Do you know what I've just realized? I'm living my dream.
Let me explain. (Sorry, this won't be succinct.)
I was always under the impression that everyone has one dream, one goal, something they aspire to do or to be. "I want to be a doctor" or "I want to run a marathon"--all reasonable and noble goals. I suppose what I failed to realize is that dreams shouldn't be limited. "I want to dance in the rain" or "I want to own a puppy" are both dreams as well. There is no rule book that outlines what a "dream" is or is not. "What's your dream?" people will ask. I've never had a set answer. I have desires, I have goals. Do I have one singular dream? I think, if I had to give a finite answer, I'd respond: "My dream is to be able to dream. To have goals. To have the ability to chase them."
I have wonderful parents. We haven't always seen eye-to-eye, and God knows I've had my fair share of disagreements with my dad. Things weren't always perfect, but I'm lucky in that they've never tried to hold me back. Moving away from Sacramento is the greatest example of that: They could have insisted I stay close to home. They could have told me where to go and what to study, but they didn't. I picked up and moved hundreds of miles south and I only go home maybe once or twice a year. But the fact that they allowed me to do that with no hesitation is such an amazing gesture. Part of my dream is to make them proud - not because I feel obligated to, but because I want to show them how far their dream for me has taken me.
I have an amazing family, full of people who love each other. "Family can be friends too," my mom told me when I was little, which is something I see amongst my relatives. Each of my cousins' parents have shown to operate on the same wavelength that my parents do: The belief that no one should be limited. There are doctors, artists, lawyers, writers, scientists, teachers, etc. in my family, and not because someone told them they should be those things, but because they themselves decided that's what they wanted for themselves.
I have the greatest friends and mentors I could possibly imagine ever having in my life. The road hasn't always been smooth, but through it all I've always been sure that these are the people who inspire me daily. They've dreamed alongside me and we've helped each other along the way.
(This isn't to make you feel jealous or for me to brag and say, "I'm better than you" because I don't think I am. I think we all need to realize that the people in our life are gifts - however you may feel about them at one point or another. We all need to appreciate who and what we have. Every moment is a learning experience.)
There are so many times I feel defeated and frustrated. How many times have I wanted to throw in the towel and give up? Too many to count, but the wonderful thing about having parents, family and friends who support you is that they'll always hold you up when you're ready to fall. It's because of them that I've never lost my ability to dream. I've never had to step on the brakes and pull back because the only thing ever holding me back has been myself.
Back in April of 2006, I toured the UCI campus for the first time with Megan and picked up a copy of the New U. "This is what I'll be working on if I get into UCI," I told my parents. "I want to get on the road to journalism."
I was so ready and so set to jump into the Literary Journalism program, but I was scared. Would I have the drive and motivation to succeed? What if I failed? When I began UCI in 2007, I wanted to get involved with the New U, but I immediately got scared and never tried. I spent nearly two years on the listserv before finally submitting a story. The way I got involved was not through writing (which is what I had wanted to do), but through layout instead. And let me be honest - it was not fun. I loathed my internship. I was getting paid nearly $12 an hour at the School of the Arts in a job that is not only fulfilling, but fun, and here I was at the bottom of the food chain, sitting in a crowded newsroom on Sundays and feeling small and insignificant. I wanted to speak through my writing and share stories, not drag and drop boxes into InDesign. (Disclaimer: I love it now, but that's because I'm not an intern. True story.)
I could've written, but I didn't. I stopped my own dreams, not some external force. I held myself back.
But then something happened, in between all of the unnecessary dorm drama, the frustration, the roadblocks and the crying: I moved on. I'd like to say there was a defining moment that I can pick out that "changed my life," but there wasn't. I just stopped whining and realized that the world wasn't going to wait for me to be ready. It was up to me to keep going. After all the struggles I'd been through in my life, there was no wall I couldn't attempt to jump.
So I decided to steamroll ahead and not look back until I reached a point I felt ready to reflect. I think this is that point.
I'm a year away from finishing two majors. I have a fantastic job at the School of the Arts that allows me to be creative and see my work on billboards and more. I've been published in multiple publications. I'm now Managing Editor at the New U. I've been handling my life on my own for about three years now, and despite the multiple attempts to quit and give up, I've somehow always managed to pick myself back up and keep going.
As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, that's my dream: to keep going. Make no mistake, this is not idealistic optimism or ungrounded desires. I know the world is a fucked up place, but that doesn't mean I need to add to the misery out there. I know that success requires hard work and determination. When I look back on the past several years, I don't think I've done enough to earn my place in the real world yet. But I'm trying, I'm still working and I'll keep going until the day I die.