You Will Learn to Dream Again

I got it all.

I had written my dreams on a white piece of poster board. I laid it all out there and decided to believe it was possible.

In just a few short days, I got it all.

It happened exactly like one of those end-of-the-movie moments. My dreams all started coming true and I felt alive in every limb and ligament. Finally, so much of my life made sense. All the years of pain, preparation, prayer. It had all brought me to that perfect moment. 

My time had finally come.

To be honest with you, it was just as glorious as I had always imagined, maybe even more so.  It was like everyone had gotten a copy of the script I had spent years writing in my wildest dreams; all were playing their role so perfectly. Never before or after have I experienced such an incredibly unblemished season.

Still, I tiptoed carefully. I could never shake wondering if it could really last forever? 

It didn’t.

Sitting there with a table full of everything I could want in front of me, the tablecloth was ripped off and I watched everything crash to the floor in slow motion. I wasn’t prepared. (But you can’t ever really prepare yourself for that moment, that instant second when all oxygen is barricaded from your lungs and your heart is drained of every last drop of hope it ever held.)

There are many days when I’m still sweeping up those crumbs. It has been a lot to clean up. There had been nearly nothing left on that table. And every single dream that had survived the pulling of that tablecloth was eventually stolen while I was down on my knees scraping up the remnants of those messy conversations.

It’s hard to dream again after that. It’s hard to get back up in that chair, pick up that menu and try again.

For a while, I tried. I decided to stay at the same table. I kept trying to order those same dishes. Maybe if I just kept trying, I could get it all back. But eventually, those things I always wanted stopped being an option; they were taken off the menu.

So, I moved on. I changed restaurants, outfits and opened up an entirely different menu. Soon I realized that I still couldn’t order. I couldn’t just decide to get a new dream, not after knowing that it could all so quickly be taken away.

Having your dreams become reality, getting everything you want, having your every desire fulfilled isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Because no one can promise you that those things will stick around. They aren’t guaranteed and they don’t come with a warranty. Believe me when I tell you that you can’t just get a new one. You can’t just “pick something else”. 

I thought I could, I thought for a while that it would be that easy. But it’s never going to be that simple.

You’ll get your heart set on something and when it’s suddenly removed from the menu, you won’t know how to be content with anything else. You won’t know how to settle for just picking something else. 

You’ll get that job, or that degree. You’ll find that person. You’ll move to that country. And for as long as life allows, you’ll be over the moon and you’ll sip thousands of cups of peppermint tea and be so incredibly thankful. 

Because this isn’t a Charles Dickens’ novel, or a trick, or a Hallmark movie. Things aren’t taken away from you only when you aren’t grateful or because you took them for granted.

Sometimes you love something with every cell of your being, sometimes you work hard and with unwavering loyalty. Sometimes you say thank you a thousand times a day for just a few seconds of having something so incredibly wonderful at your fingertips.

Sometimes you lose it anyway.

Just know that I don’t have answers about such questions and I finally gave up checking the back of the textbook for them. I don’t know how to solve for X on that equation. 

But believe me when I tell you that you will get hungry again. You’ll start wanting new things, but sometimes it takes a while. It might be years of perusing thousands of menus, only to find yourself disappointed that nothing seems to appeal the way the former things did.

Even so, there will be something that eventually plants itself under your nose. One day, you’ll look down and you’ll realize that right there in your line of sight is something that sounds incredibly inviting and it will be worth ordering, worth trying, worth wanting. You’ll smooth the napkin in your lap, ask for what you want and you’ll risk the tablecloth being ripped off all over again.

You will learn to dream again, I promise you that.

But there’s a lesson in the losing. There’s something to be gained from your months or years of scraping things up off the floor. Those things aren’t and could never be permanent. That may turn out to be one of life’s harshest realities, but it is true nonetheless. Nothing is permanent. But we can’t let that keep us down with our knees in the carpet, cleaning up yesterday’s messes. Eventually, you’ve got to get back up.

That’s life: dreaming, winning, losing, fighting, forgiving and starting all over again.

So forgive the ones who ripped off the tablecloths, the waiters who told you that they no longer serve that dish and decide to try something new. Wipe off what you’ve been trying to scrape back onto plates, long after the five-second-rule expired. You are free to dream and try new things. When you are once again hit with the reality that dreams are temporary, you’ll learn to also see it as a chance to do more and see more than you first could have imagined.

Maybe you were never meant for just one dream. Maybe sometimes losing one simply leads to gaining so many more.

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Sorry Shakespeare, No One Was Born Great

She said it so matter-of-factly, “I’ll never change it. I can’t change the world.”

For me, everything just stopped. She believed them, she really believed those words that just came flooding out of her mouth. Her eyes were glassy and her posture resolute; I could see that in regards to world changing, her heart was settled.

I didn’t know how to respond, mostly because that thought has never gone through my mind.

How did she know that greatness hadn’t chosen her? Could she really be so certain that she wasn’t woven with all the threads of a world changer?

Her words just sat with me for the rest of the day, but late that night, wrapped up in my covers and staring at the ceiling, I heard something thick with truth:

Greatness doesn’t choose you, you choose greatness.

You don’t make a difference all because fortune fell into your lap.

Shakespeare may be considered brilliant and many of us have heard these words: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Well, I think Willy and I disagree on that. Some are born distinguished, wealthy, seen as important, but that doesn’t make them great. Greatness is our choice and often it comes through the things thrust upon us.

You’re going to hit hard times and it’s what you do with them that makes you great. It’s your choice to keep laughing, to say hard things, to choose love when you want to choose bitterness, to step in when someone is in need, to be willing to be a megaphone for the things that really matter.

Greatness is walking with your head held high, knowing that the only thing that could ever make you inferior is the choice to play a minor role in the world you’ve been given.

I’ve never believed I can’t change the world. I know that I have the ability to work just as hard as anyone else. The people that have changed the world never had anything on me, even if they had extreme intelligence and wealth.

Hard work makes you great and enduring character sustains it. You were born with all the same threads as the people in history books. You can work just as hard, believe just as mightily, persevere just as long.

You can choose greatness, it’s always an option for you.

But know that greatness isn’t chosen for selfish reasons, for arrogance or conceit. True greatness is chosen when someone isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty, lose cool points or risk being rejected. People who make a choice for greatness do it because they believe people deserve bigger and better things than the world before them knew how to fight for.

If you’re convinced you aren’t enough, that you don’t have what it takes or that it was easier for people who came before you, you’ve got some things to learn.

World changers, fire starters, page turners never had it easy. They walked through fear, were knocked around by cold shoulders and stood front and center of the you’ll-never-amount-to-anything lineup.

Fear didn’t stop them, ridicule didn’t break them, courage and determination were the shoes they chose to wear every single morning.

So, whatever you’re afraid of, bitter about, indifferent to, whatever it is that makes you lazy or passive, those are the only things steering you away from the road that leads to the corner of Greatness and Change.

The Things That Matter

I sat down and made a list of things I know.

I made a list of things I know right in this moment, to see if they were enough to keep me moving forward.

There were nineteen bullet points on that list. I had to ask myself if that was that enough to make me move forward in things that feel pretty risky.

If I’m being honest, I feel like I need at least fifty things on the list of certainties before I can take a risk. Let’s be real, nineteen isn’t really in the ballpark of fifty.

I sat there, tears on my face as I realized that sandwiched there in the middle were three of the most important things I could ever write. These certainties, these things I know to be true, are all that it should take for me to take a leap.

Figure out what matters.

That’s my advice to you. In whatever situations you’re sitting with, in whatever battle you’re fighting, figure out what matters and let that make your choice.

There are always going to be questions. You’ll always have little doubts trying to weasel their way into your ear drums, trying to settle in there and make their voice a permanent part of your story. You will always be fighting uncertainty in one way or another. You can have fifty-one things on your list of reasons why you should or shouldn’t, but if you don’t have the most important things covered, it was never even worth picking up the pencil.

Figure out what it is you’re really looking for, who you’re trying to be, where you’re trying to go. Get those things covered and if what you are considering lines up, stop looking for more confirmation. Stop waiting for all fifty spots to be filled in. If you’re staring at number eleven, twelve, and thirteen and they make you cry and say to yourself, that’s the heart of it, that’s what I’ve really been in search of, then you’d be crazy not to take that chance.

You would be crazy to back away in fear when your heart has a chance to see the miracles you’ve waited for.

We make things too complicated. We want all the answers when we’re too afraid to even ask the questions.

Did you ever play the foot game when you were little? The one where everyone would make their feet into a circle and someone would sing a silly song and rule everyone out and the last foot in won the game?

Your chances were better always better when both feet were in.

You’ve got to jump into this thing with both feet, kid. You’ve got to stop keeping one of your feet out of the circle. You’re doing it because it protects you, because it’s easier to only have one foot rejected than both. You’ve got to decide here and now if you’re in or out. 

Are you committed to this thing?

God once asked me that about a circumstance I was dancing around. Are you going to be involved or are you going to be committed?

I chose commitment.

It was one of the hardest, but most amazing things I’ve ever done. The next thing I knew, I was up to my knees in a mess that seemed impossible to stand in. But I learned, I learned things that only commitment can teach you. 

You’ve got to decide, you know. Decide if you’re involved, if you’re committed, or if you’re bowing out.

Figure out what’s important. Figure out who you are, what you’re called to. If this is what you have really been looking for, stop waiting for flashing arrows and someone to give you that fiftieth reason why you should say “yes”. If it’s just not quite right, crumple the paper and go in search of the important things.

We’re always going to want to play it safe, and we’re going to always want a perfect plan. Sometimes, what you really need is the moment of clarity that comes when you’re staring straight at the few, but mighty things that actually matter. 

 


 

[photo cred]

I’d Rather Be Brave

It seems like we’re always waiting for something.

Waiting for an answer, for a direction, for an open door. Waiting for the right person, the right opportunity, the right words.

I think I’m just tired of waiting, of wondering. I’m tired of thinking that one day we’re all just going to wake up and have it figured out. As if we will suddenly know who we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to do, and that we will possess the bravery to do it.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for, but if it’s a sign you’re in need of, consider this yours.

You’re never going to be ready. You’re never going to have the perfect answers and the color-coded map that guarantees you won’t get lost. But not making a decision is making one. I’ve learned that this year if I’ve learned nothing else. If you refuse to choose, to change, to try, to explore, you’ve made the decision to keep things exactly as they are.

Don’t let fear make your choice.

Don’t let it decide to keep you comfortably inside the lines. You’re not made for a life consisting of waiting rooms and Netflix.

Make a choice. Do whatever it is that you’re trying so carefully to weigh and plan. Let go of the questions about what if, how, and what if I look like a fool?

Well, if you end up looking insane, then you can just e-mail me and join my little club. It’s called the I-do-at-least-fifteen-things-a-week-that-make-me-shake-my-own-head-and-cringe-and-laugh-at-myself club. It’s a mouthful, but we’ve got each others backs, we go on unexpected adventures, scream loudly in the car and eat a lot of peanut butter.

Do something risky and if you fall on your face, come sit here with me and just know that you are not alone or stupid for trying. 

In fact, I’m thinking of changing our name to i’m-ridiculous-but-at-least-stuff-happens club (we accept checks, so that’s a little shorter for the pity donations that might start rolling in).

The reality is, you don’t want to spend a lifetime waiting, toiling, and wringing your hands, trying to make a decision. Decide to do the unexpected, the difficult, the crazy, the thing that will make for a good story at Thanksgiving. Be someone who has something worth saying, stories worth telling, a life that leads to having books written and songs strummed.

Just do whatever it is that seems so incredibly scary, irrational or uncertain right now. Just do it unapologetically and decide that whatever the outcome, you’re just going to laugh. That whether it’s good or awful, whether it’s what makes you famous or infamous, just decide that you’re going to take yourself out to lunch and laugh hysterically at how brave and hopeful you were. (Trust me, it’s a lot more fun and a lot less tragically pathetic than it sounds.)

We need a world full of people who celebrate hope, possibility, bravery, courage, guts. People who finally said, “I’m not made for always taking a number, standing in line, waiting for the perfect moment”.

This is your permission slip. Chin up, it’s time that you take that trip, or make that dinner reservation, or leave that voicemail with your shaky apology.

The reality is, you’re not just going to wake up with a rush of bravery. You can’t cash in all your saved cool points to ensure that everything will work out just right.

It’s going to take deciding that whatever the worst outcome, it’s not enough to break you. You’ll survive, you’ll grow. Maybe one day you’ll be courageous enough to let it be a permission slip for others to take some chances.

When people are around me, I want them to feel like they’ve been given an all-access pass to becoming fully alive and fully present. I want them to feel the permission to embrace all that the room they’re in has to offer.

So, whatever it is that’s got you so wrapped up right now, whatever decision, situation, person, opportunity, just know that it’s okay to throw your heart out there. It will be alright if you risk looking like you’ve completely lost your mind.

If it happens, I’ll be here with you. I’ll be here in this little cafe, writing stories and bleeding hope and laughing about all the times I’ve learned the benefits of choosing to be brave.

After all, people who aren’t afraid to take some chances are the reasons why we’re all still here.

I’d rather be brave than spend my days waiting for the perfect moment, waiting between white walls and hoping someone will finally call my number.

You might stumble, or get stared at, or still end up watching Netflix on Friday by yourself. But if you’re ready to take some chances, just know you won’t be alone. There’s a little club here on the other side of this screen that’s cheering you on and loves hearing your stories.