Friday, January 14, 2011

Impossible Dreams

I can't be the only one who does this.

When I was about nine years old I got it into my head that I wanted to build a robot. Never mind the fact that science was never my strongest subject and I didn't know the first thing about robotics. I'd build a small radio for a school project (with lots of parental assistance) and I had been reading a book about a kid my age making a robot. So, if this fictional boy could do it, why not me?

I had a foolproof plan that involved collecting lots of mechanical-looking parts and reading my dad's collection of science books from the sixties. My robot was going to be awesome. He was going to talk and move around and have lots of different flashing lights. I read the book on electricity first, because it seemed like the best place to start. By the time I got to the book on biology, things started looking a little, well, impossible. I don't know exactly what I expected to find. Maybe a recipe for making a robot. Something as clear as a recipe for banana bread. Add this, and this, and this, bake for a while, and presto! Robot!

I gave up.

If you think I outgrew this particular quixotic tendency... you would be wrong. It happened over and over again. I was going to sew myself an entire wardrobe of highly fashionable clothing. I was going to learn to speak elvish. Meet and learn something about every single person on campus. Whatever the goal was, I threw myself into it with relentless enthusiasm.

Then came the inevitable backlash. The moment when I realized that whatever I was working toward was either a) too difficult for me, or b) probably not worth the effort. Months later someone would ask me how I was doing with my goal and I would mumble incoherently and walk away.

Those were the little goals. Bigger goals I tend to stubbornly stick with, but, as of yet, I'm still not sure if they fall into the category of "impossible." How do you know? How do you know if the thing you're trying to accomplish is truly impossible, or just really, really, really hard? I had one teacher who insisted that if we want something, then we can make it happen. It's just a matter of trying hard enough. I don't think I believe that. I believe that even if you want something with all your heart and work as hard as you can to achieve it, you still might not. Dreams die and hopes are crushed. The world is bigger than us and it does not always conform to our whims.

Sometimes at the studio we have to give a certain speech. A student will announce their desire to be a prima ballerina, or express a dream to make dance their career. We have to tell them how impractical this is. We have to explain exactly how difficult dance is - that it is probably the most difficult and impractical career they could choose. They probably won't make it. They'll wait tables through their twenties until they realize they have no money set aside for retirement and decide to do something profitable. Or, they might get injured right off the bat and find themselves with no college degree in a merciless economy. Even if they do get into a top tier company, money will always be tight. Relationships will always be hard. Most of the world will have no understanding of what you do. Anyone with an ounce of practicality should do something else. Anything else.

But, sometimes you can't. Sometimes you don't care. Sometimes you go for it anyways. And, you probably will fail. But, something makes you try. It is more than the complete and utter love for what you are trying to do. It is because there is a 0.000001 percent chance that you'll succeed, and you know that is enough.

Because you know no dream is impossible.

Thanks for reading!

Reader's log:
4. Graceling - Kristin Cashore

Currently listening:
Byzantium Underground - Jesse Cook


  1. Hope is a powerful thing. There would be nothing achieved without it! I say, keep trying in whatever is. Every success and failure has its valuable lessons.

  2. Kristin Cashore! We must have similar taste in books :)

    I think even if I really really really wanted to be a sumo wrestler or teach ants to sing, it wouldn't work out.

  3. Lydia - Very true. Where would we be without hope?

    Lisa - Actually, I think it was your husband who suggested Kristin Cashore. If anyone could figure out how to teach ants to sing, I have a feeling it would be you. ;)