I always had an insatiable imagination and wild ideas, which, initially, seemed profound and poetic. But in reality, these fantasies largely left me running in circles, in pursuit of one shiny thing after the next. (My daydreams are always shiny, aren’t yours?)
My musings always sculpted an exquisite fantasy that I could only rationalize was intended for reality.
Each grand idea, to me, always felt smart and right. Even when my peers raised their eyebrows at my delusions. Even when resistance subdued those convictions with rationale.
But still, I insisted, why pursue anything else when you can pursue your mind’s own idea of greatness?
My first year of grade school, I encountered my first imagination dictators, posing as logical boundaries and societal norms. Apparently I “ought to color in the lines!” And “fairies are not only imaginary, but they are also not proper candidates for house pets.”
While sure, I may have concluded the unlikelihood of fairy pets eventually, I still have no idea what the harm is with boundless coloring. (In fact, art, like many other things, I believe, flourish most beautifully without uniform, premeditated limits.)
The lines of my coloring books were just unsolicited advice, which, like most unsolicited advice, provoked my inner rebel-without-a-cause, who often revolted for no other reason than “you can’t tell me what to do!”
Years later, I crumbled under the inevitable college major selection, spending the first year labeled “undecided” (a persistent theme in my life). After finally declaring, I proceeded to change my discipline four times before I settled, in my fifth year, to just graduate with whatever the heck I was studying at the time.
I despised having to choose one major that I’d have to commit to in sickness and health, for better or worse, til death do us part. Because I had so many interests in EVERYTHING.
Fashion, finance, art, marketing, writing, real estate, interior design, music, graphic design, EVERYTHING. Because, wow, life, right?! There’s so much to cover and it is all so thrilling!
I never quite had a plan. Just various daydreams, each of which, to me, were more complex entities than an ephemeral whimsy. They were something to learn, understand, pursue. They were a possibility. And despite my lofty goals, my plan was that there was no plan. I always felt that things would fall into place eventually and I’d simply go with the flow until then. And I would confidently explain my aspirations with this shameless ambiguity.
Obviously, this aloof life plan frightened the daylights out of my parents, who began campaigning to me the advantages of corporate ladders and 401k plans. But I was an incorrigible soul and no amount of persuasive reasoning or monetary bribery could seduce me to the corporate dream.
Reluctantly, however, I gave it a shot. So my parents dragged me, kicking and screaming to purchase my first full pantsuit so I could join the interview circuit with my peers.
The suit was an atrocity that swallowed up my feminine predisposition and then regurgitated it into the physical metaphor of the death of all my hopes and dreams.
I caught a glimpse of my reflection. I was unrecognizable. And then, teary-eyed and defeated, I spent the summer interviewing. It was awful.
By September, my anguish with the suit and all things corporate had escalated into full-scale rebellion.
And then I quit corporate before I got hired.
While many of my peers frolicked in the bliss of the formulaic “go to school, get good grades, get a good job with good benefits,” mantra, I made it through half of that step by step plan before my engines blew, leaving me on the side of a road to nowhere I wanted to go in the first place. So I detoured.
Though I wholeheartedly feel my detour was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, I will admit that my passionate persuasions were accompanied by a woefully scattered brain and a side of introverted soul-searching, which can be an inefficient and solitary way to live.
I remained aloof in my plans because most people just didn’t seem to understand me, and then, half the time, I didn’t even understand me. I was an anomaly, which was just a fancy way of saying weirdo. And it took me a while to reconcile this in a constructive way. I may very well be abnormal, but then, I quite enjoy abnormalities. They’re colorful. Abnormalities are the spice of life. And if you’re abnormal and proud, I already love you. (If you’re normal, I love you too of course.)
The anomalous mind, though unsettled and frenzied, is also a thrilling chaos, and you find amidst the disarray, once the dust has settled, there is clarity and direction. And though I am still burdened with moments of unclarity and, frequently, total blindness, as soon as I found my direction, I knew there was no turning back.
Now, I will confess, I am a starry-eyed 20-something and still recklessly naive. Possibly even stupid. Nothing I am stating is standard or fact, just a compilation of my own musings and experiences. So I ask that you please keep my above allegory within its autobiographical, subjective context.
If you have a great job and corporate is your forte, then you go girl/boy. I admire you. And you are working that pantsuit. And if corporate ladders are your daydream, then you keep climbing because that is your stuff of life. I absolutely advocate corporate for those whom it impassions.
My point is not to condemn one lifestyle for another, but rather to condemn the one-size-fits-all recipe for success. My point is not to castigate reality, but to mold it according to a subjective, personal narrative.
Success is purely and inherently relative. And though I find myself on the “follow your dreams” end of the spectrum, I don’t find that persuasion guiltless either.
So I’m going to even the playing field because I hate double standards.
Though the most commonly condemned societal norm stands on a soapbox of “realistic,” “secure” corporate ideals, it is unfair to pardon the equally liable other side of the same coin. Another sermonic, trendy key to success: to live irrationally passionate according to some divinely endowed creative talent, for richer or poorer, because passion is the key to happiness.
As quixotic and romantic as this mantra masks itself to be, under this school of thought, many are led to believe that they have no divine purpose, passion or creative talent, because their stick figures hold no candle against the modern Monet and their shower concerts don’t quite measure up to Michael. —When in reality, their creative genius simply takes another form.
The world so often pigeonholes creative passions to be blatantly artistic, when, in fact, we are all artists, painting with different mediums upon different canvases. There can be corporate creativity and fulfillment as much as there is artistic. Left brained people are as functional to creative genius and passionate fulfillment as right-brained. Law and medicine are as passionately founded as art and music. One end of the spectrum is a means to sustain life while the other is what makes us come alive. Both are equally necessary.
Furthermore, it is unfair to assume that passionate living is only accomplished by those who achieve artistically passionate careers. If your daydreams take shape in craft, hobby, relationship, part-time, or otherwise, you are not only entitled, but also responsible to take pride in that version of creative and passionate genius.
I am not negating either mantra. I only wish to shift their message, from blanket, black or white classifications, to infinite shades of gray. From a uniform recipe to an intuitive ideal left to subjective interpretation.
What’s your daydream?
Also published on Medium.