An open letter to all of the realists in the world
My six-year-old self dreamt of holding my own laser gun. Being in charge of each electronic beep, sporting that red polo top and khaki combo, manning my own station marked with the illuminated number three. Oh yes, I had my heart set on being a Target cashier for the rest of my life (ask my parents or any of first grade friends).
At the time, I just wanted to be sophisticated enough to be the one behind the counter. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I always went to Target with my mom so, naturally, the employees held some sort of authority to me. I didn’t know about careers, where Target employees fit into society or social class, there was just something grandiose about them.
Their job looked fun to me, talking to people, punching buttons, deciphering fuzzy, walkie-talkie code. That was a big ol’ dream of mine but as my knowledge grew to build curiosity, passions and elaborate inventions in my head, I can only look back on my Target days, laugh and hold onto that innocence that once was. I am the farthest thing from being a realist.
As soon as the high school grad cap flew up to meet the “class of 2014” confetti, the questions began. “So once you graduate college, what do you want to do? Where do you want to end up? What’s your dream?” Well, I’ll start by saying that I am a dance major and you’re a dance major because you love the art… if you’re in it for the money then you’re in the wrong field. Being a professional dancer is, no doubt, a dream of mine, and a well achievable one too, but many have put up a fight saying that I’m dreaming just a little too big for as little pocket change as I’ll have to spare.
I fantasize under the values and words my parents have instilled in me, things like “you can do whatever you want” so, thinking easily, practically has never been at the forefront of my mind. Only this year, I have exchanged more “hi my name’s Camryn”s with people who base their future off of the easy, simply to make a secure living, which is a great thing don’t get me wrong. Having enough money to support myself and any other loved ones is a necessity to me and a lot of people, but money lies within any job and to many students here, any job will suffice.
I can hear through some of my peers’ voices when they talk about their future, that they are losing or have lost the spark responsible for their big ambitions and self-expectations. As if college has almost become too big of a reality check that big aspirations are minimized to silly ridiculousness. This is where I think institution dilutes drive and excitement.
If you have to have a job, you might as well be spending your time doing something that keeps you awake at night, something that gets you excited and makes you a little bit scared. One of my greatest fears is being bored with my job, stuck in a grey, mundane, drab cycle of persuading myself that I am having fun. Why waste my time, money and energy doing something I only like when I know there is something out there I love? I get that at some point you have to look at things and time with a broad perspective, with reality in mind. But who says you should stop dreaming about that one really outrageous idea you had when you were seven, that still interweaves throughout the back of your mind 15 years later? What I’ve noticed in college students is how they enter school with these massive visions and objectives of what they want to do with their life but as more classes, midterms and mind-blowing lectures take place, those dreams fade. Those big dreams squashed by textbook language and replaced with a universal formula for success.
One of my dance professors from freshman year, Holly Johnston, said it best and I’ve never forgotten it since. She said, “Here at institution, we give you these textbooks. And in these textbooks there are a bunch of badass rule breakers that have made and left their mark on history. Yet here at institution, the majority of professors tell you to do these specific things and follow these guidelines and, if you should follow them, you’ll be successful and maybe end up in a textbook. The problem is that the greats and legends in these textbooks didn’t get there because they abided by what others told them to do, actually, quite the contrary.” The best thing I’ve heard at Chapman.
It’s to be brave with a vision and to believe in yourself. I’m tired of students setting lower expectations for themselves once they get into college because dreams may seem to extraordinary. College should be the place that saturates. The three hundred reality checks I’ve experienced are never the pleasant kind but I keep at what interests me and sometimes that means going against the grain of your professor’s syllabus. Being able to find a balance of listening, learning and applying has been one of the greatest tasks I’ve had to figure out. How much should I listen, how much should I disregard, to what extent I am allowed to dream. Ask questions, advocate for your vision. What’s important is not your professor’s vision for you, not Chapman’s vision for you.
Thinking realistically and being a realist takes on two different meanings to me. To think realistically is to be smart with one’s decisions yet to be a realist, one chooses to only consider what is attainable, what seems within reach, what is most efficient. It almost feels contradictory to think realistically while trying to keep myself on track with what gets me excited. I’m tired of students being unconsciously coaxed out of their big dreams simply because those “big dreams” are not something you can get right out of college.
I love college and am a big fan of what I’ve gained from three years here, I just want my peers to be as excited about their future as I am about mine. Try and tell me that dreams are only the things that happen when you sleep when I’m watching one of mine unfold before my eyes. I don’t believe in what could be real… anything could be real it just has to happen to you or it’s your job to make it your reality.