When I was 7 I wanted to be a pop-star. I wanted to wanted to write songs with choreographed dance routines. I wanted to wear cool outfits, tour the world, be be rich and famous. When I was 12 I thought I would graduate college by 21, start teaching at 22, be married with a family on the way by 25. I imagined a big house with a yard, and in a typically traditional life. When I was 18 I wanted to be a writer, though my practical mind still found teaching to be a more “stable” option, so I decided that I would do both. I would have it all: a fulfilling career, a successful side-hustle, independent income, and of course, a family.
Now I’m 25. I haven’t achieved any of my previous dreams.
I am not a pop star. I am not a teacher. I am not a professional writer. I am not married, and I don’t want to be right now. I don’t have any children, but I do have 7 amazing nieces and nephews. I don’t have a big house in the suburbs, but I rent an amazing apartment that feels like home. I can’t believe that I ever wanted a big house with a white picket fence in the first place. My dreams have changed a lot over the years. From childhood I wanted to be an actress, a fashion designer, a therapist, a journalist, a teacher, writer, a business owner, and more. I changed my mind and changed my dream a million times. I decided and re-decided what I wanted to do, and I’m still figuring it out.
I’m still not sure what I want, but I’m okay with that.
When we are kids we were asked what we want to be when we grow up and no one was surprised when you changed your answer every week. You could be an astronaut, president of the world, a dancer, and an artist. As a kid was that you were full of potential and everyone supported your dream of the week. Somehow as you get older all that potential and possibilities are forced through a funnel. You are expected to start making choices and stick to them. By the age of 18 you are supposed to have a college major, a job, and a life-plan figured out. We tell teenagers that the decisions they make as they approach graduation will impact the rest of their life, but I don’t personally know single person who has arrived at the destination they set out for.
There’s no such thing as a straight path.
Every person I’ve gotten to know in college has changed their major at least once, and few people think of that as giving up. Why should we? Who says you have to know what you want in the first quarter of your life? When you have 100 years to live, doesn’t it seem ridiculous to think that we can only go after a single dream? We try on shoes before we buy them. We test drive cars before we take out a loan. Why wouldn’t we test out multiple careers, houses, and lifestyles before we decide which on fits best? What if you more than one fits? Do you really have to choose?
Changing your mind doesn’t make you a failure.
Some people know what they want early in life. Someone people are lucky enough to have a clear passion they can follow through every stage of life. Most of us aren’t that lucky. We live in a world of infinite choices. For some of this the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. There is fear of commitment that doesn’t just apply to relationships anymore. Alternatively, all the possibilities can be thrilling and exciting instead of intimidating. We really can have it all. We can try different careers, work freelance, or take a break. We can travel the world, stay in one town your whole life, or try a little of both. We can love one person your whole life, love multiple people, or never fall in love at all. The best part is, you don’t have to decide right now.
Go after the life you want in the moment.
Yes, chances are your dreams have changed but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth pursuing. When you find a new dream that makes you feel happy and complete you should chase after it with open arms. Life isn’t always what we expect, and you don’t have to take a straight path. I’ve known mother’s of four who have gone back to school after 20 years of raising kids. I’ve known men who have quit jobs after after decades of work to do what they always wanted instead of what they’ve always done. You can take detours, or even go on a whole different route. Dream all your dreams and explore as many paths as you want. There are no road maps or rules for your life.