One of my favourite quotes from Walt Disney is “If you can dream it, you can do it.” For years, I took this as meaning that every single dream you have will come true. After all, Walt also said “All our dreams can come true if we have the strength to pursue them.”
Growing up, I took both of these quotes 100 percent literally.
That was, right up until my first dream came crashing down around me. Everything I had been working for, everything I had pursued with strength and courage was gone in an instant. In the process of one 30 minute interview, I realized the dream would never be attainable for me.
I remember sitting down that night, looking at my two favourite quotes with a heavy heart, and trying to ponder what that meant if they were untrue. I wish I could say that very night I had an incredible epiphany where everything made sense to me. That I realized the meaning behind these words. That I found the courage and strength in them that had driven me before.
Instead, I walked away saddened. I wanted to believe them and I recited them every day, but I didn’t understand how they could apply any longer. Was this man whom I had looked up to for years completely wrong?
Despite being discouraged, I continued to fight for my dreams. I was determined to become a published author, to get a full-time job as a journalist, and to meet and fall in love with the man of my dreams. There was no way I was going to let my failure happen again.
I was the master of my fate and I was in complete control.
Except that I wasn’t. In 2009, due to a combination of the wrong meds and bad life circumstances I had a complete mental breakdown. I literally lost my mind. It’s the one point in my life I look at and can say I feel like I had gone crazy. The night that occurred I felt every single dream, goal, and plan I had slip away in one awful instant.
It was over, and there was nothing I could do about it.
In the months that followed, as I worked through the recovery process, counselling, and learning to take my life back, I was forced to re-examine the words I had wanted to live by.
When I finally saw it, I was blown away. There was, in fact, an inherent truth in Walt’s words, but it was deeper and more intricate than I had realized. Often, we get confused because the word dream can mean so many things. But there are different type of dreams. Some are genuine, some are merely hopes, others rooted in fantasy.
Sometimes, as real as the dreams are, they’re simply not meant to come to fruition.
There are many reasons why this could be:
- It was more of a whim or a fantasy than a genuine, achievable dream.
- The timing was wrong.
- It wasn’t really a true dream–it was something you had become convinced you wanted, but in your heart never actually did.
- Those dreams have had to change because of uncontrollable life circumstances.
I’ve lost many dreams in my life–one so recently that the sting of it still hits me and leaves me sobbing. As much as I strive to be an optimist, I always expect the worst when something good happens. At least 90 percent of the time in my own life, the worst has happened. Dreams crumble or are taken from me.
As someone with two anxiety disorders, BiPolar, and being prone to depression, this expectation can be dangerous. If not kept in check, it can fuel me into paranoia throughout the ‘good’ part of things throughout the fruition of those dreams. So much so that at times, I don’t even get a chance to enjoy the dream while it lasts.
It also means that when those dreams disappear, I have to fight harder not to let them grab hold of my depression and drown me. If I do succumb to them, I end up entrenched in a darkness so deep and volatile that it can be difficult to come back.
Instead, I have to look to what those quotes really ended up teaching me. I have to ask myself what to do when those dreams die.
The power of Walt’s quotes is that they are filled with hope. When a dream dies, however it goes, it opens up opportunities. It provides the chance for a new dream. Sometimes, it even forms into a dream that wouldn’t have been possible without the dream prior to it.
If we’re willing to listen hard enough, each failed dream is still filled with new things we have learned about life, about those dreams, about others, and about ourselves. Each of those will equip us and prepare to propel us forward into the next dream, and the next, and the next.
When your dreams die, the best thing you can do is mourn it, take what you learned from it, and then move forward, relentlessly pursuing the next dream with hope and a healthy amount of skepticism.
“When your dreams die, the best thing you can do is mourn it, take what you learned from it, and then move forward, relentlessly pursuing the next dream with hope and a healthy amount of skepticism.”