About a year ago, I embarked on a journey to create a different life, to find the joy, the peace and the happiness that was missing.
I began by asking some philosophical questions and trying to figure out when I had lost it in the first place. When had the decline started? Was it 15 years ago, 20 years ago, or even 30 years ago? The sad realization was that the downward trend began when I stopped dreaming and stopped pursuing my passions, somewhere in my mid to late teens. It wasn’t a conscious choice I made. It just sort of happened. Life became about working and college and making a living and getting ahead. Somewhere in there I quit living so I could make a living. A big difference to be sure!
As I pondered this, I began to think about my own children and how we were raising them. Were they losing their dreams, too? Do dreams just get lost or does something else happen in the growing up process that causes dreams and their joyfulness to disappear? When do we stop wanting to be firemen, astronauts, veterinarians, artists or ballerinas? I remembered a book I had read to my kids, and probably many parents have, called “The Little Engine that Could.” In this story, the littlest engine in the train yard ends up taking a big load of food and toys up a steep hill to the children on the other side of the mountain. Even though the little blue engine should never have been able to pull the load up the hill, she kept saying over and over again, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” And she did!
When children are little, they think they can do anything, and we as parents encourage it. We tell them they can do and be anything they want. We think it is adorable when they dress up like astronauts or ballerinas and say that is what they want to be when they grow up. Or when they draw us a picture and say one day they will be a famous artist. We encourage it. I know I did. But then along about 12, 13 or 14, it starts. Sometimes even younger. We begin to mold and shape them toward becoming something more “realistic.” Oftentimes, something we want them to be. We tell them now it is time to get serious and plan for the future. No one really becomes astronauts, ballerinas or artists and makes a living at it. So, throw the dreams out, get real and figure something else out that can make you money so you can get ahead. Oh, and make sure it is something I approve of. No more mister nice guy, no more dreams, kid, this is the real world. And so the decline starts. Dreams and passions and desires of the heart become a thing of the past. What was horrifying about this is I caught myself doing it to my own children.
When they were younger, I wanted to share my passion with them. This happened to be horses. I bought them horses, took them riding, taught them all kinds of wonderful things. This was a dream come true … for me. The reality was they didn’t really care one way or the other whether they rode horses nor not. I wanted them to share my passion and I was trying to make that happen. It took me a little while to accept the fact that they weren’t going to share this passion with me, and that it was okay. They were afraid of hurting my feelings and didn’t want to tell me it wasn’t their thing. I got the picture and finally took the pressure off. Horses were my thing, not theirs.
The next time I caught myself doing the “make sure you do something with your life that I approve of” thing was when my daughter decided she wanted to be a tattoo artist. She is a very gifted and talented artist and I would never discourage that, but oh my word”— a tattoo artist! I found myself being discouraging, embarrassed to even mention it to others because it was something I found unacceptable … for me. I didn’t come right out and say no, but I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy either. Slowly, I started to realize she really had a talent and a passion for this type of art. Having had some of my passions squelched as a kid, I was determined not to do that to my kids. I was hard! Then one day, I was going through some photographs of the kids when they were little. To my amazement, I saw a photo of me holding my newborn son. My daughter, at 2 1/2 years old, had her little hand on his head. There on the back of her hand she had drawn a flower or something on herself. Two and half years old and she was already creating body art! I knew she was prone to drawing on herself, but I didn’t have any idea it had started that young. It was then I knew I had to let go and allow her to pursue her passion. If it was to be a tattoo artist, then so be it. I wasn’t going to be the one to shut off her dreams and say no to the talent she was given to use.
I can’t help but wonder how I could have fallen into that process with my children? I did and many others do, too, because countless generations before us have done the same thing. It is our conditioning and it is time to interrupt the pattern. Is it any wonder our kids have lost motivation and direction? The examples they have to look at are us! How many of us dare to dream? How many even know what our dreams are anymore? How often do we have fun and really live life? Think about it. Can we identify our dreams, our passions, our hearts desires? Should we blame our kids for not wanting to be just like us? After all, to them this pursuit of the American dream may look more like a nightmare.
Try this little exercise. As yourself, “If time and money were not an issue, what would I do?” Write down all your answers. Then ask yourself the same question again knowing that the first answers are all taken care of. Do this several times over and you might start revealing your inner passions and dreams once again. Then talk about those dreams, those passions with your kids. Find out what their drams are. What are their talents, their abilities and their passions? Do they know? Can we as parents allow our kids to pursue their passions even if we don’t agree with them? Even encourage them because it is their passion? Remember the little engine that could and her mantra, “I think I can!” What could we accomplish if we lived by that? Henry Ford said it best, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way you are right.”
Be the change … let’s live our passion and encourage our kids to live theirs.
Be The Change-Pagosa Springs will resume monthly meetings in September. For more information or to get on the mailing list, call Andrea at 903-6047, or e-mail BeTheChangePS@yahoo.com.