When I was in my early teens I read everything I could get my hands on by Ayn Rand. She was my idol. My heroine. My voice I could not find. I wanted to be Dagny Taggart, the heroine of her novel, Atlas Shrugged. I wanted to be tall, angular, blonde. I wanted Dagny’s piercing blue eyes. Her strong voice. Her passionate pursuit of her dreams and goals. Dagny was a no-nonsense, focused, driven, altruistic, independent business woman who believed the state had no business running her business. I wanted to be Dagny.
Lofty dreams for a short, dark-haired, brown-eyed and rounded girl. Challenging.
In the journey from teenhood to adulthood, I gave up trying to change my look. Wasn’t going to happen. Once I reached the limits of my 5’3″ height, I accepted my fate of being ‘vertically challenged’ and settled into letting go of trying to scale the highest peaks. I was never going to make it to the top, I told myself, and held myself back from even trying. As to being tall, blue-eyed and blonde, well, that too was relegated to childhood fiction. Wasn’t going to happen. I hadn’t much enjoyed math-induced angular explorations anyway and finding angles on my not so angular body was an even more difficult proposition.
In Richard Wagamese’s novel, “Dream Wheels“, Joe Willie Wolfchild, a rodeo cowboy, loses his dream to an encounter with a bull. He doesn’t know who he is without his dream and falls into a stormy silence back on the ranch his parents and their parents before them had settled into when their dreams had been stomped dead in the harsh reality of the rodeo ring. For his parents, their Native traditions sustained them. For Joe Willie, his anger fueled him. It corroded him from the inside out like the rust on the truck he’s restoring that his parents once used to take them from rodeo to rodeo when they too shared in the dream of being Champion Bull Riders. He doesn’t know what to do with his anger, but a bear walks into his vision and gives him permission to growl through his pain so that he can get through grieving the past into living the life of his dreams renewed.
Towards the denouement of the novel, Joe Willie tells Claire, a battered woman who has come to the ranch looking for her son, “In rodeo you always have to qualify for the big round. To prove your worth. She [the bear] meant that life isn’t rodeo. That I qualify. That I’m a part of things regardless. Guess I forgot that. Or never learned it in the first place.”
No matter our position on the rungs of success, how lost we are on the road of diminished possibilities, or where we land in the rodeo ring, we are a part of it. A part of the life around us. The life of our families, our communities, our world. Our past has brought us here. Our future lies untold. Our present is the moment in which we shine. In which we can choose to step into life, or away from living.
And it is our dreams that carry us through, the darkness and the light. It is our dreams that shine, even when our eyes are closed.
We can choose to step towards making our dreams come true or we can growl our way through each agonizing moment into the darkness of giving up on believing in ourselves, in our dreams, in our possibilities.
Sometimes, our dreams are built on fantasy, like me wanting to look like Dagny Taggart. Regardless of our height, our size, our wealth, or a thousand other equations, the thing is, we gotta have a dream to make a dream come true.
We don’t have to qualify to have a dream, we simply have to believe we do, and hold it in our hearts and paint it, live it, dream it. And should we choose to let it go, there is always space to dream again, unless we disqualify ourselves from riding bulls and following rainbows where ever they may lead… and that’s when the pain sets in.
The question is: What’s your dream? Are you treating yourself as a qualifier, claiming your rightful place at centre stage of your life unfolding around you? Or, are you letting your dreams fall by the wayside, using anger as a reason to avoid, to let go, to hang up on yourself?
Do you measure the world as unfair, unjust, so that you can walk away from your dreams? Or, do you measure yourself as a winner, the architect of your life, the person who can make it happen because you are worthy of your dreams come true?
We don’t have to qualify to live our dreams, but we do have to keep on dreaming and fearlessly taking the ride that will create reality out of our dreams.