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Three Little Words

Follow your dreams we are told. But how do you follow your dreams when you don't know what your dreams are?

When I was a little kid, I was a dreamer. I imagined hundreds of stories, had sketch books full of drawings and future paintings. Ideas poured out of me like water through cloth and I itched to write, to tell my stories, to draw my pictures, to scratch my pencil across paper, to feel the friction of my thoughts on the page, the heat in my brain as it churned with imagination.

But there was always this push growing up. So what that I got As in Lit/Language and Art. So what that I wanted to write and draw. Those don't make you successful. So I was pushed. As in science, math. Yes, I achieved, but it takes longer to study math and science than it does to draft stories and this push from my family drowned my creative spirit. Pushed a square peg through a round hole, dampened the sounds of the stories in my head, watered down the paintings.

I remember having the highest grade in my Anatomy class (125% with the curve) and telling my friend (88% with the curve) I thought I wanted to be an art major once we got to college. She looked at me, horrified. How could I waste such brains on something like art? How could I not want to be a doctor? How could I want to be an artist with 125% in Anatomy when she, who did want to be a doctor, could only muddle through with an 88%? I remember another friend overhearing our conversation and she turned to me and said You are such a science person though. I can't image you doing art.

And I was crushed. How could they not see the churning creativity that boiled just below the surface of my skin. Could they not see the pulsating throb of ideas that turned my blood to ink and paint?

No. No one could. And suddenly it was like I couldn't either. But I tried. I tried to be an art major. But the voice of my mother pounded in my ears. How would I support myself after college? What would I do for a job? Didn't I realize I would be cut off financially? That I wouldn't have the luxury of being an artist? That I wasn't a rich kid with a trust fund who could while away my days pretending to be a photographer?

And then suddenly it was like that voice was my voice, and not my mother's. And I was scared. How would I support myself? I turned my tail and ran. Ran towards the comfort of my 125% biology background. The part of me that was creative and thoughtful and full of ideas cried out 'No, no, no' until her gaolers locked her in a silent cell where her protests couldn't be heard.

But without her, without that spark, it's like I've withered. This shell of me walks around, makes a ridiculous amount of money doing a job I hate. I feel trapped. But is my job the prison, or is my prison something I've created for myself. Why am I not more brave? Why can't I break free. That square peg still doesn't fit in the round hole, but the sides of the square are now so rounded that I'm not sure it fits in the square hole either.

It's clear to those around me that I'm struggling. They tell me to follow my dreams. Listen to my heart. Follow your dreams, they say, happiness follows. But I don't know what my dreams are anymore, I hardly know who I am anymore. I've tried finding my creative zest again, but it's like I forgot in which level of my inner hell she sits frozen.

I want to follow my dreams. I want to know what these dreams are. I want to know what it is a really want. I want to be brave, to quit my job. Burn the memories of the past 6 or 7 years, walk away from the conflagration victorious and free. Feel the yearning of my soul, acknowledge her worth. Set her free, lay pens and pencils and reams of paper at her feet. Throw myself upon her mercy and beg for forgiveness. I just don't know how.

Follow your dreams, and free yourself. Follow your dreams, if you can find them. Follow your dreams, if you are brave enough. Follow your dreams, and happiness follows.


( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 30th, 2011 06:30 pm (UTC)
And this is why I will urge my step daughter to use her brain as much as possible to keep those grades high in math and science ... but I also push her to be creative and stretch those muscles too.
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:31 pm (UTC)
Yes! Art is just as important! I always think of myself has having a lopsided brain, too much excersize on the science side.
Oct. 30th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
sounds like to me that girl in the cell has found her voice this is one of the most creative and well written pieces i have read.

i was lucky enough to follow my dreams and it is hard work and you annoy a lot of people on the way but thats ok coz the people you annoy are the people who are scared of taking that step and don't believe you should because they are jealous you soon get surrounded by supportive people who nurture your creativity and you look back and say thank god i was brave. no one ever lay on their death bed and said i wish i had done less.

brilliant work you really inspired me.
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I really appreciate you saying that.
Oct. 30th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
They always say do what you love, the money will follow. But that's not necessarily true. I followed my love and became an artist--it's hard to sell work when it's true to yourself. I could paint crappy landscapes or flower pictures and could probably make good money at it. But I'd be just as much of a whore as if I worked at a job I hated just for the money. Following your dreams doesn't always bring success. Just IMHO
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
Yea, you can do what you want and struggle financially. Or do well financially and struggle spiritually. I'd love to find something that fills both needs.
Oct. 30th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
good introspection here. I wish you well. :)
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Btw, I LOVE your icon. I get a kick out of it, haha.
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
thank you. :D
Oct. 31st, 2011 02:17 am (UTC)
I hope you find a way to live that you can both survive and feel happy. It's wonderful that you have so many options.
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the wishes, and thanks for reading :)
Oct. 31st, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC)
"How could I waste such brains on art?" It's so unfortunate that people think that art is a waste of brain. Some of the smartest people I know are artists.
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
I know, I wish art was valued more. I also hate seeing how budget cuts lead to cutting art programs and music programs. Creativity is needed in all fields of study, and should be fostered and valued just as much as hard science.
Oct. 31st, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC)
This sounds very familiar to me. My mom pushed me into a business degree so I could support myself, though I wanted to major in fine arts. It was a wise decision, but I sometimes wish I could've done both.
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
Yea, I wish I could have too. The hard science just takes up so much brain space, that I always made art a second priority.
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
That was very well written, Erin. You've still got that talent for writing that you think you might have lost in the die of the round hole.

You know you can support yourself during the day and do what makes you happen in your off time right?
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
If I had off time, that would definitely be an option :) Thanks C.
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)
I've always been a big believer in the 'work for a while, save everything, then quit and do what you want for a while. repeat.' strategy.
Oct. 31st, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC)
Today my strategy has been "do nothing, sleep more, watch tv, go to dr appointment, get pho, do some work" hahahaha! I wish every day was like this.
Nov. 1st, 2011 02:46 am (UTC)

Follow your dreams, yes, but all you have to do is take the next step.

You have a wonderfully authentic voice in your writing. I really like this piece.
Nov. 1st, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
Thank you:)
Nov. 1st, 2011 08:54 am (UTC)
I hope you remember how. Or learn again.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks! And thanks for reading :)
Nov. 1st, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
I find it's easier to have a well-paying job and an artistic hobby than an artist's paycheck and a layperson's interest in science. You're in a good position to branch out, to include everything in your scientific brain -- your hatred for your job, the details of your work, the creative aspect of science that brings on the new hypotheses and ideas -- in your artistic endeavors if you wish. People think there's a big gulf between art and science; there isn't, but combinations of the two always seem to delight.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
Yea, that's a great idea. Some of my old work was actually sciency art stuff.
Nov. 1st, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
My passions are words and theater.

Right now I am getting my BA in lit at 41.

Be lucky if I work long enough to pay off my student loans when I am done.

Also there is compromise, I have worked at stuff I didn't love for 25 years off and on...but I have done theater as a hobby since 96.
Nov. 1st, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
Omg student loans! They terrify me, one of my huge mental hindrances in going back to school.

I am trying to cultivate more hobbies. I travel about 80% for my job, so some hobbies are harder than others, but I'm trying :)
Nov. 1st, 2011 09:48 pm (UTC)
Well written. I enjoyed reading it.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks :)
Nov. 1st, 2011 10:43 pm (UTC)
I could have wrote this myself. I was always told that I needed to do something practical, to use my smarts to be successful. I did it. I hate every minute if it and dream of more creative pursuits that make less money. I'll never be CEO material because I don't want to be.

My baby brother dreams of being a stunt man in Hollywood... He's good. Very good. I'm urging him to not give that up, to at least try it... You'll never know until you try.

Great entry. I loved the message.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
A stunt man! Those people are crazy athletic. I hope he's able to follow his dreams. And I hope you can find something that fits better too. Yay creativity!
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
He is crazy athletic. He can walk down stairs on his hands. All self trained, but already getting national attention from important people. He participated in a parkour event (like gymnastics in urban areas, jumping off buildings, doing flips off walls, etc) for Red Bull. He's not even 18 yet. I'm a proud big sister to say the least :D

Thanks! Right now I'm hoping I can do something with this writing thing! We will see :)
Nov. 2nd, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
I think a lot of people have trouble understanding that what someone is good at isn't the same as what they love doing. I think you're a step ahead, since you know what doesn't make you happy.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
Haha,I'm good at figuring out what I don't like. In fact, I'm so good, it could be my super power! Thanks for reading.
Nov. 2nd, 2011 11:59 am (UTC)
I was SUCH a sciencey person at school. But I was also an English and languages person... yet the careers advisor advised me that there was "no money in writing"! So here I am with a science degree that I never want to use.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC)
I know! People can be closed minded about jobs, that's part of my problem. My family is all doctors so that's all we know. I have several friends who are doing writing or photography for their jobs, and they've been able to support themselves, so why couldn't you or why couldn't I?
Nov. 2nd, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC)
Ah, the cry of the tormented artist. I know it well, seeing as how I'm also caught in the "make ridiculous amounts of money doing a job I hate" trap. Regrettably, this is not the time (at least for me) to drop everything and follow my artistic pursuits full-time, as I have bills to pay.

So I follow my dreams part-time, and daydream about the time they could be full-time. It's still following your dreams even if you can't do it 24 hours a day. Try and remember that.

Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading. I'm trying to be a part time artist, I spend so much time on the road that it's hard.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 02:01 am (UTC)
It's really hard to find the courage to follow your dreams sometimes when those dreams can be so uncertain. Stability is such a seductive thing... we settle for something less than our ideal and before we know it, ten years have passed and our passions, those dreams have faded a bit. I hope you find a way to let her out of her prison and allow her to finally follow those dreams. Good luck.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC)
"Stability is such a seductive thing"

Yes. That exactly. It's so incredibly difficult to take a risk that will bring you in the complete opposite direction from where you are. Thanks for your thoughts. I hope I can free my artistic side again.
Nov. 4th, 2011 01:27 am (UTC)
I think being in a game like this is a great first step to freeing that artistic side in you. :-)
Nov. 3rd, 2011 02:17 am (UTC)
This was marvelous, the way you brought the need and desire for change to life with your words. "Burn the memories of the past 6 or 7 years, walk away from the conflagration victorious and free." Well done!

Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading :)
Nov. 3rd, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
I totally relate. I let that voice become my own voice, too, to the point where I don't even see myself as a creative person these days. Best of luck following your dreams.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
I have a hard time seeing myself as creative too. I think that's part of the reason I'm trying LJ idol. Force myself into creativity, strengthen my muscles.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 11:25 pm (UTC)
Fantastic entry. Very sad though. Follow your dreams are three great words and one piece of powerful advice.
( 46 comments — Leave a comment )