Don't Dream-Shame Me, Bro: In Defense of Dreaming Small

"You know, you should try to develop your own television show!" my well-meaning, big-dreaming friends say. "I could totally see you having a series on HBO!"
Publish date:
December 5, 2012
goals, dreaming, ambition

I read a quote the other day that said, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough.”

Say what? My dream isn’t big enough? Big enough for who exactly?

I found that statement more than a little bit condescending because some dreams just aren’t that scary. Take my not-so-big big dream for example:

I want to make my living as a writer. I’ve wanted that for as long as I can remember. I want to write novels and nonfiction books. For magazines and newspapers. For stupid dope websites. For the most badass women on the internet. I want to write words. I want to write funny words, clever words, smart words, thought-provoking words, have them printed and see my name underneath them.

It’s a dream that probably won’t yield fortune, or fame, or my own island in the Maldives but that’s totally okay. Because if I really wanted any of that stuff I would have chosen to make myself into something else -- anything else. But I am a writer and I want to put words on the page one after the other. Nothing more, nothing less and I am perfectly happy with that.

That is until the Dream Police come for me, sirens blaring.

"You know, you should try to develop your own television show!" my well-meaning, big-dreaming friends say. "I could totally see you having a series on HBO! Or why don’t you write a screenplay and try to sell it to Hollywood? You could win an Oscar! An Os-car!” And their eyes dart around inside their head, coaxing their brain to style me for the award show. I’d look phenomenal in an Eli Saab, but a gown from an unknown designer would be much more appropriate.

And what is my response to the thought of me winning an Academy Award? Meh.

"That sounds interesting, but I’m not really into TV or movie production. I just want to write.”

Then the Dream Police’s eyes grow dull with disappointment. The image of me sucking in my stomach as I shuffle across the red carpet goes up in a puff of smoke. I’m back at my laptop with my oversized Penn State hoodie and thermos full of lukewarm green tea.

The Dream Police are horrified. "Write? That’s all?"

Yup. That’s all.

I mean, of course, winning an Oscar would be an extraordinary accomplishment and I’d be stoked if that opportunity were to arise. But that isn’t my goal. It’s not what I strive for and it’s not what pulls me to my computer every single day.

And I don’t think that means that I’m not ambitious, or important or special, or that I’m somehow settling for mediocrity. It just means that my personal criteria for a big dream doesn’t require that I have money, power, or fame. And just because my goal isn’t to be a trillionaire or emperor of the world or whatever constitutes a “big dream” for the average person doesn’t mean that it won’t make me unimaginably fulfilled.

Like what about people whose ultimate dream is to be “just” a teacher? Or a stay-at-home parent? Or to marry the love of their life? Or to just be able to eat whatever the fuck they want without getting fat? None of those dreams are very scary, but if it makes someone as happy as they could possibly be, than I don’t think they can get any bigger.

So don’t dream shame me, bro. Because my dreams are the perfect fit for me, even if they aren’t big enough for you.