We humans

We need to keep dreaming, even when it feels impossible. Here’s why

Mar 10, 2021 /

We live in a world that often feels like the headquarters of Mayhem Enterprises, breaking our hearts into pieces every single day with chaos and madness.

It is too willing to disappoint us with tragedies, horrific news and bad hair hats. And we have to live in constant suspense, not knowing when these things will happen to us. Pandora’s box is forever opening.

So I get why we fear dreaming. It’s hard for us to get our hopes up that things will go the way we want them to. Yet and still, we need to put this worry as far away from our psyches as possible. You might call it madness, but I call it necessary.

When we are afraid of having too much hope, we’re actually afraid of being disappointed. We are anxious about expecting the world to gift us and show us grace, because what if we end up on our asses?

So we dream small or not at all. Because if we expect nothing or expect something small, we cannot be disappointed when the big things don’t happen. We think it’s a great defense mechanism, but what it really is is a liability on our lives, because we are constantly bracing for impact.

Many of us have lost our ability to dream, or we were never allowed to have it in the first place.

When we are afraid of thinking things can be too good, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

This shows up in real life when we don’t go after jobs we want because we already expect the answer to be no. We might not apply to the school we wanna go to because we think we have no chance in hell of being admitted.

But what if we would have met a life helper or the loves of our lives there, or landed that perfect internship that would have led to the job of our dreams? Basically, we end up living the colorless versions of the lives we truly want, which then confirms that life is shitty.

Here’s the thing. Life can absolutely be a filth bucket, even for people who TRY and STRIVE and DREAM. The difference is that those people can go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning knowing that they at least tried. They can take some small solace that they did what they could. Life’s shenanigans can be off-the-chart levels for them. But they blame life, not themselves.

Many of us have lost our ability to dream, or we were never allowed to have it in the first place, since we live in a world that makes it really hard if you’re not white, male, straight, Christian, able-bodied and cisgender. We’ve been bound by oppressive systems that are designed to not give us an inch, even when we earn a mile. We have been shunned and disrespected and erased from the things we are entitled to.

I’m asking us to trick ourselves into thinking we have the privilege of dreaming big.

I say with this caveat and without naivete: Dreaming big is in itself a privilege. However, I’m asking us to trick ourselves into thinking we have the privilege of dreaming big.

When I was in college, my friends peer-pressured me into starting a “weblog.” And by “peer-pressured” I’m pretty sure I only needed one suggestion and I was into it. I started it in early 2003; it was titled something emo like “Consider This the Letter I Never Wrote.” In it, I documented my whole college career, writing about exams I wasn’t studying for, the D I got, roommate problems. The blog used Comic Sans font, so you know it was a mess. But I loved this new hobby. I did a few marketing internships and realized I was good at that too.

When I graduated in 2006, I deleted that undergrad blog and started what is now AwesomelyLuvvie.com. New life, new blog!

I’d work my 9-to-5 job in marketing, but when I came home, I’d blog. As I wrote about the world and how I saw it, word of my blog spread, and in 2009, I won my first award: Best Humor Blog in the now defunct Black Weblog Awards. I was geeked because here I was getting recognition for my hobby.

Hobby. Yeah, okay.

I liked my job as a marketing coordinator. I was fine. Except I wasn’t.

Get this. I was afraid to call myself a writer. WRITER? WHERE? I was afraid of that title and all the dreams that could come from it that I would be unable to fulfill. Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston. Those were writers. I was just a girl who put up blog posts talking about whatever was on my spirit. Writer? “Bish, bye. You can’t measure up to that title.” That’s what I told myself.

I liked my job as a marketing coordinator for a nonprofit. I was making enough to pay my bills, which weren’t many. I was fine.

Except I wasn’t. I was bored with the job, and I felt restless. But I wasn’t going to quit. Nah, son. We don’t do that. We will just swallow down the discomfort and keep clocking in every day.

In April 2010, I was suddenly laid off. That layoff/firing was God and the universe pushing me to take a leap of faith to stand in this writer dream I was too scared to have. But I’m a stubborn goat, so I didn’t see it as that. Instead, I was on Monster.com sending résumés left and right because I needed my biweekly paychecks and insurance! This shoe habit was not going to keep itself up, after all.

Throughout this period, there were times I’d wonder if I needed to stop putting so much time into my blog, but I couldn’t quit. Something wouldn’t let me.

After a year and some change of looking for a traditional job (and still blogging), I finally got hired for a full-time position as social media manager for a global food brand. I went into the office on that first day, decked out in my “I’m serious” business-casual slacks and a button-down. My first task was to create a deck for a campaign, and I was in there knocking it out!

Then came 1PM and the walls of that building started closing in on me. Isweartogawd I wanted to slide off my nice ergonomic chair unto the floor and lie there. My spirit was not gelling with this new job. That night, I wrote an email to my new boss. I thanked them for the job and notified them that it was my first day AND my last. Bless it, but I couldn’t do it.

A few months later in February 2012, I was credentialed to do press coverage on the red carpet and backstage of the Academy Awards. I was chosen because a producer who loved my blog thought I should be there. There I was, in my role as Awesomely Luvvie, backstage at the Oscars, eating Wolfgang Puck’s shrimp and chocolates, next to journalists from the BBC, CNN, Entertainment Tonight! Me. WOW.

We must give ourselves permission to be who we want to be, even if we don’t have the blueprint yet.

That experience shifted my world: I was in that room and breathing that air because of my gift, because of my words. How was I NOT a writer? I might not be Toni or Maya but I was Luvvie, and the fear of the writer title had kept me from truly honoring my purpose.

I was afraid because I couldn’t find an example of a writer like me, but I became that example for myself. And because of that, I am now that example for other people. Often, when we want something that doesn’t come with a manual, we are afraid of it, because we could lose our way since there’s no map. Well, maybe WE are supposed to draw the map, so someone that comes behind us won’t get lost.

Create the map you didn’t have. That’s what I did. We must give ourselves permission to be who we want to be, even if we don’t have the blueprint yet, and that starts with dreaming.

The lives we live are full of people’s dreams realized. The things we use every day are born from the audacity of someone who thought it was possible. There are many times when I’m traveling and I’m in awe of the fact that I’m in a tin can in the sky. When I’m eye level with clouds and think, “Bruhhhh, whose great-great-great-great-grandparent would have thought this was possible?” that shit feels magical. Science is made up of imaginations that ran wild and dreamed magical things that actually became achievable.

When our dreams come true, we’re expanding the worlds of others because now they know theirs can too.

So why don’t we operate our lives in this way?

When we dream, we’re giving others permission to do the same.

When our dreams are big, we’re telling the folks who know us that they don’t have to be small either.

When our dreams come true, we’re expanding the worlds of others because now they know theirs can too.

We must dream and dream boldly and unapologetically.

Have the audacity to dream and ask. Sometimes, the universe/God amplifies the ask to bigger levels, and that is the best surprise. You have everything to gain, as he adds suya seasoning and Maggi cubes to your desires.

Life’s adventures never promised a straight path, and that’s often what stops us. But we must dream. All we have, even in the worst moments, are the dreams of better things to come.

Adapted from the new book Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones, published by Penguin Life, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Awe Luv, LLC.

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