My brother Alex is passed out on the living room floor. His hair is a frizzy tangle sitting on the top of his head, his arms behind him like his body froze and he fell face-first into the carpet like that.
I snap a few pictures before he wakes up again and picks himself up off the floor, thinking surely I could use this moment as blackmail later on. But honestly, the humor in the scene before me is half-hearted. He wasn’t drunk, hung-over, or even just stupid in choosing a spot to nap at 9 am in the morning. He was exhausted from burning all hours of the night writing and making music. Realizing that makes me almost admire his embarrassing state.
Since a middle school guitar class seven years ago, Alex has wanted little else from the world than to strum his fingers across strings, piece together riffs and melodies, and let notes and lyrics make his story. Sometimes life has seemed to get in the way of that.
“I’m never going to be in a band, Meg,” he has told me again and again. “So and so was touring by the time he was out of high school.”
Another instance, “Once you get past twenty, you lose the wow factor as a musician. I’m out of time.”
Just before he clocked out on the living room floor, yet another impossibility crossed his lips. “My music sucks. I can’t do it.”
I’m not going to pretend we haven’t all been there.
See, we all want something from life. We all have a cloudy vision of splendor planted deep inside of us—a God-given talent or a dream that permeates our thoughts. Somewhere we want to be in ten years, a goal we want to accomplish, or a finish line we want to cross. Most of us have lots of these things stocked up inside of us like patches on our hearts. They make our minds race, the thoughts of them keep us going through monotonous days of work and life. And yet? That vision is still cloudy, still a fantasy, and only alive in our heads.
My brother is nineteen, not currently in school, works a minimum wage job, and on the weekends plays guitar furiously in his mom’s basement. Yep, a real loser, right? Because that is what a lot of people have thought the minute he has told them what he is up to. And I’m not going to lie, I have felt the same about myself a lot of days—like I know where I want to be but I have no idea how to get there.
It’s hard not to feel stuck. On Facebook, your friends are off traveling to other countries and doing cool things. They seem to be successful, happy….can you say the same? Maybe you are working an internship that doesn’t pay and all you do all day is bring coffee to some big wigs in a corporate office. Maybe you have filled notebooks full of writing and poetry but no one seems to want to read a lick of it. Maybe your job is boring, your friends are too busy to hang out, and your dreams feel washed up. And “I can’t”, “too hard”, and “impossible” seem to be just about right.
It has to be one of the most common phrases in the English language. In any language. I can’t. It’s all too easy to be intimidated by impossibility, to give up because someone else seems to be doing it better or to look at the daunting future and deem it unrealistic. It’s easy to doubt your path.
But imagine for a second if the thousands of people who have graced this planet who have inspired, motivated, and lead the way for all of us—the “greats”—had been coaxed out of their life’s work or their grandest journeys because they felt stuck, defeated, and confused along the way. Because every single one of them did at one point or another.
What if Hemingway had put down the pen because he convinced himself he wasn’t as good as the other modernist writers of his time? What if Mother Teresa looked at the slums of India and saw it as too big a task for her to take on? What if Jimi Hendrix had never picked up a guitar because he thought it would be too difficult to be a left-handed musician in a world of righties?
This past May, Harriet Thompson became the oldest woman to finish a marathon. She is 92 years old. Before she finished all 26.2 miles, she said, “I’m just going to walk real fast and then run some, and just try not to wear myself down too fast. It’ll be sort of interesting. I’ll be the most surprised person if I finish it. I hope I will!”
Somewhere along the way, I think we got in our minds that our goals and visions in life would be easy, would make sense, or would come naturally. Because we were “born” to do them, right? Harriet Thompson wasn’t even sure she would finish the race. In fact, she wasn’t even much thinking about the finish line when she started. I think a lot of the greats in their fields are often like this. They don’t waste their time contemplating if something is possible, if others are doing it that way. They dive in hoping they can swim. They fail quite a few times, yes.
You cannot ensure when you take on a task or move towards a dream that you will be any good at it. You have no promises in life of ease or success. In fact, the things we want the most in life, the inspiration God has planted in our chest, will likely be our greatest tests of patience, our greatest sources of discouragement, our greatest moments of fear.
In two weeks, I am going to run my very first half marathon. This is not my grandest dream in life, but it is something I have desired to accomplish for a very long time. And honest to goodness, I am the world’s most awkward runner and slower than molasses. Harriet Thompson could probably beat me some days, her walking quickly and me trudging along with the gait of a broken clock or an overeager toddler.
When I started running last March, I could hardly run 2 miles straight. Thirteen miles seemed the most unrealistic task in the world then. Today, though it may take me a grotesque amount of time, thirteen miles seems in my ballpark. That is because dreams and plans and goals take time. There are going to be days you feel like you “can’t”. Days where quitting seems easier, better. Days where you feel like you are running in place while all the world takes off ahead of you.
But guess what? When you feel like that—so tired you can’t stand, so unsure you cannot think, so discouraged you can’t move forward—you are just starting to get somewhere. That is when your dream really starts mattering enough for you to suffer for it.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. I want to change that a little and just say this—the future doesn’t just belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, but more-so to the ones who are foolish enough to fight for them.[clickToTweet tweet=”The future doesn’t belong to those who believe in their dreams but to those willing to fight for it” quote=”The future doesn’t belong to those who believe in their dreams, but to those willing to fight for it”]
So keep making music in the basement. Keep writing. Keep burning holes in the soles of your shoes and making coffee. Keep staying up late and working hard, studying boring textbooks and feeling the weight of what you want.
Stay relentless. Stay hungry. Keep chasing.