Some Boring, Practical Advice on Pursuing Your Wild, Impractical Dreams
Recently I had a chat with a good friend of mine about goals and so forth, and later it occurred to me that I’d failed to say a few really important things—or, well, things that have been important in my own journey, anyway.
They’re things other people have said to me, mostly, though a couple are insights I gleaned by osmosis growing up. They’re things I need to hear too, from time to time, in order to help keep myself on track. I’m writing them down here, where I can always find them if I need them.
Here they are:
1.Identify your actual Wild, Impractical Dream.
This is harder than it sounds. It took me a long time (though it wouldn’t have taken anywhere near as long if I’d just listened to the voice inside me screaming, “GET BACK TO DANCING FFS”).
First, not everyone actually has a wild, impractical dream of this kind: and that’s okay. Honestly, there’s a lot to be said for practicality and reliability, neither of which which are associated with being the kind of lunatic who goes off in pursuit of a Wild, Impractical Dream.
Second, the kind of Wild, Impractical Dream I’m writing about rarely involves the word “and.” It’s an all-in kind of gig: I want to dance for a regional ballet company, not I want to dance for a regional ballet company and ride my way to the top of the FEI stadium jumping circuit.
Occasionally, someone manages a spectacular “and.” Usually, if you look into it, it owes either to truly extraordinary circumstances or happens largely by chance and involves related dreams (dance and musical theater, for example, or visual arts and fashion, or architecture and mathematics).
Usually, though, pursuing a Wild, Impractical Dream requires singularity of focus (not least because tunnel vision helps you ignore naysayers).
Basically, when you discover the thing that makes you willing to put everything else aside, you’ve probably found it.
If the thing is coding or massage therapy, congratulations: you’ve got a Wild, Practical dream. You can still read the rest of this if you want, though. I’m pretty sure that, when it comes down to it, the same basic advice applies.
2. If the phrase “…be (a) famous…” is part of your dream, consider reassessing your goals.
I say this not because any one individual is wildly unlikely to become famous, but because if being famous is part of the motivation, you might actually be barking up the wrong tree.
The passion for the thing, whatever it is—dancing, writing, rotary engines, differential calculus—has to come first.
Otherwise, you’re very probably not going to be motivated enough to stand a snowball’s chance of sticking with it long enough to become mediocre, let alone famous. Wild, Impractical Dreams are harsh mistresses.
If, on the other hand, fame itself is the real Wild, Impractical Dream, own that.
The history of the world is rich with the stories of people who thought, “Man, I’m really not good at anything, but I want to be famous.” The ones who succeed are the ones who acknowledge that fact and dedicate themselves to taking any and every path that might lead to fame until, eventually, one does.
Oddly enough, that’s essentially the same approach that one takes in pursuing any Wild, Impractical Dream.
3. Take Any and Every Path As Long As You Do So With Focus
Maybe ballet is your One True Dream, but in the course of pursuing your Wild, Impractical Ballet Dream, you get an offer from a modern company.
If that’s the thing that’s going to let you keep dancing, take it. Be a good Buddhist and avoid clinging to perceptions and phenomena. Maybe ballet feels like the only thing, but sometimes serendipity leads us via scenic byways. Sometimes modern is the way to ballet—and sometimes, on the way to ballet via modern, you discover you were born for the weird and wonderful world of contemporary ballet.
Just learn to discern between scenic byways and “shortcuts” that leave you in Poughkeepsie. And know that sometimes you might get stuck in traffic for a bit.
4. Stand Up for Your Dream
This might be the hardest one.
A Wild, Impractical Dream is Wild and Impractical at least in part because people don’t “get it.” It might be ahead of its time. It might be way outside of the predominant cultural framework where (and/or when) you are. People might think you’re too young, too old, too black, too white, too poor, too mentally ill, too fat, too skinny, too disabled, too whatever.
Any good Wild, Impractical dream is one you’ll probably have to defend at least once. This requires you to believe not only in your dream, but in yourself—or at least to act like you do.
The funny thing is that by acting as if we believe, we tend to come to believe: we stick around until things start to get real; so real that even we can’t deny it.
5. Accept Change Gracefully (if not Immediately)
Sometimes, in the midst of pursuing your Wild, Impractical Dream, life will intervene in profound and unexpected ways.
It’s okay to be upset when that happens. Feel the feelings. Have the meltdown, if a meltdown comes along.
The death of a dream is a very hard thing. Even the temporary side-lining or minor refitting of a dream can be hard.
But change is inevitable, and sometimes change knocks is off one course and puts us on another.
Fight with conviction for your Wild, Impractical Dream, knowing that in the end you might not get there. It’s worth doing anyway.
Posted on 2017/06/26, in adulting, adventures, ballet lessons, balllet, life and tagged advice, chase your dreams, maybe just one at a time though. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
These wild, impractical dreams have often one common name: Art.
Be it the unsuccessful jazz musicer (all good jazz musicer are unsuccessful), the painter in his tiny cheap room … driving taxi for a living to finance their art, somewhat.
I don’t tell it kissed by the muse – most time it’s kicked by the muse, a kind of mental illness. Healthy people become lawyers, oil workers or officers.
My mother is a painter – and I begin dreaming of creating dance pieces and start choreographing during dream times. Help!
PS: Good luck with your Inpractical wild dream.
Well said! And kicked by the Muse is exactly it! ^-^
I think most people get at least a little peck on the cheek from one Muse or another, but some of us have big, brawny muses that kick the living daylights out of us until we finally say, “Okay! Okay! I’ll do it! Calm down!” And then we do it, and do whatever else we must to keep ourselves alive so we can serve the Muse. We definitely have to really think about what we mean by “success.” I say I’m not ambitious: my primary goal is to make dancing pay for itself, so I would be content to land a corps position somewhere and just stay there being a permanent corps boy (in reality, the ballet companies around me are mostly small enough that even the corps dancers–especially the boys–get to do interesting variations, though, which is nice). But even to do that, there’s so much that goes by the wayside.
There’s this part of me that knows that I would drop everything and move to Outer Mongolia for a dance job (especially a ballet job), and I recognize that there’s a profound element of willingness to sacrifice so many things.
Last night, something I was reading got me thinking about this, although the stream of thought began with thinking about how magic works in a fantasy novel I’m (very slowly) writing. Like, the thoughts went, The key to all magic is sacrifice. Whether the magic is bright or dark depends on whether the sacrifice is freely given. And then I thought, Huh. That’s what I’m doing in ballet: willing sacrifice, freely given. I don’t know whether to consider D’s portion of the sacrifice freely given: I think he regards it as part and parcel of being married to a dancer, but I don’t know that if it were entirely up to him he’d choose that path.
Anyway, I would love to hear about your experience with creating dances in your head and dreaming of choreography … I’m with you, there. I have this entire 3-act ballet in my head, Simon Crane (the one I mention here now and then). I’ve written a libretto for it and everything; the dances are mostly there in my mind’s eye (some are still really sketches, but the basics are in place). I’ve even mostly managed to nail down the score at this point.
I keep telling people, “Now I just need about 50 dancers and maybe about a million dollars to make it happen.” (Though I could probably set it on a shoestring with 12, if I pare it down enough) 😀
I hope you’ll get to see your dances brought to life someday! The two small pieces I’ve put out have been great experiences, and I’m really looking forward to doing more of that kind of thing as well.
As for Simon Crane, I’m thinking about starting by trying to set the first dance from the second act as a standalone piece, maybe, for a festival or something. It’s long, though—set to Ravel’s “Bolero” (with allusions to Béjart’s masterpiece, of coures) so about 14 minutes give or take. That one I can definitely do with about 12 dancers, though more would be ideal. I know at least 6 who I could probably convince to take a crack at it and a studio space that I can rent fairly inexpensively (though I have yet to wander over and check out the floors; I can’t afford to destroy anyone’s legs). I’m not focusing on that, really, until I get through summer intensives though.
I’m somehow not surprised that your mother is also kicked by the Muse! It’s funny—this stuff must run in families. My Mom was a corporate exec for an entire career spanning more than 30 years, then took early retirement so should could design gardens. Her medium is trees and shrubs and wild effusions of peonies and little divertimienti of Japanese roofing irises.
May your wild, impractical come true, too!