NOT FOR NOTHIN’: Dreams should guide our reality

Amy Richards

Everything that surrounds us was first a dream. Our reality, and the stuff that fills it, was first imagined by someone, somewhere, in some form of a dream. 

Yes, that which we know, learn and see around us — the society we live in — was all part of someone else’s dream, a dream that he or she had the courage to make into our reality.

We all have them, these dreams: We daydream, we dream while sleeping and we dream of the future every time we peer into the deep recesses of Google for job, school or volunteer opportunities. In fact, we spend hours, every day, just…dreaming.  

In dreams, we deliver ourselves from the monotony of our daily pursuits, from the hardness of the desk we sit at, from the promise of more reading assignments, from the futility of Excel spreadsheets. 

Our eyes wander over our desks, our hands reach to a notepad to doodle, our foot taps to an imaginary beat. We are dreamers, every one of us.

While it is easy to admit that we dream, we often brush dreams off as nonsense. We relate them to our friends with the expectation that they will laugh at them.  

We belittle them, disrespect them, kick them to the gutter. 

While we revel in dreams, we feel embarrassed about sharing those that we hold closest to us, for fear that they sound silly, that they are irrational or downright impossible.  

There exists today the stigma of the daydreamer — the idea that dreamers are detached from reality. They wander through life without purpose. They are waste their time on fantastical ideas or are simply lost souls. 

In the mid-20th century, parents were admonished to keep their children from daydreaming for fear that they would develop psychosis or neurosis. 

Meanwhile, we know some of the greatest thinkers, liberators, athletes, artists and leaders by the public decrees of their dreams. 

We are all familiar with Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Dream” and what it meant for an entire country.

We would not know surrealist art if one Salvador Dalí had not had the courage to show us his dreams on canvas. 

Whitney Houston or Celine Dion would never have widened their vocal ranges to heights the world had never heard without first imagining it. 

Neither would Gandhi have fermented independence from Britain if he hadn’t shared his dream of nonviolent resistance with the people of India. 

Nor would we know Dickens’ fictional characters if the world he embraced was not one of imagination.

These people shared their dreams with a friend, a piece of paper, an instrument and then with thousands of others. 

They reached from within the confines of their situations and remolded the space to fit those dreams. They empowered themselves with the stuff of their minds. 

Somewhere, someone laughed at each of them along the way, but they kept right on daydreaming.

In our minds we can see more brilliant colors than one may ever see, we know ideal forms, we sing with perfect pitch and we know the wildest extremes of beauty and of horror. 

While we decorate the hallways of our minds with beautiful ideas, why do we continue to contain them within such a rigid space?

Why do we feel the need to limit ourselves in the time we spend daydreaming or in sharing those dreams we do have for society, for the environment, for our families, for ourselves? 

In doing so, we thwart the true expression of that which impassions us most. 

We neglect our hobbies because we have too many obligations to the here and now, to another’s insistent demands on our time, our space and our thoughts. Instead of allowing our minds to wander, we designate certain times of the day or week for reflection, relegating our dreams to the lowest rungs of our conscience.

There is much to learn from that which distracts us from the strict management of our to-do lists. 

These distractions reveal to us something about who we are, why we are here and what our place in the world might be. Now is the time to let ourselves dream, to feed our souls with that which they crave most and not to overwhelm ourselves with others’ plans or with such predetermined schedules that we forget to dream.

Our souls have been fashioning dreams within us for two decades now.  

It is a cold, gray hour when we stop listening to them. 

We mustn’t be fooled into believing that the dreamer is a lost soul, for following our dreams is the surest sign that we know just where we are headed — in a direction that is rich with personality, wonder, ideals and the energy and courage to laugh at the futility of our to-do lists instead of at our dreams.

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Amy Richards is a senior honors, Spanish and global interdisciplinary studies major from Kings Park, N.Y.  She can be reached at [email protected]