"This is just a hobby, right?" I remember my level-headed farmer grandpa demanding this question at my mom after watching me perform in my middle school spring play. I was Charlotte (from Charlotte's Web) and was giddy to have scored the lead as a 7th grader. (I was told I did a pretty good job.) "Yes, Dad. She's just doing this for fun. This isn't going to be her job" my mom quickly replied.
The ten years that followed -- through high school and college -- included hundreds of hours of dance competitions, voice competitions, auditions and performances for community musical theater productions, rehearsals and concerts, a few successful stints competing for the title of Miss California (I won the talent competition!) and rotating rounds of professional musical theater shows in Southern California.
But, no matter how much I loved the chase of performing, how hard I worked at my craft and how many legitimate and lucky spurts of success came my way (thanks to all that hard work), becoming an entertainer for a living was always out of the question. "It's too risky. You're always at someone's subjective mercy. You need to find a job that uses your brain," my parents would say. Which is why I majored in Communications instead of Musical Theater.
As a kid, it frustrated me. As a parent now, I get it. (Man, do I get it.) The thought of either of my daughters ever wanting to pursue a career in entertainment has me petrified. (And they're only 6 and 4!) But, I now realize that my parents' fears were only there because they didn't realize how much brainpower goes into making dreams reality... and how valuable that is for life's happiness.
The more we use our brains, the more likely dreams come true.
Given my personal trial-and-errors with dreams, chasing goals and my own reinvention, I now think I know how to handle this dream-thing when it comes to parenting my own daughters should they have big, lofty goals as they grow up.
The hard truths that I will tell my girls about making dreams come true:
1. Dreams will change. Ask how this former musical theater junkie ended up as a parenting lifestyle expert on Los Angeles and national television and I'll tell you: I allowed my dreams to change when my stages of life changed. Allow yourself to outgrow things if you feel like you're outgrowing them. Letting go of doing musical theater (when it didn't feel right anymore) paved the way to making other dreams come true -- dreams I didn't know I'd even have until I grew up and had babies of my own. Oh yeah, I should mention that the dreams that don't ever come true are often there in the first place to lead you to a dream you never even knew you had in the first place.
2. Dreams take brains. Many dreams won't come true -- which is why you must use your noggin' to constantly reinvent yourself, meet and cultivate valuable contacts, create your own outlets and opportunities and finagle new ways to keep moving forward and encourage opportunities to work in your favor. It all sounds so manipulative and shady, but it's not -- no un-clever person ever accomplished a dream. Stick to your values and morals, but also know you can't accomplish any kind of dream without problem-solving (with your brain!) in a most serious way. How am I going to pay rent while I chase this dream of mine? Figure it out, child. And, using your brain also includes saying yes to opportunities that might not seem so fabulous (like taking that job that requires you to wake up in the middle of night, just so you can get your foot in the door) to prove to others that you are dead serious about accomplishing bigger dreams in the long run.
3. Dreams will crush you. You will cry. You will give up. You will get mad. You will curse everyone who is seemingly buzzing along fine and dandy, checking off their own goals while you're grasping at meager bits of pieces and opportunities being spit your way. You'll wonder why the hell you're bothering with this stupid 'dream' of yours anymore. You'll give up for a while and then something will swing your way and suck you right back to square one, just to chase the same carrot all over again. Chasing a dream requires that your spirit not be broken, even when it looks like all doors have closed. After you're crushed by a slamming door, you're required to get back up, bounce forward and find another way in. Hey look, I think I can open that window... Fear not, child, this is all part of the package deal to become a card-carrying member of the "I Got My Dream" club.
4. Dreams are worth it. Sure, feeling the high of a longtime goal coming true before your eyes is exhilarating (I've never been so gleefully shaky as I was when I opened the advanced reader copies for my very first book). But, the process of chasing dreams is really what's worth it. You won't realize it until you're older and wiser, but it's true. To dream is to live. To have goals is to live. To chase them is to live. Stop having a dream or a goal... and you're no longer alive.
Kids need dreams. Moms need dreams. People need dreams. Whether or not they come true like we planned is irrelevant... and that's what makes chasing them so special.
Jill Simonian is a Parenting Lifestyle Contributor, appearing on CBS Los Angeles every Wednesday on News at 5pm and Friday mornings at 6:45am. Her personal blog is TheFabMom.com. Follow Jill on Twitter @jillsimonian and connect with her on Facebook.