the (dis)enchantment of childhood dreams

I wonder if it’s easier to either grow up never having any idea what you want to be when you’re
older, or to know exactly what you want to be, with no certainty that it’ll
ever become your reality. 

We grew up on Disney and Happy Endings and Adults telling us
that we could be anything we wanted to be when we were older, and that you can
achieve anything if you put your mind to it. So we grew up with dreams of wanting to
be superheroes, adventurers, princesses and all kinds of crazy things.

A few years later, we compromised a little with wanting to
be superheroes/adventurers/princesses in the real world, like wanting to be
doctors, soldiers, astronomers, pop stars, actresses, teachers etc. 
Then, with a few more
years, some people pursued those dreams, whilst others chose to let go of them and
found other paths that might not necessarily sound like a fairy tale but could
be just as rewarding.

But now we are older, growing up in the modern world of the twenty-first
century, in a society that idolises fame and celebrity status.
Through social media, we are exposed to the luxury lifestyles of celebrities
and socialites. We’re exposed to an entirely different way of living, but we
forget that these people also eat and sleep and shower naked and have lazy ugly
days with their families and friends too, because they are in fact human also. Shocker.

Through media/social networking we are only exposed to what the
people we follow choose to reveal,
which are usually only snapshots of the more attractive parts of their lives. What
fraction of our lives do we actually
share with the people around us, and how realistic is that fraction as a
perception of our lives? We might then idolise the surface of an icon’s
lifestyle, without knowing the realities and complexities of its interior, and
vice versa; we might know very little about somebody’s ambitious, tedious
struggle into finding their success which could easily be overlooked. The media
might describe somebody to have “exploded” into the world of fame or success,
turning a blind eye to the climb that they endured until their ship finally came
in ten years later, but I wonder what the defining 
moment for someone in that
position is, when they can finally think to themselves,
‘I did it’.

The problem with this  exposure to fame and money-making
success is that it paints a picture of an alternative lifestyle; a certain expectation
of living that we might aspire to obtain. We’ve been conditioned to believe in
this westernised concept of ‘pursuing a dream’ where anything is possible, and feeling the need to have a purpose, to
feel like our lives made a difference and meant something to others. How else
can we locate ourselves as individuals in the bigger picture, how do we find
our places in this world?

It’s like we have to
have a big, fantastical, cheesy dream, otherwise we’re just - god forbid -
‘normal’, but what’s so bad about being ‘normal’? What even is normal now?

It’s all well and good to tell a beaming child with a
sparkle in their innocent eyes that they can be anything they want, when
they’re all tucked up in bed one cosy evening, in the safety of their beds when
they don’t yet need a future plan, when money isn’t an object, when nothing’s
overthought and everything seems within their parents’ reach if not their own.
It’s important to encourage that mindset, but what about when the reality of
adulthood hits? It’s not all pats on the backs and open arms then. Nobody
prepares you for the confusion of numerous signposts blaring in front of you,
pointing you in different directions with different consequences of
practicality versus satisfaction. No one prepares you for the knockbacks until
you experience the struggle of rejection/obstruction first hand, or the cold
words of criticism coming from people who have the power to make your dreams
come true, who also have the power to wear them down into a dwindling flame
until you feel the only option you haven’t tried is giving up and stamping it
out completely, before reluctantly returning to safety, where the people you
wanted to prove wrong await open armed, biting down on their lip to refrain from
expressing their smug ‘I told you so’s.

If you’re reading this with a dream in mind that you are
trying to pursue, then I hope this is all quite relatable. If you’re not, then
I hope I can explain to you why it’s not as easy as it seems to think you know what you
want to do with your life; it can be detrimental.

Some dreams might be more realistic than others, and they can
literally be anything, to have a family of one’s own, for example. I for one
speak on behalf of those pursuing dreams in creative industries, who constantly
have people telling them what a competitive industry it is to break into, how
difficult the people are to work with, how unstable it is as a career path, how
financially unreliable it is, how cutthroat the environment is, how it might
take years to reach your big break… as if
we haven’t already heard this so many times before.

The issue with people trying to dissuade us like that, is
that as helpful and concerned as they mean to be, it seems to dismiss the fact
that people do in fact find success in these areas: we hear them on the radio,
we see their books on bookshop shelves, their films in cinemas, their performances
on stage, their art in exhibitions, etc. Yes, it’s a select few, but someone had to make it, and the
competition will only filter out the weaker from the stronger; it’s down to the
survival of the fittest (the fittest being those who are talented and
relentlessly ambitious).

The hard part is the fact that so many of the people we look
up to nowadays in the world of fame are really quite young; some people worked
super hard, some of those people also had helpful circumstances in the form of
useful contacts, wealthy parents who were willing to up and move their entire
lives to a location where their child’s dreams were more realistically
achievable, some people got a streak of luck, some people had to work for all of
it, with the classic rags to riches

It is their fame and success so early in their lives that
puts pressure on the rest of us. We look up to these people (some of whom are
our own age, maybe even younger) who have achieved the things that we hope to
achieve, and it makes us feel somewhat insignificant. We know what we want but
how do we get there, and where do we begin? It constantly feels like the sand
of time is trickling between our fingers. Is
it too late to start? Shouldn’t we be there by now?

The answer is no, but we can’t help but feel the pressure of always feeling like
we need to be productive in something related to our ambition so that we’re
always stepping closer, because god forbid we might make a decision that
consequentially closes a door that we don’t think we can ever open again. No wonder we hate having to make decisions
regarding our futures.

I recently rediscovered the word ‘disenchanted’ whilst
reading a book and saw it in a different light, admiring the somewhat bittersweet
link between a word and its meaning. Lame, I know, but I am a fan of words, I’m
an English student after all.

The Google definitions of its antonym, ‘enchanted’, are as

1) To fill (someone) with great delight; charm.

2) To put (someone or something) under a spell.

That second, somewhat poetic definition stuck with me, the
idea of being ‘under a spell’. I feel like the word ‘enchanted’ is the most
appropriate word to describe the secure bubble feeling of what it feels like to
grow up with a dream that you think about so much that it almost becomes an
obsession. It encapsulates that magical, euphoric feeling that comes along with
the perception of happiness that could be obtained by achieving something that
we want so much.

It almost seems two-dimensional: that you’ve either achieved
it or you haven’t yet; it’s all or nothing.

That’s the difficult part. There’s a lot that people don’t
tell you when you’re young; you won’t understand the realities. That’s when the
disenchantment comes in, and it
filters into life in different forms. As I grew up I soon learned not to
idolise ‘Adults’ so much just because they’re older, because I’m 19 now, a ‘legal
adult’ (although I refuse to admit it), and I wouldn’t say that I notice
anything different in the way I think compared to how I did four years ago, other
than having developed a more mature, informed perspective that comes naturally
with age, but I’m still the same person with faults and doubts; a flick never switched in my head to 'adulthood'. I also learnt
from my trip to California last year (somewhere I’d wanted to visit for so
long) that some dreams, or destinations, don’t provide those epiphany-like answers
to your life the way you thought they might. We might discover that we have to
keep going a little further, step by step.

When we’re young, a dream can be our most effective source
of armour. It doesn’t matter what bad things happen in a day, what hurtful
words people might throw at you in the hallways at school, how uninspiring your
environment might feel, what bad news you received that evening. None of it
seems to matter too much because one day, you’re going to be somewhere
completely different, pursuing your dream that will bring you ultimate,
absolute happiness. My best friend phrased it in a really suitable way; at
school you keep your dreams safe in your
back pocket
, as she put it. Then suddenly, you leave school and you’re
thrown into the vast ocean of adulthood, the make-or-break melting pot of
broken dreams in faded colours washed out by reality, the competitive rat race where
everyone’s after their prize. It can be quite derailing; I’d be lying if I said
I hadn’t been familiar with the feeling at times this year, when I moved to
London for university and I felt like a small fish in an extremely big pond.  

It’s okay when your dream is your shield to deflect
negativity, like an umbrella in the rain, but what about when the tables turn
and your instinctive need to pursue your dream becomes your Achilles heel? What
if things don’t work out, or the one thing blocking your way isn’t within your
power to control or change? What if it’s not what you thought it would be?
Where does the rainbow end? Will you ever find happiness & fulfilment with
a ‘normal’ life?

If somebody asked me now what my dream was, I would say to
publish a book, firstly. Then, ideally, I’d write the screenplay of that book
and then have creative control in seeing it get made into a moving film (hence
my decision to study English Literature with Film, if anyone asks). To see my
name as the writer when the end credits roll would give me that defining
moment, to have had the opportunity to make the story jump from the page into
the visual, to share with the world what my imagination’s creation looks like to
me, and see how it moves other people. If I ever
got to achieve that, I’d like to think that I’d still have plenty more dreams
under my wing to keep me inspired/ aspiring.

I’ve been writing stories since as early as I can remember,
making fake ‘books’ out of folded up pieces of paper that I would cover with
Sellotape to give it that same glossy sheen as a real life published book, with
some pathetically pitiful little ‘illustrations’ along the way. Despite being a
pen pal with a children’s author from the age of seven, I never thought of
being a story teller as realistic until I was about sixteen, when I realised
that whether I pursued it as a career or not, I just needed to write. It’s what gives me that buzz that I need, and it
helps me understand the world around me. 
I’ve been writing
incessantly ever since.

I always hear people saying how little pay there is in
writing for children and young adults, unless of course you’re J.K Rowling, the
first author to achieve billionaire status (in dollars, claims Forbes) through
her craft, and there’s that whole issue of having a day job to fund your life
while you try to write a bestselling novel which you might never actually
finish. So the idea of being a writer was kind of more of a whimsical wish that
I soon dropped into the bin during my young adolescence as I perused through
various other ideas like being an astronomer, a paramedic, an army/police
officer, which all sounded exciting to me at the time, but then I realised that
I didn’t really enjoy the repetitiveness of GCSE physics because I wasn’t
really enjoying learning about forces I couldn’t see and therefore couldn’t
understand, which shattered my expectation that I’d be learning about what
stars I could see in the sky from my garden and why some stars don’t twinkle (I
know that now, they’re planets, just FYI). So all these ideas would come to me
with a rush of adrenaline and enthusiasm like a new phase as I’d spend hours
googling the ins and outs of a job description and what routes would lead me
there. I remember being at a law firm for my year ten work experience sat alone
at a desk with an entire afternoon to spare because I’d done all the tasks they
wanted me to do, and whilst I enjoyed the week, I decided that I really didn’t
want to be a lawyer; the books were too big and I disliked the environment of
all these people isolated in their own little desk space emailing the person
across from them instead of just talking to each other. It baffled me.

So instead, I spent that afternoon browsing ideas of
something else I was really passionate about, other than writing: music. Yet
another unpredictable industry. Well
chosen, Lauren
. Why couldn’t I just be really good at something like maths,
or something more ‘practical’, and really
enjoy it?  

So that afternoon, I googled the record labels that worked
with some of my favourite artists and bands, and looked at any staff pages and
read up on how they got to their positions. I finally concluded that my
favourite description was to be a talent scout/manager, so I googled more and
more questions and significant people in the music industry, taking everything
in like a sponge. That was it, I had my whole future planned within an hour on
google, and just like that I was suddenly ecstatic for a future of working
alongside the next big things on the radio. I may have dipped in and out of other ideas, but four years on, I still haven’t
ruled out that idea.

But no matter what ideas I get, I always ultimately seem to return to
writing. Maybe I can work in the music industry as my day job and publish some
books along the side, who knows? After all, as my guide in the Paramount
Pictures studio tour advised me, I don’t have to work in the film industry to
build a reputation as a writer that could lead to screenwriting, so I’m keeping
my doors open, and there’s plenty of time, contrary to belief.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my first year of university
contemplating my next moves (I have an annoying habit of always thinking ahead,
if it’s not already obvious) and I’ve figured that I’m just going to try it all
and give it my best shot anyway, because no matter how many people try to steer
me towards the safer options, I need to know that I took my chances and gave it
all I had, and maybe I’ll get there eventually. 

My dream’s a little different
to what it was a few years ago, perhaps a little more realistic, but still
something exciting to pursue nonetheless, and I hope that if you’re reading
this with a particular ambition in mind, you’ll at least give it a shot
and whatever the outcome, you know that you at least tried. Who knows where it’ll take you? You might just make it.