Dreams are kind of a funny thing. The power of dreams, for one, is so built up in our culture: From age three, we’re told to wish upon a star in hopes that a prince will come and liberate us from our problems. As we get older, we’re encouraged to set high ambitions with promises of big rewards upon their achievement. I should clarify here that by “dreams” I don’t mean hoping for a 5 on an AP exam or even a starting spot on the freshman team. Instead, I’m talking about the big wishes, the kind you ruminate over for years, and work towards for even longer. Gloria Steinem characterized the significance of these goals perfectly in one my favorite quotes, which states “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” But while these big hopes do help motivate towards the future, what happens when your dream actually comes true?
The reasons I’m thinking about all this is because last week, one of my dreams came true. This was something I’d wanted for what felt like forever, and lo and behold, I got it. At first, I was over the moon, and I spent the next 24 hours literally on cloud 9. But this feeling didn’t last, and before long I was descending back to Earth hard. This sudden nosedive, of course, and I found myself seized by a moody cocktail of panic, regret, and anxiety. Yeah, not exactly a Cinderella moment.
The painful part of all of this was the confusion and shame. I was confused because, hey, wasn’t this what I wanted? The shame, on the other hand, emerged from the fact that my friends and family were rallying to celebrate my achievement, and I just wanted to say “NO.” As the week drew on, I found myself making mental lists in search of pattern of my various highs and lows. From those lists, I derived my own, special four step program, or what I like to call “The Stages of the Dream Come True.” Keep scrolling for a peak at each stage, plus more about what I’ve learned about living a “post-dream” life.
The Four Stages of the Dream Come True
The Ecstasy – Aka raw, unmatched excitement and giddiness. This is the most fun, stage, but also the most short-lived.
The Descent – The high wears off and there you are, exactly as you were before your dream was realized. It’s in this stage that we realize that even the most wonderful things exist in a kind of vacuum. In other words, while they might altar some parts of your life, very few dreams are big enough to spur a complete one-eighty.
The Second Wave – While nothing like the first, the second high makes its presence known. After a trip back to the doldrums of everyday life, you’ll find your mood lifted and your glasses infinitely rose-colored.
The Reality Check – This descent is not as extreme as the first, and therefore hurts much less. This is (hopefully) the permanent stage. You’ve felt all the feels, and are ready to embrace whatever gift you’ve been given within the realities of your real life. That is to say, you’ve realized that your biggest wish won’t do a clean sweep over the rest of your life. And you know what? That’s A-okay.
. . .
Dreaming a dream is awesome. That dream coming true? Also amazing, but not without a hearty dose on internal thought and realization. All in all, I took away from this experience that while its healthy and wonderful to have aspirations, its even more important to find your joy in the everyday.
Now it’s your turn: Have you ever had a dream come true? If so, how did you feel/what happened after? Feel free to share in the comments below :).