Valley Girl With a Brain

Questioning, like, everything

Do Your Dreams Die When You Get Older?

A millennial explores a typical first-world problem.

Around the world ticket
I remember when I was a kid and the world was at my fingertips. It’s a clichéd sentiment that is a fixture in all commercials and sitcoms – the belief that little old me has the power to do anything. Class president? Heck, I can become President of the United States! Visit San Francisco? Yeah right – that’ll be a pit stop on my trip around the world.

Now, as I quickly race through the last vestige of my youth, I am convinced that my dreams will not coincide with my reality. At one point, they were best friends, arms linked, ready to take on anyone and anything. Now they are strangers; one has dementia and the other one is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. What happened?

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Three things happened.

  1. I wanted it to be easy. I think I’ve mentioned this before – millennials (people like me) want it all and we want it now. And to make things worse, we want it really easy. Hard work for us is an anachronistic reference – like when my mom or dad reminds me how they each had to walk 100 miles to school, barefoot in the snow.  When things get too difficult, I quit. Instead of sucking it up and walking in the snow, I quit. Of those dreams I’ve had since I was 6 years old — they are now but ephemeral memories that other people get to live.    

Wolf pack
2. I watched others fail. Humans have a pack mentality – we follow a leader and trust what he or she does. We fear failure so much, that we stay at jobs that we despise, and convince ourselves that we cannot leave. We won’t be good enough for this or that opportunity because so-and-so set already set a precedent and proved that it wouldn’t be possible. 

3. I started to rationalize. If it doesn’t work out, it’ll be okay. This is something I have found myself saying more and more. If I don’t write today, it’ll be okay. If I don’t exercise today, it’ll be okay. If I don’t meet this deadline, it’ll be okay. However, not doing these things is not okay, if I truly want to accomplish anything. Because not writing for one day eventually stretches into a moratorium of several months, and that’s not a lot of writing for someone who claims to want to be a writer.   

The good news is there are simple remedies for these behaviors. You can probably guess at what they are:

  1. Nothing’s easy. Get over yourself. Just deal.
  2. Break out of the pack. Be the omega wolf and follow and discover your own path. Who knows, you may surprise yourself!
  3. Be tough on yourself. Do not rationalize or make excuses. Make a commitment and follow through. Tell yourself that you wont get anywhere if you don’t – Believe it. 

So, what happens if I don’t change my attitude? Do I just spend my free time looking forward to wrinkles and retirement? The answer is yes.

Dreams don’t just die by themselves. We kill them. Thankfully, we can also bring them back to life.

Follow me on Twitter @thisjenkim

Jen Kim is a former Psychology Today intern and a graduate of Northwestern University.

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