Am I being realistic, or am I giving up on my dreams? This is a question I struggle with occasionally. I was told from a young age to chase my dreams, and to never give up. My parents were always good at making me believe I could be or do anything I put my mind to, and I truly believed it. As a child all I could see in my future were the adventures and the endless hope that lay before me. I now however, have a constant conflict between chasing my dreams and being realistic about my future. As I grew up I realised that chasing your dreams is really difficult, and that often it was better to be realistic and rationalize out the fact that it was unlikely those dreams would come true, however sad that may seem.
As a child, all I wanted to be was an actress, I loved going to speech and drama, and I knew I was good at it. The world of glitz, glamour, nice houses and picking our dresses for Oscar season was all I could dream of. While on one hand I was told that anything is possible and the world was my oyster, in the same sentence I was told about the millions of people who flock to Hollywood each year and are unsuccessful. I was confused, and as a slowly came to terms with the idea of failing and being disappointed my rejection, I decided that maybe winning an Oscar wasn’t my destiny.
Even though my dream of becoming an actor had been slowly put to the back of mind, I still love to imagine the different careers I could succeed in. This changed daily, from a marine biologist to a journalist to a teacher. I knew I could be as successful as I wanted in any (other) career I wanted.
I got more and more excited about how the work I could do in the future could successfully impact and benefit the lives of others. Basically, as a teenager, I believed I could single-handedly change the world. I looked at the world I lived in and I was so confused by the poverty, inequality and injustice that I decided to put all my energy and power into changing it. When I was fifteen I raised over €3,000 and traveled to India with the ‘Hope Foundation’ and worked with the street and slum children in Kolkata. It was an amazing experience, and decided that I wanted to do more. I was energised by the little bit of good I had done in India and this fueled me to go even further. I decided I was going to study international development or human rights law and dedicate my whole life to those less fortunate than me in other countries. I wanted more experience so I applied for a Travel Award with EIL (Now called EIL Explore) and at seventeen I travelled to Vermont to meet other open-minded, hungry for change teenagers who had just as much hope as I did.
Here is a link to the EIL Explore website; they still provide fully-funded learning opportunities abroad.
On this trip, I realised that human rights law wasn’t for me, there was a lot more reading and researching than fighting in court, and it was becoming less like the tv program ‘Suits’ than I had first thought. But I was still motivated with the need for change.
I went back to school after my summer in Vermont, and suddenly the conversation changed. My parents and teachers quizzed me about my plan for the future, what I was going to study in college and what was my plan B. I allowed myself to become more ‘realistic’ and my focus turned to studying to achieve good results to get into university.
The goals I had to change the world dissolved and the idea of international development soon seemed like I would be fighting a cause that would never be solved. The teenager who wanted to change the world got put backstage, and instead I made plans for the next ten years that would allow me to make money, gain life experience, have a family, buy a house and remain within what was expected of me from society.
I chose to study psychology and sociology, it allowed me to have an undergraduate degree that I could use in many different areas of work. But I also thought it would allow me to hold onto the part of me that wanted to fight injustice and understand at a deeper level WTF was wrong with the world.
Sometimes I wonder where the young girl who wanted to me an actress is gone? Or the girl who believed that she had the power to make a change in the world. I long to have that same drive and determination back again.
I have realised while writing this blog post, that just like people, dreams change, adapt and develop overtime. Our dreams grow with us, and being realistic about the future doesn’t mean that we have to give up on our dreams. I am still content with studying psychology and sociology and I wouldn’t change any decision I’ve made for the world. I try not to live with regrets, as I do believe everything happens for a reason.
I only have another year and a half left in college, after that another chapter will have ended and another fork in the road will lay before me. At 21 years old, I am in a very privileged position where I am young and I still believe that anything is possible, I just need to decide what I want to do exactly. Which is exciting, confusing and terrifying.
Being an actress, a human rights lawyer, an astronaut or president of Ireland are all dreams I could chase at some point or another, the possibilities are still endless. Being realistic is simply realizing what your priorities are.
How I’m Copen: 8/10
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams’ – Eleanor Roosevelt