“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-H.Jackson Brown Jr., P.S. I Love You
Alas, life is not a romantic novel and choosing one between your dreams and that hefty salary you draw every month involves much more considerations than words of wisdom. In a few years, we all realize that there is only so much that a job can offer, but it still ensures a steady income, a comfortable life and pays our EMIs. I am not going to argue that if you follow your dreams, you will do better than that because the truth is that you are not going to. In fact, it’s going to be difficult, both for you and your family, and is going to test your character and conviction. There will be nights when you would curse yourself for taking the plunge. I am sorry if I just shattered the rosy image that you had of ‘Following Your Dreams’ but that is the reality. Yet, in spite of all the hardships and the self-doubt, there will be a few of us who would still wake up the next day with a new dream to nurture. This article is in defense of those outliers.
Time and again, we have been reminded that we are the intellectual capital of this country. But somewhere between the euphoria of getting selected into a prestigious college and the tension of landing a plush job, we lose sight of the fact that there’s more to us than a hefty pay-check at the end of the month. The onus of charting an untrodden path has always been with the elite few. The baton is with us right now. We can choose to pass it along or decide to carry it with us.
I can illustrate examples of people who took the road less travelled and emerged successful. But I am not going to do that because for each successful person, there were many who followed their dreams and did not. However, the question is not whether you eventually succeed or not, the question is: Given that you have only one life, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to spend it striving for the realization of your dreams or are you going to wait till you are comfortable enough to pursue them (which, by the way, is never going to happen!)?
Often the question of whether we go for our dreams or a more socially accepted high-paying job boils down to ‘Who I am’ versus ‘What I am’. Let me explain. ‘Who I am’ answers the question from the concerned person’s point of view and encompasses everything that needs to be taken into consideration. It is sometimes selfish but nevertheless true. In contrast, ‘What I am’ boils down to ‘What the society and people around me think about me’. This is an opinion that is highly biased and hardly covers everything necessary to take a decision. Unfortunately we are more aware of ‘What I am’ than ‘Who I am’ and when we let this question decide the fate of our dreams, we are not only being foolish but also being unfair to ourselves. That is a crime easily committed but rarely forgiven.
We all know, at the end of the day, money is not directly proportional to happiness. And yet, we spend all our life avoiding confrontation with that statement; living in the make-belief happy world of ours; afraid that the truth of that statement would shatter the conviction that pays our EMI. And in doing so, we, the highly qualified, fail to answer that basic question that our primary school teachers asked us in the third standard: “What is your ambition in life?”
“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes