Finding the Dream

Posted | 10 comments

Finding the Dream

Recently, over coffee and frittata, I told my friend Pam that I feel like I’m underwater most of the time and not making much progress as far as finding my dreams. Pam disagreed, but I persisted. When I think about living my dreams and my passion, I think about having that thing or things that you really love to do, are really good at, and that people respect you for doing.

For Pam, one of those things is music. With a Master of Music Degree in Piano Performance and Piano Pedagogy, she runs a successful piano school in addition to being an amazing performer herself. Pam loves music and her talent doesn’t stop with the piano. She also plays the clarinet and recently began teaching herself the mandolin. She regularly serves as a judge in piano competitions, is invited to speak at professional meetings and conventions, and is active in numerous professional organizations.

My husband is another example. He started tinkering with electronics in grade school and got his first computer, a TRS-80, at age 14.  He took his first hired coding gigs at 15 working for teachers, psychologists, businesses, and a professor at the University of Tennessee (the professor’s college students were not as knowledgeable or competent as my teenage husband). He’s never looked back. He’s made a career writing code working for the top companies in the industry. When his workday is over and he can choose how to spend his time, he learns new computer languages, explores new technologies, and experiments with new ideas.

I get that music isn’t all that Pam does or wants to do and Joe’s love of all things computer does deviate into other areas. I get that their passions do become a “job” at times and they have to deal with issues and problems on which they’d rather not focus. But, at the end of the day, they still get to be part of something and are respected for their abilities to do something that they would do whether paid or not.

Here’s the deal.

I want my focus to be on things that rock my soul. I want to care so much that hurts. I want the idea of NOT being able to do the THING to bring me to my knees in a sobbing tangled mess of regret, tears, and disappointment. I want to know that my being here makes a difference beyond my family and friends. At the end of the day, I just want to feel really satisfied with how I spent my time and be able to believe that in some way I contributed something positive to the world.

I’ve done a lot of research. I’ve considered a lot of different options. So far, I’ve come up flat.

I know that part of the problem is me. I read an article that talked about how people tend to take for granted and discount their own talents while highly valuing the talents of others. My husband, who can string a line of what looks to me like random numbers and letters together to make satellites floating in outer space talk to each other, is amazed by my ability to get all the food on the table at the same time (a skill he lacks). And I look at my talent for research, for organization, for details, for finding clarity in chaos, as meaningless even though I know on an intellectual level that many people struggle with these things.

So, I have to get off my own case. I have to continue to push forward and explore. I have to be willing to fail, to be made a fool, to be ridiculed. And then maybe one day I’ll wake up and realize that I’m doing that THING and it makes me really happy, and that it’s actually benefiting someone besides just me. I have to stop being scared.


  1. I’ll try a short version, if that’s possible. Folks can validate their self-worth through many means. It may happen through their jobs, or their relationships, to name a couple. These two depend on what others think of you – a salary performance review, or what your partner or some particular friend thinks about you, which can change with stormy weather. What you are looking for is at the core of your being, and doesn’t depend on what others think or believe. This is a biggie to me, and so important.

    Can you tell me some things you fell flat with, so that I know they are out? This: “And I look at my talent for research, for organization, for details, for finding clarity in chaos, as meaningless even though I know on an intellectual level that many people struggle with these things.” This is huge and at the core of so many “Things”. It might not be your “Thing” but oh so important when you land on it – you will flourish.

    I appreciate the links you have sent me, that I otherwise would not have found. Those things will ultimately improve the quality of my life! Thanks. RR

    • Randy – You nailed it. I’m looking for that thing that I would do even if nobody was watching.

      I tend to attach myself to other people’s dreams and am a great supporter. I think this is a valid and important talent and it’s something I want to do for myself. Instead, I either don’t support myself in the things I’m interested in doing or I throw myself into things and then realize that it wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. I’ve worked in marketing and sales, education, and even started my own business. I’ve delved into hobbies, taken classes, etc. but everything is flat.

      Right now I feel pressure. I’m not getting any younger and I want to do something that generates income. I realize that my passion and what brings in the pay check may or may not be one in the same. I’m ok with that.

      At the end of the day, I just want to feel alive and I really want connection with supportive and like minded people. My husband and kids are pretty wonderful in this regard and I’ve cultivated and continue to cultivate wonderful people like you in my life.

      I think it might be time to shift gears… Denise

      • Thank you – I feel the same of you! I love my job, but its not my “Thing”. I have a three or so smaller things that together make up my “Big Thing”. By the time I get home from my typical 13-14 hour day I’m too tired to work on my things. I’ve been working on the sleep issue, and the nights I can pull it off I feel better the next day.

  2. You’re on the right track, Denise. Maybe finding your passion is like falling in love; it happens when you stop trying so hard. I am grateful to be part of your journey.

    • Grrrrrr…girl. Throw it right back in my face. This is why I love you so. I just have to keep busy and be happy until “Mr. Right Thing” ” i.e. my passion” shows up. I’ve been trying really hard haven’t I? I guess a good passion is like a good man, they can smell the desperation. Thanks for pointing this out and making me smile.

  3. Again, I”m right there with you! I find myself with the same struggle: looking for something I love to do, trying to figure out what I’m really good at (and finding that I’m not really very good at anything, but ok at a few things!). After working so long to please others, I’m struggling to figure out what my own opinions are. I want to be myself, but I’m not completely sure who that is! It scares me that maybe I’m too overwhelmed by all of life’s busyness to really CARE about anything…and I want to fix that!

    • I know what you mean…it’s just so much easier to take care of others and get wrapped up in all that we have going on in our lives, than to forge a new path. I feel like a hummingbird flitting from idea to idea unable to settle, and am currently resisting the urge to just go out and get another “job.” I just really want the next act to count for something.

  4. I value this challenge from Randy Pope, “Attempt a thing so great, that lest Christ be in it, it shall surely fail” …which may mean giving fear to the cross, and moving forward with IT. Want to enjoy an afternoon of photography sometime? We can laugh together while we shoot! 😉

    I really love your crisp and beautiful writing style. You stroke deftly and tenderly at the core and awaken me with your words. I want to be aware and ALIVE for the rest of my days! Thank you!

  5. Golda Meir: “Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart, don’t know how to laugh either.”

  6. Stop looking at yourself as the challenger in the ring & see yourself as the CHAMPION! God has anointed you and empowered you. WALK IN IT!

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