Our parents, friends, pastors, and so many others think they know what’s best for us. They often try to convince us that their dreams for our lives are so much better than those we might have for ourselves. But I believe that we must live our own dreams lest we set ourselves up for an empty life by trying to live someone else’s. I know this is true because I tried to live a dream others created for me.
After finishing college, I got a part-time job at my church. I thought it would be a wonderful way to be a good servant and give me time to pursue my passion for writing as well – a dream I had nurtured since childhood. After three and a-half years I was so involved in various church activities that my dream of writing was all but forgotten. My enthusiasm and joy for the work I was doing continued to drop every day. I began looking for anything that would make me happy again, even buying into the “big dream” so many others had for me – to go to seminary and become a minister. So, in the fall of 2001, my new husband and I packed our belongings and moved to Texas. I went to seminary.
I knew even as we drove the eight hours to our new home that it was a mistake. I just couldn’t see any alternative. My childhood dream had become lost along the way and I desperately wanted to do something fulfilling. I tried relentlessly to live the dream my friends and family wanted for me, but during the three years I spent in graduate school my emotional health continued to disintegrate until I was on the brink of suicide. I just couldn’t seem to make this dream of becoming a minister my own. As hard as I tried to live their dream, I knew something important was still missing in my life. It was during those painful three years that I re-discovered the dream I wanted to live for myself. I chose to write again.
I waited one last semester so my husband could finish his graduate degree, then we hit the road and moved back home. It was a mystery to many people why I had chosen not to finish my masters and become a minister. After all, hadn’t that been my dream? To that I would reply, “No, that was someone else’s dream. Now I’m living my own.”
After trying so hard to make the dreams others had for me my own, I’ve finally come to believe that we must each live our own dreams. Living it can be challenging, but the satisfaction and fulfillment it brings is well worth the failures and hard work. I’m living my dream and not one someone else created for me. I am truly living what I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.