how do you follow your dreams when they turn into hummingbirds that fly across a sea of lava?

There is a social club I belong to that meets once a month or so. It’s an oddfellows sort of a group, which has always been my style. This past Sunday it was just myself and the other founder of our society which allowed us a chance to talk at length about any number of things large and small. We got to talking about dreams of all varieties, including the kind that you nurture across years and decades and what happens when you dare to expose them to the air.

Lovely Rita has long desired to be a singer. In all the years I’ve known her she has worked resolutely toward success, taking voice lessons, collaborating on writing songs, and studying music and pop culture as assiduously as Lady Gaga. She is beautiful, blonde, and bubbly as all get out. However, instead of being struck by the lightning that transforms one into a Pop Star, she was struck by the lightning that gives you a condition with a name as long as your arm that slackens her muscle tone, confounds her balance and complicates her cognition. Then this past spring she watched somebody in her neighborhood get struck by the Pop Star lightning; she’s definitely his number one fan but his flash cast her dream in sharp relief. She’s also having second thoughts about her primary career choice as she is being exhausted by the coursework and is having the same kind of challenges everyone has when they’re right around twenty one and blinking in the bright light of adulthood.

It is so easy to just tell people to believe in themselves and everything will work out. It is very simple to say that every challenge is an opportunity, or that every burden is a gift from God, but it is another thing to live without a moment of respite from these sacred gifts and exciting opportunities. All of the movies and tv shows and stories Lovely Rita has ever heard have told her that nothing can stop her from achieving her goals exactly as she dreamed them if she believes hard enough. It’s why I prefer ‘Rocky’ to the ‘Karate Kid’; just going the distance can be a far greater victory than learning karate in a montage. We live in a relativistic universe which means success is defined entirely by which yardstick is being used to measure results; this is one of the basic tenets of my philosophy so you know you better be paying attention.

To Lovely Rita I say that in this world there is a place for all of us and you will find yours. You have already found more than you know; after all, you know that you love music. So many people in this life never find something that stirs up passion within them and that makes you special. It’s also good to find out what  you don’t want to do. I took the exam for the Chicago Police Department when I was twenty one after I had dropped out of college and married Persi. I needed a career or at least a job. The testing process took over a year and was really stringent. I got my letter accepting me into the academy and informing me that I was one of the top five applicants out of thousands that round. I didn’t know what to do. I had a beloved uncle who was a Chicago cop who had died a few years earlier and I felt this strange kind of pressure to follow in his footsteps. But I also had a lot of reservations about pursuing that career. I was literally sitting and wondering what the hell I should do when Persi turned on the tv to CNN where they were broadcasting the video of Rodney King being beaten by the LAPD. So I’m not a cop. Life is funny like that. My most interesting friends are doing things that they would have never imagined twenty or even fifteen or ten years ago. Even the ones with miserably boring jobs have had incredibly cool adventures along the way. It’s normal to feel completely lost when you’re completely lost, but it’s okay to be that way right now.

Probably the most important principle I absorbed at school was to be ‘director proof’, or as I put it, to be the best thing about a bad production. In the course of your life you will be part of many teams, crews, and other assorted assortments of organizations and some of them are better than others. You shouldn’t let the quality of the production determine the quality of your work. Hold your standards high and don’t engage in hackery just because that’s what everyone else is doing. Often the most important moments in our careers seem very inconsequential when they are happening; You’re going to take a lot of steps that won’t seem like much at first but at some point you’re going to realize that they form a path.

Our titles, positions, or accomplishments don’t have any meaning beyond how we live while we hold them. Do we hinder or help? Who do we serve, ourselves or others; or are we serving an ideal or an object? If we ask ourselves these kinds of questions we might be able to keep our perspective of what is actually important intact. I have worried over this last paragraph for a couple of days because I want to be clear and to leave you with the sort of inspiration I think you deserve but I do not have the skill to do justice to how highly I esteem you, so I will simply tell you that and hope that you understand me.

6 Responses to “how do you follow your dreams when they turn into hummingbirds that fly across a sea of lava?”

  1. The Prof Says:

    It would seem to me that, if Lovely Rita already possesses the talent, then she needs to be different and interesting in the way she sings. Will it make her the next Lady Gaga? No. But real talent always finds at least some success if the person is persistent.

  2. Really nice post. Funny, the turns our lives take. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, or maybe I do, and I just don’t want to admit it.

  3. It’s all so very complicated; but we live in the world where T-Pain is a successful ‘singer’, right?

    I’ve tried to avoid allowing myself be defined by anything, but I figure I’m going to end up being defined by that. I’m prone to that sort of backfire, don’t you know.

  4. T-pain? I don’t even know who that is… and don’t think I’m even going to bother to find out, LOL! Funny thing is, the most *successful* musicians I know (including myself) are people no one’s ever heard of.

  5. The Prof Says:

    True–“success” is a relative term. I cannot imagine what must’ve possessed Bela Fleck to pursue a career playing progressive jazz banjo (three words one would neve expect to see strung together). Yet when I hear him with the Flecktones I understand what God had in mind when he thought up “music.”

  6. […] is T-Pain, u ask? Lily, you have exposed me to so much wonderful music over the years I can only attempt to return the […]

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