Your Dreams are Valid

All your dreams may not come true.

A marriage takes an unexpected turn. A life ends unexpectedly soon. A career cut unexpectedly short. The dreams we dreamed yesterday may disappoint us tomorrow. It happens all the time. I think this is why we love melodramas: films and stories that have happy endings where the good guy gets the girl and the villain gets what she or he deserves. They remind us to keep hoping, keep dreaming, despite that tomorrow we may get up and meet the disappointment of our lives. A few of us get the opportunity to live dreams that transcend life. Movie stars, for example, or famous musicians awarded for selling millions of albums approach a microphone during award season and remind us all of one simple thing:

Your dreams may come true.

I really hate when they do that. It is not because I don't appreciate the warm fuzzies that dreaming provokes. I could sit for hours and dream about where my life will lead, but that does not mean they will come true. It is not because I don't want my dreams to come true.  The problem I have with these promises is that folks who aspire to transcendent dreams rarely see the blood, sweat, and tears that precede the awards.  What's more, our cultural icons rarely provide recipes for resilience, only recipes for celebration. It is an issue for which I've never had a solution.

But that changed on a Sunday night.

Lupita Nyong'o has taken Hollywood by storm. Her role in 12 Years a Slave won her the film industry's highest honor, contributing to the movie's overall win for best picture. But that's not what captivated me about Lupita Sunday night. Many other gracious winners that night had given the different versions of the "your dreams can come true too" speech that we've all come to expect from award season. But when Lupita Lupita accepted her award, she said something so profound that it went entirely unnoticed. Choosing to eschew the status quo, Lupita reminded those of us with aspirations for greatness that our dreams were valid. 

It was such a simple statement.

Tucked snugly into the dawn of her acceptance speech, Lupita's admonishment that our dreams were valid was both comfortably realistic and genuinely reassuring. It is the kind of message that seemed a little out of place in the glamor of dreamy Hollywood, in a room full of people's whose highest ambitions have been realized.  Yet her reassurance reminded me that dreams can be simultaneously uncertain and valid. Is your startup going to bomb? Maybe, but does that make the dream any less valid? No. Are you going to be hurt if you try to risk in that relationship? Maybe. But if you strive to be entirely authentic, entirely vulnerable in your intimate relationship, does that make the pain futile? I don't think so. 

I think Lupita's speech has something for everyone.

It taught me that although the risk I take may not result in the reward I want, the risk itself is valid. We risk every day. In our relationships, we risk by reaching out to our partners whodon't respond how we want. We risk by putting our hearts on the line to strive for authentic connection when we might get hurt. The risk is real, but so is the hope. Sometimes, though, it is easier to hide from the risk we need to take for fear that we won't get the reward we desire. We may not get the closeness we want. I wish I could tell you that if you try hard enough, if you risk long enough, if you strive enough, that your dreams of true connection will come true.  They may not.  But your dreams are valid. 

Dr. Mathis Kennington