From a young age I was asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” As with most, my answer changed regularly. Then high school came. At this point, I had to decide upon a dream. Then college started, I was encouraged, maybe even expected, to make my dream a reality. At this point, I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor. I grew up in a small town. I loved school. I was a certified nursing assistant in our small rural hospital. I started college by majoring in psychology with the intent to apply to medical school.
Then life happened. College started. I joined clubs, continued working to finance my degree, made friends, and my interests changed. I stuck with my dream of going to medical school through the end of my sophomore year. This is when I learned I could work in a college for the rest of my life. Somehow this dream took priority over my dream of being a doctor. Some may say I gave up on my dream. Others know dreams change as we change. So did I give up? Did I find a new dream? I’m still not sure.
In America we grow up being told we can be anything we want to be. In reality, our choices lead us closer or farther away from our dreams. We make choices based upon what is important to us. Some days I know I choose work over learning sciences. Other days I think I did not have this choice. If I gave up on work, I would have been homeless. I, like so many college students, financed my own college education. Thankfully I had a scholarship to cover tuition. I needed money for housing, food, and books. Some may ask, “well why didn’t you just borrow money?” I can honestly say that I thought I would need to wait to borrow money once I got to medical school. So I didn’t want to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and a high level of debt. So my dream changed.
Looking back, I know that my story is not much different from others. We can dream a good dream. We are told to dream big. Dreams provide hope and inspiration. When we reach our dreams we develop a sense of satisfaction, confidence, and pride. Letting go of unattainable dreams is hard. It is especially hard when we are raised to believe anything is possible. The reality is that each dream comes with choices. Sometimes we do not realize the sacrifices that we will have to make along the way for our dreams to come true. I’m incredibly grateful for the mentor who allowed my dream to change with grace. When we change dreams it shows strength and courage, not failure. I’m so thankful that I did not have a mentor questioning my capacity to become a doctor. Rather I had a mentor that recognized my interests changed. Today I’m grateful that I made this change. Now I get to see students live their dreams and change their dreams. I hear stories about persistence, success, and change.
So far, I have talked about big dreams. Dreams, wishes, and goals can also be small. I see this regularly in Testing. We have students who are coming in for the third time to get reading exemption or the student trying to qualify for the presidential scholarship or a student wants to reduce the number of college-prep classes they need to take. It is a good day when we get to celebrate these successes. These little dreams help them move closer to achieving the big dream. In this moment, we get to be a part of the journey. It is through my story of the big dream that I understand the value and importance of little dreams. I need several little dreams to happen for me to reach my big goal.