On your way up, life is a constant struggle. But if your dreams must become a reality, you can’t lose yourself to struggle. You can’t afford to rest too long because you risk sinking; you risk bringing down the little you have built; you risk losing all you have acquired along the way. Here is how I learned to keep my head above water as I headed for the shores.
Just like a swimmer headed for the shores you never stop swinging those aspiring arms. And you don’t stop fighting with the waves too. Because you know if stop fighting, they won’t just stir you into the wrong path, they also have the power to destroy you completely. That’s how it is when we are chasing our dreams.
It’s never easy, waking up every day to see the life you want only in your head and on paper. You are yet to make your dreams a reality. But somehow you know one day you are going to have it so you keep fighting for it every day.
We all have dreams. Sometimes you have to do more work on the dreams. Other times you’ll have to do as much work on yourself as you do on the dreams. Because you know that if you lose yourself, the dream goes along with it.
Many times you would love to reach out for help, but you get so little because you are the only one in that space who understands what you need to do to get where you want to be. Other times you are scared a well-meaning individual or group of people who happen to know about your aspirations may try to force it too much and end up disfiguring things in the process.
But with all these going on, the most important thing would always be to keep your dreams alive until they come to pass. It is to be able to keep your head above water while you head for the shores. It is being able to keep the dream alive in your mind and to have your feet on the ground. That’s what the focus is on. Because if you lose yourself, you lose everything.
Like Martin Luther King, Jr. you have a dream. It may be a dream to have something, do something, or become something. Sometimes it’s big, other times it’s small, and still, there are times when it’s just weird. If it were common it wouldn’t be a dream. Your ability to create and imagine has given birth to something that at the time only you can see. There is something that makes you chase it: The fact that it is real to you. And it is so real because you can see it.
(I’m talking about good dreams here. Not the dream of turning an abusive boyfriend into an angel. It’s your dream though, you are free to have it while you can still live through the punches.) Don’t take that personally. I don’t have any reason to support abuse and I don’t think I’ll ever have one. Away from that now.
Life is great when you have others who are there to make these things happen. But what happens when you are the only one who thinks it is possible? What happens when nobody else seems to understand?
The fact is that sometimes they are right to oppose you, but not completely right. Sometimes there are just too many variables and you are not sure what to keep and what to lose, lest you let go of your dream alongside. Every dreamer knows the feeling. The wait could kill. While waiting for dreams to come true, I learned a lot of things in the process. Here are a few ideas on how to keep your head above water while striving for the best. (Note: These have not been written in any particular order of importance.)
The problem of the place
This is like the biggest problem you may face while working for a change. It is hard to keep out the influence of the environment. The irony is that sometimes these influences teach us what we know and force us to aim for bigger things. But it will also be the thing that destroys you if you allow it.
I used to beat myself up for some things. I didn’t know why I went through these things; why I had to face certain problems. But along the way, I realised some things are bound to keep happening as long as you remain in a certain place. (This was the reality of where I was, it wasn’t destiny.) But I needed to know that reality to keep myself from being surprised when certain things happened. And most importantly, to keep myself from overreacting when they happened.
While you live with a certain group of people in a certain kind of environment, some things will always happen. Some of us live where we are not supposed to. Some work where they are not meant to. Some live in a country where the government is bent on frustrating the citizens so they can manipulate the unsuspecting and pressurized masses with gifts and bags of rice. Some stay among people who only see impossibilities. What is the condition of your ‘place?’ This is not to be used as an excuse; it is to take out the effects of surprises and over-excited responses. When you realise the condition of the place you are in, you will learn more about your environment and your status and how to react when certain things happen.
And it’s not always about money or resources. The same place where you feel discomfort may be very okay for some other person. It is not because you have more and they have less. You may even have the same things. But whenever you see something bigger or different, you are bound to feel discomfort, and the future you begins to pull at the present you.
As you work towards a new life, you need to understand that there are some places you don’t need to be. There are times where you need to change the environment otherwise along the way you will bury your dreams. There are places you can’t be if your dreams must come true. There are friendships you can’t have if you are to keep working hard on your dreams. Learn to understand the possibilities of the place you are at the moment; learn how to respond to situations and people around you.
Sometimes you can’t leave (right away) because, based on certain factors, it would be a bad decision. But then you know there is a better destination. While you try to make sure you don’t do something very wrong at your current destination, remember to keep the forces in that space from ruining you. Learn to keep your head above water.
So what is your current condition? Where are you now and where do you hope to be? Are you still at your dad’s or mom’s? Are you still working for someone when you have plans to do your own thing? Are you working on something other people think is impossible? Are you trying to break a record? Are you raising funds, writing a book, starting a company, or working on an idea? If you don’t want it to die, you’ll have to learn to keep your head up, above the waters of opposition, discomfort, hatred, and the likes. Yes, you have to start small. You have to learn. You are going to struggle. But even though you need to start small, if you keep your head under water, you will get lost in the smallness. If you allow yourself, you may get used to the small things. You’ll begin to accept the impossibilities. Then before you know it, you are seventy-something, the same old story. Because you allowed yourself to drown. While you aim for the best, learn to keep your head above water or you may lose it.
I can’t pick rules for you. I can’t pick a particular set of dos and don’ts. In life, it’s hard to find identical conditions in two different lives and destinies. So I’ll refrain from setting rules here. But as you go through this knowledgeable article you will learn a lot about keeping your head above water. You’ll get ideas you can apply, think about, and tweak to keep your dreams alive in your own unique situation.
Continue reading other parts of the series on how to “Keep Your Head Above Water: 7 Lessons For Dreamchasers”