|San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, May 2014|
"Children see magic because they look for it." -Christopher Moore
I wouldn't say I was a dreamer when I was a child, but I certainly had dreams. I wanted to be the first woman in the NHL, I wanted to be a celebrity like Britney Spears, I wanted to have a farm with twenty horses. None of these dreams came true, but that isn't really the point is it?
I often made mental notes to myself through my observations of and interactions with adults as to how I wanted to act or ways I never wanted to be. I remember looking up at people, three-foot-Heddie with chubby cheeks and blue eyes and being annoyed that these 'grown-ups' wouldn't take me seriously. I always wanted to be seen as an equal, which is why I suppose, I always wanted to grow-up faster. I remember my father telling us countless times, "enjoy your childhood, it will be over before you know it." Back then it seemed like it would. Time seemed to pass so slowly. I remember thinking in Grade 3 that I would never graduate from Grade 8, just because childhood was all I knew and time seemed to be infinitely abundant. But of course, my father was right. Once I turned 14 it seemed like time jumped into warp-speed and the last ten years have been a flash before my eyes.
|Catching my first big fish, Dad and I, Otty Lake 1994|
If I could take two lessons from my childhood they would be, live in the moment and never stop dreaming.
One of my goals for the past 8 months has been to 'live in the moment'. Once life went into warp-speed, I dedicated the majority of my time and energy working for the future. In high school I worked to get into a good university. Once accepted to that 'good' university, I worked harder than I ever have in my life to stay competitive with my classmates, get a good GPA and plant the seeds of a successful career. Once I graduated from that 'good' university I dedicated all my time to finding a job in my field, worried that if I didn't find something almost immediately it would be too late, and the last 8 years would have been wasted. All of my actions were focused on getting to the next step, something that I think is culturally reinforced. I remember thinking so many times, "If I can just get there, then, and only then, I will be happy" and I can't tell you the number of times I have heard some version of this from my friends, family and classmates. I finally realized a few months ago that the future will always be in the future, and that if I don't start living in the moment, I will never be happy.
Since arriving in Costa Rica, for the first time since life went into warp-speed, I haven't focused on my future at all. I am present. I cooked when I want to cook, I read because I am thirsty for knowledge, not because I have to memorize the political arguments of 50 different authors. I occasionally sleep in my hammock in the afternoons. I sit with sadness if I need to, but mostly I enjoy. I enjoy my company, I enjoy the company of others, I enjoy the birds singing and the challenges of learning a new language.
However this "living in the moment" has created an interesting dynamic for me. I have forgotten how to dream.
A few weeks ago I started the process of seriously looking into graduate programs. There are two that absolutely reflect what I want to study and would give me the tools and the skill set I need to have a successful career in my field. However, they are both extremely competitive, expensive and require an interdisciplinary skill set, that would require me to take courses in the sciences before applying. I felt defeated. This would be a lot of work. Maybe I could continue looking for another program...
I stopped myself in this negatively-swirling thought process a couple of days later. When did I stop dreaming? I asked myself. And since when did this outspoken young girl who never took no for an answer stop chasing what she wanted?
I was so disappointed in myself. This was the biggest mental note, 'little' Heather had made. As a child I perceived so many adults as settling, as accepting life for what it was and not ask, demand and work for more. I understand now that it is not as simple as that, that life has circumstances that do not always allow us to live as freely as we did as children, but life's circumstances should never take away our ability to dream, and in some way, even if it is small, attempt to live those dreams.
I decided that I would apply to both of these graduate programs. I am going to take these science courses, study my ass off for the GRE and write a fabulous application. I will do everything in my power to live this dream. Because no one ever succeeded at anything without trying.
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." -Eleanor Roosevelt
Now the challenge is to live in the moment while at the same time avidly chasing my dreams. We do not have much time in this life and as someone brilliantly once said: