The Moment When You Stop Chasing Your Dreams


Last May, as I was finishing up my final courses of my college career, I emailed all of my professors thanking them for everything that they did for me throughout the course of the semester. I received responses from all of them, but one email stood out, particularly the ending of it. The email read, “Keith, I hope that graduating is just one of the many things that you aim for that you will, in fact, get to do. What else do you dream of doing? I wish it all for you, and more.”

At the time, I didn’t realize fully realize the weight of the question that my professor was asking. What else do you dream of doing? It’s a hard question to answer, and I’m still not sure that I even know half of what I dream of doing, but I do know that in the five months that have passed since I’ve graduated college, I haven’t been doing anything that I’ve dreamed of doing.

Shortly after I graduated, I was able to get a job in the legal department at a real estate investment firm in San Francisco. I was excited to even get a job, let alone one that paid close to the average salary for a college graduate. I quickly realized, however, that the position that I’m in is one that people can easily get “stuck” in, and that it has nothing to do with what I want to accomplish with my life. In theory, I’m working an entry-level job to get experience for future jobs that will pay better than this job, that will in turn allow me to actually pay for my entire rent each month. It’s something that I, like many others before me, have fallen victim to — allowing ourselves to become subjects of a society that values money above all else.

Now, I’m not some Marxist that believes that capitalism is the root of all evil, but when I sit on the Muni every morning, surrounded by people who can’t wait to get back to their homes in nine hours, I wonder whether or not they are actually chasing their dreams, or if they were forced to give up on them because they had no other choice but to give up on them. Do these people really want to be owned by their cell phones and their emails and their spreadsheets and their water coolers? Is that what they dreamed of doing?

America, “the land where anyone can do anything,” breeds the same exact people, year after year after year. We wake up, make our kids’ lunches, feed and walk the dog, get on crowded public transportation (where everyone has their headphones in an attempt to block out humanity) or sit in dead stop traffic to get to our jobs (whether they be white collar or blue collar), make money, get back on the same, oftentimes even more crowded public transportation or crowded freeway, finally get home, spend less time with our families than we do at work, eat, watch Modern Family, go to bed, and repeat. It’s easy to fall into this cycle because that’s how our society has been constructed. Want to spend some more time with your kids or your wife this morning? Well that could jeopardize your position at work, so that is not an option.

Many people will say that what I’m writing is hyperbolic, and perhaps it is, but if you’re reading this and are thinking, “This isn’t my life,” please attempt to realize how fortunate you truly are. Be glad that you escaped the cycle.

This easily could be some rant generated by the fact that I’m sick of pushing papers, and scanning documents, and filing and hole punching meaningless paperwork, or maybe I’m writing this because I’m stuck in some state of suspended post-grad limbo, or maybe it’s because I forgot about what I dreamed of doing — whatever the reason may be, I believe that there is some truth to what I’m writing. The system that we live in doesn’t foster real creativity, unless of course you’re one of the lucky few who have been liberated from the system.

Maybe, I struggle to find meaning in the day-in and day-out, and most Americans who are subjected to the cycle have found the meaning in the mundanity of it all. Maybe, the dad who works his 9-5 does so because coming home every night to his son’s hug makes it all worth it. Maybe the 24-year-old who works as a cashier at Target does so because she’s happy that she has newfound independence from her parents. Maybe, I’m lacking meaning in my day-to-day life, and I’m simply just waiting to find it. Maybe, once that meaning is found, I will look back on this piece and be happy that I’m no longer the cynic that I once was.

featured image – Dave C / Flickr