Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Dreams

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”James Dean


From the moment we open our eyes we’re reaching, grasping for something.

And from almost the same moment we’re told we can’t have it. Yet every dream and yearning is designed for us, is a manifestation or shadow shape of who we are and will become and everything we’ll do in life. Some of us either don’t recognize our dreams, have pushed them down, or don’t even know they exist, and therefore feel trapped in a drudgery of slaving all our lives solely to survive. To those people dreams are unreal, the unattainable mist of our sleeping dreams rather than our destiny. But our real dreams are our power, our life force, our purpose for being here.

Shortly after his fifth birthday Mozart composed his first four piano concertos. Somewhere in his DNA he knew his purpose in life before most of us have learned to read and write and began to fulfill it. What if he’d put it off until much later, until the impetus to compose had lost its luster and joy? What if someone had told him he didn't have the talent, was too young to compose at that age, and he’d listened to them instead of his own heart and instincts? What if he’d looked the other way when he first heard musical instruments and his private music playing in his own head?

Unfortunately, in a world of egos and ignorance, envy, jealously, and general lack of vision, this happens to many of us. Unless we listen solely to our hearts and instincts and that inner voice given to us and us alone, we begin to doubt the practicality of our dreams, the likelihood of achieving them. We listen to the odds makers, we pay attention to the negative reasoning of those who not only don’t know anything about who we really are, but are merely sounding off from a place of doubt and vision less unseeing within themselves. While driving our car we’re being told what to focus on and look out for by the blind man in the back seat, by the general chorus who couldn't find their ass with their own two hands. And we have moments of wondering if they’re onto something, if it’s okay to fail, or much worse, to not even try.

The American painter Thomas Hart Benton said: “The only time an artist fails is when he stops working.”

In other words, you are what you believe you are, and then do what you’re led to do, “your calling,”and if you aren't doing it, that’s when you fail, never when you’re actually doing it. No work of art is ever going to be as great or the same as all others, or as bad either. But if you aren't reaching for it at all, when you let someone or the whole of humanity steal that dream of your work, block your vision, hold you back even a little from what’s been given to you at birth, and likely long before, that’s when you've failed miserably.

Ironically, when you’re following your dreams and giving everything you have to them, there is no failure, there is no defeat, there is merely a journey to manifest something deep inside you, often hidden in your subconscious. The degree to which you fulfill your dreams is up to you, to how hard you’re willing to work at them, to how fiercely you’re willing to focus on them. But the first thing you must do is never let anyone steal them from you. You must have iron rhino skin and a determination as impregnable as Fort Knox. And then you won’t be daunted by anything or anybody.

From the moment I began to write I had as many discouragers as I did encouragers, which is not uncommon for writers.

I knew there was something in me that connected profoundly with words and stories, with the poetry and flow of life, and that I was going somewhere with it. It wasn't a matter of how much money I was going to make at it; it was a matter of not wanting to do anything else as much and being consumed by the love of doing it. From total strangers I’d get oddly quizzical looks and interrogations on why I believed I could do this. It was as if by merely doing it I was an affront to them, that I believed I was somehow superior or brighter, more gifted. I was like a lightning rod for cynicism. It was fascinating to see how much negativity existed in others to the extent that they would question the instincts of a stranger, or of a friend for that matter, about what his soul would strive for, and sometimes it came from people much closer to me.

I knew instinctively this was a bizarre reaction. It was curious and darkly amusing. Why would anyone not say, “Oh, what a great profession, go for it! Looking forward to reading your work!” That would be my reaction. And I came to realize people will try to discourage you most often who them-selves have been discouraged by others, by life, by self doubt, and they simply lack confidence. They bought into all the given reasons not to dream, not to try, and therefore they’re doing their dead level best to keep you from doing it. They’re even passionate about it. Because while my bliss existed in the exploration and discovery of writing itself, in the magical alchemy and power of words, they were too afraid to approach it, and practically resented the fact that I wasn't.

I remember someone saying, “There are far more clever people in the world than you and I, Ron,” as if “clever” or Intelligence Quotient was what it was all about, rather than Imagination Quotient. As if the soul and heart were not as integral and critical to all creation, or more so. There is really no mold or blueprint for the artist after all; writers, painters, poets, singers, actors, dancers differ as much as snowflakes and blades of grass, and each has his own contribution to make, his own truth to tell. I’m awed and humbled by some writers, and bored by others, but would never question anyone’s need or calling to write, nor rule out that any writer may, at some point in his career, bowl us all over with that one piece of work that no one else could ever write, that will be read with awe for a thousand years.

Artists in particular deal with this negativity, it seems. Biographies of writers and artists are littered with the resistance of family and society trying to keep them from following their dreams. Picasso’s family was appalled by what they considered vulgarity in his work early on. His father was a traditional landscape painter, and was horrified by his son’s choosing to realistically paint circus people, common and poor people, street people, jesters and prostitutes. The actor Bruce Dern’s family more or less disowned him when he insisted on an actor’s life. His family believed the profession was beneath them. They insisted he study law practice and go into politics. He had no interest in either, acting was his bliss, and he had to go after his dream literally on his own, fighting tooth and nail for it.

Because the thing about your dreams is, they don’t belong to anyone else.

They’re yours. Family, friends and total strangers may have other plans for you, see you through their own filter or lens of limited vision, limited imagination, their own egos, or what they value differently or most in life. Some will have fears for you that you don’t share, or may believe they’re doing you a favor by discouraging you. There are any number of reasons people will try to steal your dreams, intentionally or not, but it doesn't matter what their reasons are. Nobody knows who you are, nobody really does but you, so how could they know what your most profound destiny and purpose in life is? How could anyone presume to tell you what your dreams are?

Someone told me long ago, when you ask yourself a serious question, when you are the only one listening, you have to answer it honestly. And so it is concerning your dreams. If you ask yourself what dream is burning inside you, and whether you came to it gradually or knew it from childhood, you can’t allow anyone or any situation to rob it from you. Pursue it with a relentless passion that is fueled even more by the resistance and discouragement of others. Throw every negative word, reaction, doubting look into the furnace that drives your train down the tracks in the direction of what consumes you, work on it every day regardless of the noise and barking dogs around you, and in time there will be nothing left of the naysayers, the thieves who are creeping around you like hyenas waiting to steal your dreams.

Your dreams are yours and yours alone. No one can take them from you if you don’t let them. If you don’t fulfill them, no one ever will.

Turn your dreams into your life and run with them.

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Ron Clinton Smith is a film actor, recently seen in True Detective, and writer of stories, songs, poetry, screenplays, and the novel Creature Storms.

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