Happy New Year, lovelies!
If you’re not new to my blog and my modus operandi then you know New Year is prime time for my flights of fancy and declarations about how I will break a decade long streak of failing to live up to my resolutions. How I will take on a curated list of lofty ambitions, such as reading 50 thousand books and writing the next Great African novel, all while being a distinction-earning college student who has time for the gym, all my side-hustles and, last but not least, my selfless work to bring world peace to this decaying world of ours (which I do by merely existing).
This year I’m using this time to tell you that not only am I not making any New Year’s resolutions, I’m also giving up on my dreams
“Why?” I hear you question.
To answer this, I pose another: how long did it take before your answer to the question “what do you want to be?” stopped changing?
It’s completely okay if you’re still mulling it over. It’s a pretty big ask, after all. Before “writer” became the obvious answer for me…my response to that question changed about 23 million times, give or take, since I could speak.
At different stages in primary school, I wanted to be the first female president, a lawyer, a pilot, a lawyer again and then, because I had no ceilings to my ambitions, Lizzie McGuire’s third best friend or the newest, prettiest member of the Sugar Babes. In secondary school it was lawyer (again, again), marine biologist and then, because my adoration for him knew no bounds – Tom Welling’s wife.
Dress – Zapel Designs and Tailouring
Shoes – Essex Glam
Watch – Miniso (old)
I landed on writer in my early teens and ten years later (I think. Gosh I hope it hasn’t been longer!)…I can proudly tell you that a young girl’s dream came true. I’m a writer. Whether I’m writing novels or short stories or magazine articles or blog posts just like the one you’re reading, I don’t have to wonder what it is I want to do with my life – I’m doing it.
Yeah, except…this really isn’t what I had in mind at all. Where’s my apartment in Paris? My piles of book deals? What about my own coffee maker and a personal assistant who went to Harvard or something? Where are all things I envisioned? How come reality looks and feels nothing like the stuff of dreams?
Answering My Calling
A simple truth it took me all of twenty four years to realize is that dreams are only really useful when we’re young; to shape who we are and give us the foundation we need to do something with our lives that’s meaningful to us. When you get older, dreams are essentially a window to a parallel universe where you’re a more exceptional person (and yes, far better looking); and when you’re looking at something as magnificent and impossible as that, how can you not look around at your real life and feel inadequate?
If you focus too much on dreams, you’re prone to forgetting that the dreams were never really about the beautiful, unreal picture you see when look out that window, they were about what you wanted to do with your life – what would make it most meaningful to you.
Dreams are supposed to help us find a calling, not provide an unforgiving template that you’ll always fall short of unless you’re Rihanna or Beyonce or some other celestial being. But for ordinary people like us, what do dreams do but mostly yuck our yum?
Here’s probably where I’ve lost you, isn’t it? Dreams are inspirational, you might say. Are they? Think about it deeply for a moment. How often do things live up to their expectations? And I mean anything. Love, money, power…we never experience these things as we idealize them so what’s the point in investing so much in them, to our detriment?
Well, how the heck are we supposed to look forward and push ourselves if we shouldn’t dream? Lovely, I promise I’m not telling you not to dream. You can’t help yourself. We’re all programmed to. What I’m saying is that maybe it’s better to give them up so that instead of chasing something impossible, you do something more meaningful with your life. Like answering your calling – to be and do the thing in this world that you value most, whether or not it comes with being exceptional (and/or better looking).
Last year, I realized that I had to give up on the picture-perfect fantasy I had in order to appreciate the fact that I spend my life doing the most precious thing in this world to me – writing. Sure, I won’t be winning a Pulitzer anytime soon but how amazing is it that I get to do what I love everyday!
What I’m Doing Instead of Dreaming
From a calling, we choose what to really focus on. Writing, for example, is a very broad discipline so for me, zeroing in on how I want to answer my calling meant picking kinds of writing that I enjoy and excel at the most, such as fiction, blogging and creative non-fiction.
When you know the direction you want to take, making goals is the first step. Goals are better than dreams because goals are actionable. They’re not vague and overwhelming. The best ones are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound).
Shifting my perspective to embrace this approach has made it a lot easier to appreciate the effort I put into the different parts of my professional life. It helps me see the progress I’m making and how I’m growing from it, instead of constantly looking down on my life’s purpose.
And beyond this, giving up my dreams allowed me to appreciate and celebrate the real non-parallel universe me.
10 More Things I Had to Give Up
Just as I had to set a moratorium on dreams and resolutions, I also had to let go of certain ideas and attitudes that kept holding me back from answering my calling in the most fulfilling way.
I have often felt like a fraud, attributing any accomplishments to luck or some accident I had absolutely nothing to do with. There have been numerous times when someone has tried to appreciate what I do only to have me steadily convince them they’re wrong.
Waiting for the “right” moment
I can’t count the number of times I didn’t push myself to go after something because I told myself I wasn’t ready or that the conditions weren’t right but I only used it as an excuse to further delay my own progress because I didn’t feel like I deserved it.
Setting unreasonable expectations
In the past, I’ve given myself too much to do or made goals so big and lofty that I can only assume I did it to keep feeding my negative cycle to regress. When you set all your sights beyond the stars, you won’t see the beauty around you when you reach a mountain’s peak.
Belittling myself and my craft
Self-deprecation is one thing. Done properly, it’s down right charming. But what I’ve tended to do is use any and every opportunity I can to express that I’m worthless, when all evidence points to the very opposite.
Being an island
One of the best things I did last year was reaching out of my comfort zone and getting to know more creatives. I attended two Digital Content Creator meetups (and hosted one). Both experiences were amazing opportunities to discuss the creative life with people who know exactly what I’m going through. Hearing different perspectives and also being heard was really valuable to me and it helped me grow a lot as a writer.
Spending more time on other people’s work more than my own
I’m guilty of over-extending myself (and sacrificing my own work) partly because it’s an easy and convenient distraction and partly because I just have a tricky time balancing helping and being too invested in someone else’s path.
The fear of failure
For someone who spent so much time convincing herself she’s a failure, I sure was afraid to fail and this stopped me from doing things I wanted to do.
The fear of success
Even more fearsome than failure, to me, was success because I convinced myself that success is just a scenic route on the way to bigger, flashier disappointments. Couple that with impostor syndrome and it’s easy to see why I spent so much time pausing and taking steps back when I should have been moving forward.
Just as I noted at the start of this post, I would set to resolution myself through life with nothing more than a can-do attitude and, if it was New Year, the powerful elixir that is January optimism. I’m not saying that being positive is a bad thing but when it comes from a disingenuous place, it can make you miserable. Real positivity comes from a place of introspection and honesty. I used fake positivity to make it feel like I was moving forward instead of taking the time to overcome the most difficult and frankly unpleasant parts of being a creative person.
Most of my disappointments have stemmed from not having the patience to appreciate the lessons of my journey but instead focusing on why it’s taking so long. My creative life got better the moment I accepted that the point of the journey isn’t the destination because, actually, it will take you to more than one. The point is the journey itself, lovely, because it is your life’s purpose.
Thank you so much for reading my post lovely. If you have any thoughts, please feel welcome to leave a comment below.
If you’ve been following Pastiche Mode for a while then you may have noticed a few changes around these here parts. First off, I went ahead and got myself a domain because my blog is now more than just a hobby and I’m finally giving it the input it deserves. I have also moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress (which was actually my original home when I returned to blogging in 2017) and I’m already loving it. I also changed the appearance and updated/added a couple of pages so be sure to have a good look around for what’s new.
If you’re new to my blog, I’d love to welcome you to my little corner of the internet. I write about loads of stuff including myself (hashtag: narcissism), writing, pop culture and living. Pastiche Mode is a lifestyle and inspiration blog covering work, play and everything in between! You can find out more about me and my blog by clicking here.
You’re wonderful, lovely and I wish you an awesome year.