job. Your dream somehow has to be your work, or it’s no real dream at all. If you don’t have to go to college for it, then it’s not a real dream, and you don’t have any real ambition.
Now, nobody’s said that to me explicitly, of course – because once you write it out, it kind of sounds really, really crazy. It kind of sounds pretentious. It kind of sounds just plain silly. But don’t you think it’s kind of implied?
I’ve wrestled with this since the end of college – and if we’re all honest with ourselves, we probably all have – when people ask you what you want to do, and you don’t have a “good” answer…that is, you don’t say, “oh, yeah – I’m getting a job with such and such company and I have such and such an internship and I’m eventually going to grad school for such and such…”
When you don’t have that answer, it’s easy to feel a little less than; a little unworthy, a little unambitious.
When you’re in your mid-late twenties, and you’re working a job you love, and people you know are in grad school trying to move on up in the world, chase a new thing, do something new, move to a bigger city…it’s easy to wonder what’s wrong with you. Why is it that you’re perfectly happy where you are, working your job that’s paying the bills just fine, living a life you genuinely enjoy (and/or you realize that anything that’s less than great about your life is outside of work and has nothing to do with your vocation…)
I say that because it’s my struggle. It’s my struggle, and I hope someone out there can relate to it. I hope someone out there knows what it is like to be discontentedly content. To be thrilled with what they’re doing, to have great friends, and/or to be willing to see a dream as bigger than just a job.
I’m hoping that’s what we can start doing as a culture. I hope it’s what we teach our kids to do – to think of a dream as a lot more broad than just a job. Why don’t we think of a dream as something like this: living in a town you love, having a group of friends you love, spending your time doing things you love, having conversations you love, listening to music you love, reading books you love, and in general loving your life – irrespective of how many zeroes are in your paycheck, how many degrees you have, and how big of a town you live in?
I wonder sometimes if we have a contentment problem as a culture. And I question this not as someone who’s figured it out – but as someone who wonders if I should learn to dream bigger, or if we’re taught to dream too big. To be vulnerable with you, reader – the fear of ambition has burned me a few times in my life. Specifically in regards to dating – multiple times I have invested my heart in someone who ended up chasing after a dream of theirs and ultimately ended up going after that thing instead of being content with where they were in life. Do I fault them? Not necessarily. But it only reinforces insecure thoughts about what’s important in life – career ambitions, or the desire to be content.
And I’m sure someone out there could make a coherent argument for why the two aren’t mutually exclusive – and I’m sure it’s a good argument. I’m only able to see it from my side, for now – from my perspective of being in my mid-20s, with more debt than I care to have (and therefore no desire to go to school and accrue more,) having a job that I love doing and that pays the bills, with a phenomenal group of friends, living in a geographically and culturally wonderful place, going to a great church and being involved there, listening to all my favorite music, reading all my favorite books, etc. etc. etc.
I’m slowly learning to consider that the dream – that I truly want nothing more than that in life. If I can learn to do that – then I’m truly living the dream.