Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
A few years ago my wife and I were planning a big vacation. We had narrowed it down to either Seattle, Washington or Portland, Maine. We decided on Portland. It was easy for us to see the vacation in our minds as we planned. There would be a long drive up through the eastern US where we would see cities and countryside that we had never seen before.
We would spend a couple of days enjoying the coastal town of Portland, perhaps trying Maine lobster for the first time at one of the locally owned restaurants. A day would be spent in Boston walking the streets where some of the most important events of our nation’s history took place. Another day would be spent in New Hampshire, driving the countryside surrounded by autumn’s changing leaves.
A vision for what we would spend our vacation week doing was pretty clear. The route was also pretty easy to see. What remained unknown to us at departure and what would need to be discovered along the way were the obstacles that could, if we allowed them, prevent us from enjoying a relaxing vacation.
It’s much the same in life. I think most of us enter adulthood with a picture of what we want our life to be. We have interests, passions, dreams, and abilities and in our heart all of these things fit together into a life vision. But I also think that there are far too many of us who, midway through life, would admit that reality has fallen far short of our dreams. When asked why, we will most likely point to and speak of all the “obstacles” along the way that have stopped us in our tracks and locked us into an existence of daily survival with the stuff of our dreams being little more than a distant memory.
To those who would say that the above statement is true of his or her life, I want to boldly suggest that the only real obstacle that any of us can point to is the obstacle of self. Sure, there are circumstances and events that get in the way of every person who is pursuing the life of their dreams with some of those circumstances and events being tragic, heart-breaking, and mind-bending. But the power of these obstacles to reduce your life to mere existence is an illusion.
Obstacles in life have two purposes. Some obstacles are meant to be overcome and through the overcoming we find deeply hidden riches of character and perseverance that required the difficulty of the obstacle for them to be unearthed. Consider the young boy, abandoned by his father and left to a life of poverty with his mother working two minimum wage jobs just trying to make ends meet. He had a dream of going to college and now his only chance of realizing that dream is through a scholarship. He refuses to dance along to the tune of shattered dreams, studies, rises to the top of his class, and graduates with a full-ride scholarship to the school of his choice. Not only has he achieved his dream, but in so doing he is more prepared for academic excellence than the rich kid who will endure college as an obligatory gesture to his parents.
Obstacles also serve another purpose, and that is the purpose of redirection. When we encounter seemingly insurmountable circumstances, we have the choice of either sitting down in the road in the shadow of the obstacle wishing that life wasn’t killing our dreams. Or we can find an alternate route.
One of my dreams in life is to be a published author. A reality I face is that it is nearly impossible for an unknown writer to have a manuscript picked up by a publishing house. For several years I allowed that to quench my dreams. But now, thanks to technology, I have self-published and marketed my book to a global audience without a publishing house taking a cut of the earnings. In so doing, not only have I found a way around the obstacle, but am also learning things about publishing and marketing that I probably wouldn’t have learned through the traditional route.
I’ll leave you with this challenge. Make some time today to find a quiet place where you can reach back into the dusty, dark corners of your abandoned dreams, and bring them into the light for another look. As you do, recall the circumstances and events that prompted you to abandon them. Could those obstacles have been overcome? Could there have been another route to your dreams? If the answer is yes to either question, then maybe it’s time to permanently move those dreams out of the dark, dirty attic and set them on the fireplace mantle where they will always be in sight.