Dreamers—the people who have pages upon pages in their journals filled with their hopes and visions for their life. All the places you’ll travel. What you’ll do for a living. How you’ll change the world. What your future spouse will be like. The adventures you’ll go on together.
What happens when you have all those dreams but your present life doesn’t add up to what you’d hoped? The process feels slow, doors have shut and you’re not quite sure where to go next. You question if it was silly to ever dream in the first place or why things seem to be working out for everyone else while you seem to be getting nowhere.
Two years ago in the spring, I found myself living in the beautiful and inspiring city of Los Angeles, working in my dream internship. I was writing, creating and thriving—riding the metro into the office downtown each weekday and working in a bright office filled with inspiring women, spending my weekends hiking and hanging at the beach.
More and more, I was constantly inspired by the city and the work I was involved in. While my plans of staying after my internship didn’t quite work out, I graduated college that summer with a feeling that all my dreams were within reach.
Two years later, I secured and lost my dream job, started over in a new city and now am searching for what is next. As an almost 25-year-old, my life doesn’t quite look like the vision that fills my own journal pages—in love, married, surrounded by friends and working in a world-changing job.
There are moments when my heart aches for the ways in which my story hasn’t lined up with my hopes. With all of the pressure to reach certain milestones at a certain age and the added confusion and comparison when you throw social media into the mix, it’s easy to lose hope.
If all of this sounds familiar, then I encourage you to begin to embrace it. It’s essential to your health and mental well-being to learn how to carry these hopes while remaining content wherever you are.
Gratitude seems like a simple concept, right? There’s so much you and I have to be grateful for. Yet, in the midst of longing for the life you dreamed of, gratitude tends to take a backseat.
Gratitude is powerful, and it will truly transform your journey. It lightens the burden of not-yet-realized dreams and can significantly improve your mental health in the process. You’re not married yet, but you have friends and family surrounding you with love. You didn’t get the dream job, but you have a job and a way to take care of yourself. There’s always something to be grateful for in the present moment if you choose to look for it.
Focus on Your Growth
Growth is a beautiful pursuit. Yet in my experience, it’s not always at the forefront of our minds when the dream is all we can focus on. You want what you want. I get it. You hold your dreams closely and have a vision of the happiness they’ll bring you.
What if you were told that the thing you were hoping for wouldn’t be realized for another five years? Don’t spend all that time daydreaming about what will be or perhaps so stuck in mourning for what is not happening right this second that your health, your work, your relationships, and your routines suffer. There is too much to lose and miss out on while you’re obsessed with what is not happening.
If you’re disappointed in the progress you’ve made (or lack thereof) toward the place you want to be, know that making progress in character is equally as important. As the saying goes, “Bloom where you are planted.” Set some small goals, such as eating more wholly and moving your body more.
Listen to educational or self-help podcasts, read books, take up the practice of journaling and processing your emotions in healthy ways. Allow yourself time, room to rest. Focus a little less on where you want to be, and a little more on who you are becoming along the way.
Hold Your Plans Loosely
Probably not the advice you wanted to hear, huh? As someone who can be pretty stubborn, it certainly took awhile for me to warm up to this idea. Yet, as I began to choose contentment more and more, I became less concerned with where I was going and genuinely just happy with where I was. It’s healthy to accept the fact that dreams won’t always happen in the way or the timing you think they will. Be open to different plans, places and people. Be open to being surprised with where life leads you.
You’re allowed to be hopeful in the waiting. Don’t forget to embrace the current season you’re in as an equally important part of your story.