An evening a couple of months ago my godchild called. “I would like to quit high school and start an apprenticeship*. Do you think this is a good idea?” she asked. “Why would you want to stop studying and start working?” I asked surprised, tired of a long day at the office. “You know,” she said, “I want to experience what real life feels like. It’s not about the money. I have this dream…”
“Let’s talk about your dream!”
Had I known Ang Lee’s 2006 Oscar acceptance speech back then, I would probably have referred to it to guide her through this difficult decision.
* In an apprenticeship you start working at age 15. Many Swiss companies invest in the young generation by offering them a place to learn a job from the inside out, three days in the office and two at school. After 3-4 years you pass a final exam and get your diploma.
Commit to the dream
If you want to follow your dream you have to be careful to commit to the dream and not its possible outcome. Making movies does not mean that you will win the Oscar. Having a dream is like being on a long journey. Winning the Oscar is a tiny moment compared to the time you will spend on the whole journey. It’s a wonderful moment, but life will go on. Focusing on that single moment will make you impatient till you get there and nostalgic once you’ve been there. Either way, it will make you restless, living in either the future or the past.
Commit to your dream, enjoy to the journey by keeping your eyes and heart open, fully experiencing every step you take and celebrating small and big achievements.
Advice is valuable, but in the end only you can decide
Ang Lee’s father did not give him the blessing to start his journey. As adults we need to learn how to offer our advice without drowning a dream. We care so much about the people we love that our first instinct is to steer them away from any potential source of suffering. Imagining the difficulties that will arise throughout the journey, the harsh economic realities our beloved ones will face, drives us to suggest a less perilous path. We forget that there are no safe journeys worth travelling. I’m not suggesting that we should stop caring. Instead we should learn to express our love, instead of sharing our fear.
The world looks and feels quite different through a young person’s eyes. What has been valid in the past will not necessarily hold true in the future. It is wise to sometimes simply offer silent support. In “Travels with Charlie” John Steinbeck meets a young sailor talking proudly about the destructive power of his atomic submarine. It upsets John to hear this sailor glorify weaponry, having experienced their destructive power during World War II. His first instinct is to drown the young sailor’s enthusiasm when he realises: “It’s not my world anymore. I should not inflict my old fears on this young soul.”
Take any advice you can get. But remember that any advice given is only a single version of many possible futures. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s not a failure if you don’t win the Oscar. It would be just a waste of your talent, if you wouldn’t try.
You are not alone
Many stretches on the journey will be hard. Developing your skills, making friends at work, learning how to work in a team, will at times feel terrible. Ang Lee had to go through six agonising years, until he finally could sell his first screenplay. Our batteries drain quickly during such periods. The best way to recharge them is to remember that you’re not alone. Everyone is on a journey; everyone has dreams, even if we sometimes forget them. The people in your life will offer any support you need, the moment you ask. And remember, you will always be your biggest fan. Be compassionate towards yourself.
Every human being is on a journey and therefore an expert in dreams. If you get tired, take a break, breath and ask for help.
There are two ways to travel on a journey: Either you try to get as fast as possible from A to B, or you take your time, enjoying the scenery, talking to the people that cross your path, learning and growing.
My advise is to follow your dream, travel slowly, not afraid to ask for help if you feel lost.
I wish you good luck following your dream.