Follow your dreams. Is that a good idea? A case study . . .
When I was ten, I dreamed of being an astronomer. I read everything in the library on stars and planets, and then asked to go to a new library to find more. I could close my eyes and see the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram and Jupiter’s great red spot.
When I was 20, I dreamed of being a mathematician. I immersed myself in everything MIT had to offer, from linguistics to Godelian logic. I was certain of two things — that math would enable me to stand out, and that I’d never get married.
When I was 30, I dreamed of being a software mogul. I learned the rungs on the startup ladder, immersed myself in every corporate discipline, and managed. With my first divorce behind me, I dreamed that somehow I could be happy, too.
When I was 40, I dreamed of being a respected analyst, disrupting the media industry with startling insights, getting quoted everywhere. And I dreamed that my new, young family would grow and thrive.
When I was 50, I dreamed of being a bestselling author, giving speeches to thousands in exotic locations and returning home to school and nurture my children. We would take trips to amazing places and return to a warm home that was an oasis of knowledge.
Today I am 60. I’ve accomplished some of these dreams. Others I abandoned.
I still dream. Are there any dreams left for me?
My dreams are smaller. I dream of writing every day, of publishing books that make a difference to people, of mentoring writers and authors. I dream of my children spreading their wings as adults and taking flight.
My dreams are bigger, too. I dream of a world where rationality and science and reason inspire people to work together. I dream of harnessing technology to share our inspirations, not just our prejudices.
I have lived a life full of possibility. I have realized some of these dreams, but somehow, along the way, they have shifted and morphed and revealed new paths to follow.
I’m not done dreaming. My life has been a gift. Now I carry the weight of experience. I’m not slowing down, but I’m not lunging at shadows anymore either.
Follow your dreams as long as it seems useful to do so. They’re a fine set of stars to navigate by. In the end, though, the destination is not as fulfilling as the journey, wherever you imagine yourself to be going at any given moment.