When I was a little girl, I wanted to be two things: a movie star and an author.
But as I experienced more life, I saw how many possibilities there were. I saw all the things I could do and become. And I didn’t want to limit myself.
So, I dabbled. In acting for theatre and film and all sorts of writing, yes, but also in journalism—broadcast, radio, newspapers and magazines. I dabbled in dancing, PR, and voiceover.
When I became a mom, I took up baking. I went to bread making and baking classes and was always scouting out and perfecting new recipes. I tried my hand at sewing. I made curtains, table runners, a quiet book and clothes for my daughter. But soon enough, my baking became less frequent and I said goodbye to sewing and the swearing it induced.
I did freelance writing for the magazine I’d worked for full-time before becoming a mom. I also started a blog, which I gave up after feeling a little intimidated by the mommy-blogging world and too married to my computer.
Next, I decided to become a fitness instructor. I started teaching PiYo, Pilates, and yoga.
A company I’d worked for asked if I’d like to start modeling for their new clothing line. So, I added yet another dream to my list — something shiny and new, something fun, another title to be known by.
Do you see the theme here? I was becoming a Jill of all trades, but not really a master of any of them. I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. But it feels good to really hone in on one thing, which, at 33 years old, I feel like I’m finally starting to do.
A couple of years ago, even though I had my hands in a lot of things career-wise, I got to a point in my family life when things started to feel a little cushy. We had two pretty self-sufficient kids and it was taking a little longer than we’d planned for another baby to come along.
So, I decided to re-dedicate myself to my lifelong acting dream. I signed with an agency, got headshots, perfected my resume. I did a six-week training with a highly recommended acting coach. I started going to lots (and lots) of auditions. I got a couple of jobs.
Gratefully, my third baby came.
Once I found my feet again after those first foggy few months of newbornland, I picked up with all of those things again. Writing news articles, voiceover, and modeling. I started going to auditions again, landing a job here and there, but the auditions outweighed the bookings by almost 10:1.
Now, a year later, and with three kids vying for my attention, I’m at a point where the scrambling to memorize lines and finding babysitters and driving around and battling nerves and waiting in waiting rooms and more often than not, not getting a call, feels more like a waste of time and emotional energy than achieving a dream. Especially when I can be spending that time with my family or doing something I don’t have to constantly wonder if I’m good at.
Still, it’s hard to close the door on something I’ve dreamt of and defined myself by my entire life. Something that sounds a lot more glamorous than plunking away at a memoir or an attempt at a novel while changing diapers and navigating through meltdowns.
But I’ve realized something about that acting dream. I have fulfilled it. I’ve had the chance to be in dozens of plays and was graciously given an acting scholarship at one point. I’ve been able to be in a good number of commercials and an independent film. I’ve met amazing people along the way who I never would have encountered if I hadn’t stepped foot in the acting world. I’ve learned from inspiring mentors (especially Chris Clark and Ben Hopkin) who have given me tools to not only be a better actor, but a better person. I didn’t make it onto broadway or into Hollywood, but maybe I was never meant to.
So, I’m checking off that big dream that’s been nagging at me my whole life. I’m calling it fulfilled. And now, I’m walking away from it. At least for now.
And I’m pulling back from those other ventures I had my hands in and saying no to any new ones that don’t fit in with the things I want to dive deeper into.
It feels relieving, like I’m shedding off a heavy cloak to reveal who I really am. Who I really want to be.
And that’s a mom. And a writer.
The desire to write has been in me for as long as I can remember, but I think I took it for granted, assuming it’d always be something I could come back to while I chased other, shinier opportunities that presented themselves.
I may still do those “shiny” things from time to time too, but I am only going to give what I can give, without spreading myself too thin, and without sacrificing presence with my family or my writing goals.
As I was thinking of this redefinition of my dreams, a pleasant thought popped into my head: When you say no to a dream that isn’t supposed to be yours anymore, you make room for someone else to follow that dream.
So, I’m not really slamming the door on a dream. I’m just opening it for someone else.
When my daughter, who excitedly anticipated elementary school long before she turned five, was finally going into kindergarten, I half-jokingly asked, “Are you sure you don’t just want to stay home with me so I can be your teacher?”
“No, Mom,” she said sweetly. “I need to go to kindergarten because I want to know what it feels like.”
She and I are so alike.
That craving to know what something feels like, to experience something firsthand, especially something new, drives so many of my decisions. It has driven me to say “yes” to many new adventures.
Now, I will always be an encourager of pursuing dreams, old and new, and trying new things. Things that may be scary or out of your comfort zone. I hope I never stop doing that.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’m learning the value of unapologetically claiming that thing you love most. That you really want to excel at. That thing that is intrinsically part of you.
I hope you find the gumption you need to claim whatever that thing is for you, and to let go of whatever is distracting you from it.
Here are five things that have helped me redefine my dreams:
- Pick the dreams that are going to add the most value to your life.
- Let go of the ones you’re chasing simply for the title or the praise or to check them off a list.
- Invest your time, money and energy in the things you’re actually good at. Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are. (Malcolm S. Forbes)
- Consider the cost. What will you have to sacrifice to commit to this pursuit? (time, money, another venture, etc.) Is it worth the cost?
- Recognize that the joy and fulfillment of chasing a dream comes in the journey towards it, not some ambiguous destination. So stick with something you enjoy doing just to do it. Not because you’re waiting for the happiness and fulfillment to kick in when you reach a certain milestone (like writing a book, being in a movie, or gaining 50 thousand followers on social media).
Sometimes you have to quiet the chaos of your life, and let some things go (maybe a lot of things), to get down to the heart of who you really are and what you really love. Then you can start re-building your life in a way that will bring you fulfillment.
You can check out this podcast for more of my view on chasing dreams as a mom.