A few years ago, at a local dive, I ran into a few girls I went to middle school with. One of them was a local actress. We spoke about our artistic pursuits. Both of us, about 22 at the time, had reached some sort of slump. Acting was such a tough business to break into that she finally decided to enroll in a local state college to study psychology.
A few nights ago, I watched from my living room as she performed on the Tony Awards. Not long after our meeting, she got her big break when the producers of Hairspray needed to replace the headliner Nicky Blonsky. She was perfect for the lead and since Hairspray, she has continued to go on to bigger and better things.
The worst thing you can ever do is give up, especially if you are bluffing and intend to eventually go back to what you started. As a writer and artist, I received many rejection letters over the years. After I got rejected from MFA programs, I was so discouraged that I stopped writing for six months. The road had been bumpy even before the subsequent MFA rejections started to come in. Before finishing my undergraduate degree, I began asking my professors to write me letters of recommendation. When I asked one of my professors, one that I respected the most, for a recommendation for MFA programs, he laughed in my face. I told him that I wanted to be a professor. He told me not to bother and to “just go teach elemetary school or something.”
I was beyond insulted. I never did get my MFA but it wouldn’t stop me from writing or even teaching. I have always known in my mind what I was capable of accomplishing. Oftentimes our goals and dreams can be considered lofty, especially when other people give us their opinion about them.
One of my favorite examples of this scenario is Susan Boyle’s first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. When she walked on stage, the audience immediately laughed at her. Then Simon Cowell asked her what her dream was. She replied, “I want to be a professional singer.” Not only did she want to be a professional singer, but she goes on to say she wants to be as successful as the famous West End star, Elaine Paige. With that disclosure Susan had the audience really balking.
We all have great aspirations; many of them never even leave the realm our of imaginitaions. Think for a moment of what your most lofty and exciting goal, a goal that you would catagorize as most impossible. Now why do you think it’s impossible? Have others discouraged and shot your dream down? Maybe others weren’t even a factor, and you were able to discourage and deflate your dream all on your own. Despite people saying that I can’t or shouldn’t complete my goals, or that they couldn’t picture me doing so, I have ignored them.
When I picture my dream in my mind, the ultimate picture of myself appears at the end of a long tunnel. Maybe the tunnel is real, after all, the distance between myself and my goal does exist, as I have not yet reached it. But the point is, regardless of distance and the work I will put into getting there, I can still see it, and if I can see it I know it is possible. What a cruel joke it would be- for the universe to give you the free will and imagination to dream these dreams yet no way to accomplish them.
When Simon asks Susan why she hasn’t accomplished her goal of becoming a professional singer, she replies, “I haven’t been given a chance before, but here’s hoping it will change.”
Perhaps Susan had “never been given the chance before.” It is also possible that she tried and failed a few times along the way, not finding the right chance. Regardless, Susan did not get her big break until she was 47 years old.
I know people in their thirties who have shelved their dreams citing they are “too old.” What if Susan did that too? She was almost fifty with a body to match aiming for a career in a business that typically favored the young and beautiful. Why didn’t Susan give up? Since I have never met or spoken with Susan Boyle, I can only speculate. I think that since she was a child, she held the image of this dream version of herself, Susan the professional songstress, in her mind.
When we give up on something important to us, a dream, a person, a venture, it does not always let us. It haunts us. It won’t let us forget this thing we held so close to our heart. The only thing we can do at this point is keep trying or block it our of our mind completely. When we choose to block it out of our mind completely, the image of perfection and what could’ve been no longer exists. No image exists, really. Susan Boyle always kept her goal in the back of her mind and never gave up on it completely. She never let go of that image, and each year, she got closer and closer to her goal until finally she came out on the other side of the tunnel, and stunned the world with her rendition of, “I Dreamed a Dream.”