Inside looking out: Kick in the door of dreams
“Find something you love and let it kill you.”
Poet and philosopher Charles Bukowski, who struggled with depression and addictions, wrote this simple but powerful statement during one of his more lucid moments.
I’ve written about fulfilling a lifelong passion in this column before, but having known so many people who quit chasing their dreams has provoked me to write a sequel.
Whatever floats your boat, there is something that excites you so much that you’re willing to knock down a wall, scale that high mountain, and lose sleep to do the work it takes to “get there.”
Some of us are living it. Others are hesitant about starting it. Still others haven’t found what it is yet.
If you are one of the fortunate to be living your dream, then life is good. No rainy day, no minor mishap, and no problem that comes before you will get you to stay upset for any length of time. You are doing what you want to do. Happy is you!
If you’re hesitant about jumping into the deep end of the dream pool for fear you could drown and fail, Mr. Bukowski has this message for you.
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery — isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
Bukowski might be a bit extreme, but his words imply that if you fail chasing your dream, you won’t be as bad off as the regret you’ll feel from the excuses you’ll use to explain why you didn’t try. Regretters are everywhere, too. They will spend hours telling you why they couldn’t rather than why they should’ve. They play it safe. Marriage, children, money put a red light in front of their dream mobile. Listen to them long enough and you’ll toss your dream into the trash, too, and become the next regretter.
No one suggests you have to give up responsibilities. Find how to manage them while you pursue your passion.
We hear stories about dream catchers all the time. A single mother with four children in South Carolina achieved a college degree to become a teacher. A New York couple, making half a million in salary, quit the high stress of living the life of luxury and moved to Montana where they’ve never been happier running a chicken farm.
After the death of her 1-month-old son and the paralysis of her husband, Laura Ingalls Wilder quit teaching and, upon the encouragement from her daughter, wrote a childhood memoir. The manuscript was rejected by several publishers. She kept writing and at age 65, “Little House on the Prairie” was published and she followed that book up with another completed at age 76.
Gladys Burrill is truly one incredible woman. She had been an aircraft pilot, mountain climber, hiker and a horseback rider, but she always had the dream to run a marathon. She ran her first race at 86 years old. She became famous after completing the Honolulu Marathon at the age of 92.
Though she power-walked and jogged all throughout, she managed to reach the finish line, even though it took her nine hours and 53 minutes to cross it.
These real-life stories are great examples about combining talents and motivation to activate that gnawing passion that sleeps inside us.
If you don’t believe you have a dream, it could be you just haven’t realized one yet and it need not be set on a grand scale. Perhaps you can put into action something you imagined you wanted to do as a child. Build a model railroad display, make your own fishing lures, create and cook gourmet recipes. Start a travel baseball team. Become a tour guide. Open a holistic health business.
These ideas may not bring fame and fortune, but you’ll experience joy and a sense of permanent satisfaction.
Sometimes a chance to follow a dream comes in an unexpected opportunity.
In Arthur Miller’s play, “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman’s brother gives him a great metaphor for the risk and reward of a dream life when Willy is offered an exciting opportunity.
“The jungle is dark but full of diamonds, Willy,” said Ben.
Comedian Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
“Then kick in that door,” Mr. Bukowski would say, and “ride life to perfect laughter.”
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.