Do What You Love
Dream by night
Wish by day
Love begins this way
–Flying Dreams, Kenny Loggins
The above lyrics are from the theme song to the movie Mrs. Brisby and the Rats of NIMH. It is about a mother mouse with a child, Timmy, who is sick with pneumonia. Unfortunately, because of circumstances outside her control, she must move her family from the cement block they live in. Knowing such a move will kill Timmy (he cannot be exposed to the cold weather in his condition), she sets out on a dangerous journey to find the rats of NIMH, a hyper-intelligent group of rats, who have the ability to move the cement block with their advanced technology.
It is the love she has for her child that motivates Mrs. Brisby to follow her unlikely dream of saving her son’s life. The lyrics above state that dreaming is how love begins. Listen to your dreams. Do you find that they are rooted in love? Those are dreams worth following. If they are rooted in anger or negativity, then you might want to consider if your dream was really a nightmare.
Into the Wild, a wonderful travel essay, is about the story of Chris McCandless. He was twenty four years old when he went into the Alaskan Bush by himself and perished. The author, Jon Krakauer, wrote: “He had given 25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter…”
According to Krakauer, Chris was an adventurous soul who came from a privileged background. He never wanted for anything. His father had a good job as an aerospace engineer and eventually started his own consulting firm with Chris’s mom. His parents offered to pay for law school and a new car once he graduated Emory University. Not only that, a family friend had left Chris a bequest, so he already had $24,000 in savings upon graduation (which he donated to charity without telling his parents). He didn’t need to hitchhike or try to survive in the bush. But Chris resented his parents for a variety of reasons. He rejected wealth and was wholly in love with nature (he was a Jack London fan), so he made a dangerous journey into the bush without telling anyone in his family. He wanted to “divorce” his parents. Indeed, he cut off contact with them two years before his death, when he rejected law school in favor of being a tramp.
My reason for writing about this is to focus on the reaction of his family once he disappeared and was subsequently found dead. Krakauer wrote that they were devastated. His parents were sick with worry the whole two years he was gone and hired a private investigator to find him. When he was found dead, their hearts were broken. His sister was hysterical for five hours and couldn’t stop screaming. When Krakauer interviewed Chris’s mother a month after he was found dead, she wept still very deep in grief. He wrote that her loss seemed “so huge and irreparable that the mind balks at taking its measure (p.132).”
Please be responsible when following your dreams. We are all the center of our own universes. But there are other people in our lives, and we can hurt them. It is hard to read Into the Wild and not feel some anger towards Chris for putting his family through such a horrifying ordeal. While I cannot read his mind, he never seemed to entertain for even a moment just what that would do to them if he died on his overly risky journey “into the wild.” He could dislike his parents all he wanted, but completely rejecting them caused a lot of harm.
Chris didn’t just hurt himself with his dream. He hurt his friends and his family.
Follow Your Dream
All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.
I cannot do justice to the story of Lawrence of Arabia. He was the petite British army officer who went into Arabia, lived amongst the Bedouin, and ditched his military uniform in favor of Arab clothes. He essentially “went native.” Given how racist and conformist the world was back then, he was truly a groundbreaking figure. I don’t even know that something like that could happen in todays world. (Yes, yes I do think this army uniform is uncomfortable. I’m just going to do what I want, wear Arab clothing, and be one with the desert and Bedouins!). I am fairly certain your average army officer would get into big trouble for serving our of uniform. He is a controversial figure, and people are better off reading about him and forming their own opinions. There is a lot of story behind this little man with big dreams that I simply cannot cover in a post.
My point is that Lawrence is one of the most famous cases on the planet of someone following his dreams (regardless of how you feel about him). I suggest taking a look at his life to learn how to follow your dreams.
It’s Worth It
Following your dreams is worth it if you are doing it for the right reasons. Is it because you love your son? Love Jack London novels? Or maybe enamored of the desert? Examine your motives. Think of why you are doing what you’re doing. Is it because you are doing what you love? What about consequences? Will you be selfishly hurting anyone else? Can you really follow your dreams? I encourage you to try.