so about six years ago I wrote this poem. and the poem became a song. if you have ever met me you have probably heard it at least once before. because up until this year, it has been my greatest achievement. to have watched a dark moment leave my shoulders where it once held all its weight and find a life its own, as a realised being its own.
I wrote the poem after a particularly heartbroken day where I sat on a beach in Far North Queensland and imagined putting my heart in the water, watching it roll away and emulsify to deliver more to the world over than I believed it could ever do for me. Next minute there’s a teenage girl singing it shakily-with-sincerity behind me in line at Womadelaide.
In the song there’s a lyric that used to be “I didn’t know that to follow your dreams you could lose a little of each”. Following your dreams isn’t just an expression, it’s a real commitment. And it’s been the theme of my 2017. I am sharing how this has worked for me in an effort to engender similar pursuits amongst those who’d read this; who in the same year might have seen reason to abandon hopes in the face of political disheartenment, ecological collapse and breaches of equality at every turn.
your dream isn’t just something you want, or something you think would be great to have, or would make you happy. your dream is more than that, it’s a version of yourself constantly bashing away from inside you wanting to get out. it’s easy to confuse someone else’s dreams or ambitions for your dream, but the difference is that one will be a realisation of everything you know about yourself to be true, and the others’ are just things you will feel esteemed by. your dream doesn’t have to be big to anyone but you, but reaching it will require a journey only you can feel the vastness of. your dream is entirely unique, as will be your road to it, and the obstacles you must overcome.
your dream has demands, and the longer you avoid them – I’ve found – the higher the recompense. What was once merely frippery and frugality became almost total austerity, anxiety, friends disconnected, hopelessness and gambling your sense of self-preservation – and all the while, an unshakable sense that I was on the right track. When it comes to pursuing your dreams, it’s a volatile balance you must keep between sustainability and instinct.
last year I did all the right things: I moved to the big city, and had the high-paying, doing-good job, and did some rallying and some theatre reviewing. I moved thinking I’d make a packet, conquer my debt and set myself up for life. But I spent every dollar I made trying to make myself happy. I blew every bit of energy I had grasping at old desires. I tortured myself with other people’s needs to drown out the disappointment I felt in myself for having given up so easy. I clung to friends hoping they would vindicate the drama, and the choices I had made or give me an alternative. I let every advantage be taken of me so I had every excuse in the world not to create what I knew I was long overdue to. don’t do this, you guys. it hurts. it’s a kind of starvation. it’s a kind of addiction from which I hope very much to divert you from.
so I took chances. real ones. accepted help from strangers and moved back to Melbourne with no money.
I told a boy I loved how mad I was at what my cowardice had made of our lost opportunity. and my heart stopped being angry as much.
I re-stabilised my relationships with my family. and discovered that will be a lifetime process of exchange and compassion and pride. totally worth it.
I didn’t take the first job I got. I waited until I got the one I knew was right for me. And when I found it, I fought for it. I gambled by asking for it outright.
I climbed back into debt, and sat at the midway point between comfort and purpose. Made peace with the time-frame and the consequences. And didn’t let it spoil my understanding of what I got in it for.
That’s the important part. I asked.
For a job and I got it. For payment extensions and the answer’s always yes. For a way to make going to China and Japan happen even though my budget was tight and I went. For a chance to perform in a festival and they said yes. Three of them. For a spot to speak at a conference with a day until program got released and yet they squeezed me in.
I took a long hard look at my “boundaries” and in the midst of being grateful for what they had protected me from, I let them go to acknowledge there was nothing anymore they needed to protect from me – people, experiences, change.
I am trying to harbour less shame. If i get caught in an old lie, I own up to it. If i feel uncomfortable, I amend or change the factors. Little by little.
I worked hard. Sleep I’ll never get back. Constantly striving, and living in the parameters of improvement always being possible. I push myself, and I push the people I bring into what I’m working for.
And now my biggest achievement isn’t the song sung by someone else, although it still brings me joy unimaginable. it’s a story that I have lived a version of, made into a theatre show, that if you live in Adelaide or Melbourne you can come and share in.
And when you’ve lived your dream once, it’s remarkable what you start to flicker inside that you might be able to do after all.
The two key factors in achieving your dream?
Asking. There is no shame in asking, only vulnerability in the possibility of rejection, which we must all love about ourselves. If your approach is earnest, and grateful, and prepared to be willing to accept the answer for what it affords or redirects, you’ll find more often than not it goes a way you don’t expect – which is usually that they’ll say yes. And then you deliver, you keep the conversation going, you negotiate an exchange. It may not be easy, but it is simple.
Giving. As important to reaching for your dream, is taking the time to connect with other people dreaming. Foster collaborations, and shower their gambles, their trials with kindness and encouragement. Allow yourself to be part of a continuous network of inspiration and support. Grow with.
dreaming in sleep and living a dream aren’t altogether dissimilar for their surreality and sense of disembodiment or uncertainty. I’m not sure if what I’m talking about, whether dream is the right word, it’s like your chrysalis or your crucible. it’s the person you are beneath the person you’ve been shaped to be. it’s the inside out. it’s the second skin. the final form.
it’s not my dream. it’s my point.