Those four famous words uttered by Martin Luther King Jnr on August 28, 1963. They resonate with so many of us but has modern society lost its ability to dream? Have we lost our ability to pursue a better way of life or to be true to oneself? Sometimes I worry that we have. Or perhaps worse, we have that vision, that dream but convince ourselves that it is not possible or that it is silly and therefore do not pursue it. In doing so resigning ourselves to the humdrum expectations of society and others. Is there any greater crime than to ignore our own desires?
One of the most common responses to the question, “so what is your dream?” Is after a long pause, “I don’t know.” Honestly, it is a hard question to answer on the spot. It is almost impossible if you have never given it much thought. A dream requires self-examination in the deepest sense. Pushing aside the expectations of our friends, family and society to uncover what we truly desire. That is no easy task.
At every corner everything and everyone around us is dictating what we should be doing. Get good grades at school. Go to university or get an apprenticeship. Been working a few years? When are you buying a house? Been dating the same person for a few years? When are you getting engaged? Getting married? Having kids? And so on. Separating these external voices from our own is difficult, requires determination and courage. Though as surely as night follows day, it is the only way to uncover our true dreams and is perhaps the greatest barrier to any of us realising our own.
I myself am not immune to this. I am often asked if I have always been a person who said, “Screw society and everyone else, I am going to do what I want”. The simple answer is no, I was not.
When I found alpine climbing at the ripe old age of 24 (yes that’s old in the world of climbing) I was on my first holiday in over 2 years. I had bought my first house at 21 with money I was supposed to travel through South America with and was single after very nearly entering into an engagement with a person I didn’t want to marry. I was in that position as a result of not practicing what I am advocating for now. As a result of not examining myself closely enough and separating out my own voice from the others around me.
Finding alpine climbing and listening to what it provided forced me to do this. It is the closest thing to a spiritual experience I have ever had.
After that holiday I sat at work and contemplated my situation. I had found my passion but to pursue it would require an immense amount of travel (money), thousands of dollars of gear (money) and time to build the necessary knowledge, skills and networks to be safe and successful (time and money). I was already 24, already had a mortgage and a career. There were lots of barriers but this time I was listening to my most inner desires. This time I identified my true dream. To independently climb technical routes on big peaks.
Climbing had been part of me since I was a young boy, but it took those series of events to bring it to the forefront of my existence. Something I am not incredibly proud of; though I am certainly proud of how I have changed my life since. Fittingly, I celebrated my 29th birthday a couple of weeks back ice climbing in Wye Creek, New Zealand’s premier ice climbing destination. An unforgettable week climbing and enjoying the mountain environment with like-minded souls.
So what barriers exist to us achieving our dreams? Well that is a topic I wish to explore further at another time but there is one I wish to mention now as I think it is pertinent. This is that people often see their dreams as either silly or not as good as someone else. Dreams are a very individualistic. I don’t believe anyone else has authority to evaluate your dream as good, bad or otherwise as by its very nature, a dream is the ultimate manifestation of one’s own passions and desires. So how can anyone else by an authority on that? Simply – they cannot.
Whether your dream is to climb the world’s gnarliest peaks, create a social enterprise, become a parent or own a simple plot of land in the country; as long as they reflect your most inner desires then they are all equal. You are part of the most honourable pursuit. To be true to oneself.
I have a dream.
Dig deep and listen to your internal voice trying its hardest to be heard. Listen closely and filter out the noise. What do you hear?
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