Dear Young Dreamer,
As you embark on this journey of starting college, or joining the workforce, you’ll receive literally tons of advice. Most of it you’ll ignore as I did at your age because after all who knows what you need, better than you. At least that how I thought at 18, I still remember my first day of class. I sat in a class room on that fall morning not knowing that I was in what I now know was one of the most defining moments of my life. I was a student at Prince George’s community college and my first class was African American Studies. The professor whose name I can’t remember taught a lesson that day, that I would never forget. He had a question written on the board, it said which are you, a laborer or a thinker?
That question has played in my mind throughout my adult life. Basically it suggests that you can support yourself through physical labor or by getting paid intellectual property. I learned quickly that I wanted to be a thinker. I wanted to do something that would one greatly impact the world. The real question was how? How would I go about becoming what I wanted to be when I grew up? After years of trial and error I remembered the words of quote I heard once and it said “measure twice, cut once” which basically means spend more time thinking before you act. To me it meant to become calculating. I’ve learned that no one has ever become successful by accident, or for that matter no one has failed by accident either. Your future is not determined by fate, though it’s achieved through faith, through an undying will to succeed, you still have to do the work. You still have to formulate a well laid plan and then be audacious enough to actually enact your plan. The classes you take is where you began to form that plan, the study sessions, scholarly debates in class, sessions with your mentors, advisors, parents, and even peers all are ingredients to the plan you will one day have to create. My college years did two things for me, helped expand my world view, and helped to build my network.
There is a song that I love to listen to for motivation, it’s called “A dream” and it’s by Jay-Z. It says something else that is key for you to understand on your quest for success, “Nobody built like you, you design yourself” think about it, let it sink in. There is no one in this world equip to be you except you. If that’s true than no two of us should have the exact same dream. We may be similar, we may be able to relate to each other, but no dream is one size fits all. You can become famous impersonating people, but you can only really be great, legendary, or truly successful at being yourself. Your dreams, are meant to be tailored made. They are meant to scare you at first, and maybe even make some people question your sanity. Your tailored dream is driven by your “why”, your why is the reason behind what you do. For me I wake up every day knowing it is my purpose to be a contributing architect of the future by encouraging, motivating, and inspiring young people. My why comes from the things that I have looked at in life and asked myself why, is this thing this way. Robert Kennedy said “Some men see the world and say why, dreamers look at the world and say why not”
I have always been the type of person who needed something to chase, I really think I enjoy "becoming" more than I do "being". I love the process, from the first passing thought, to finally having the resolve to say your dream out loud to persevering through every opportunity to quit and finally that moment when you realize that the day you've been waiting for happened or is happening. I love the private pep talks you give yourself in order to muster that 30 seconds of courage it takes to talk yourself back into your dream. I realized something at a very early age that most people never truly grasp. That nothing is impossible, if you believe. History was by far my favorite subject in school, mostly because my text books were filled with stories of people who were thought initially to be fools or naive optimist but are remembered for accomplishing the things that conventional knowledge of their day said were impossible. One of the major prerequisites for pursuing dreams is to never be usual, conventional, or even normal.
The list goes on starting with a cave man who dreamed of and then produced fire, to the Wright Brothers who said long before R Kelly the phrase "I Believe I can Fly", Henry Ford and his idea of an assembly line, George Washington Carver and his ability to show how cultivate peanuts and use them thousands of ways. The thing that all of those figures in the history books had in common was that they all believed in their success. And oddly enough what sounded crazy in one generation is common in another. Did ever think about what Alexander Graham Bell's friends must have thought when he tried to explain the idea of the telephone to them? He literally was proposing inventing a way to talk to people who were miles apart to a generation whose best method of communication over any distance was a letter. Perhaps the most important dreamers were the founding fathers of the United States James Truslow Adams wrote of the ideals of our great country and coined America Ethos "life liberty and the pursuit of happiness" Adams spoke of the pursuit of what we call the "American Dream" which can be summed up as having the opportunity to achieve as much in life as determination, hard work, and ability will take you. It's living in a country where we are all born free, though few of us are born equal, we are at least free to pursue. In order to properly pursue your dreams you must tailor them, fall in love with process.
Understanding that no good thing in life just happens but that most things follow a very specific process, we want it, we want it more, we dream it, we speak it, at the point that we've said it out loud is usually your first turning point because our own self-doubt can be our dreams worst enemy. You can use the information and skills you learn in class to give confidence to your dream. Take the classes that will challenge you, that will force you to stretch your mind. Don’t be afraid of failing, fear quitting, quitting is the assignation of your dreams. So What if your dream seems impossible right now, with education, ambition, resilience and a well laid plan anything is possible. See we are all miracles, and what are miracles, but impossible dreams. We were all born through process, a million sperm and only one egg, and the sperm that contained the specific genetic code needed to create us fertilized that one egg. For nine months we grew safely in the womb growing more each day awaiting the painful but rewarding day of our birth, the day we became human. We get to recreate that miracle, every time we make a dream, reality. We birth something into the world that did not exist before, just as our parents did with us. Out of the millions of ideas we had that one made it and became fertile in our mind and grew as we work for it, it takes shape as we get closer to its realization, and though there is no dream realized without some pain it's all worth it once we see what at one point only existed in our minds eye.
Consider your collegiate years a part of your birthing process. The class, the lessons, lectures, studying for mid-terms and finals are all necessary for the birthing of a healthy dream. So ask yourself what am I here to contribute? Some of us will be like Steve Jobs and provide invention that completely changes multiple industries, others of us will develop philosophy, art, or poetry that inspires future inventors, some of us may simply be someone's "blue sky", meaning you are the happy place for people, you take pride in painting your sky's blue and help encourage other people.
Whatever the answer to that question is, and the answer will change from time to time, but use that as your measuring tape as you utilize the education you’ll receive from this great institution as the fabric for the tailoring of your dream, use failures as chalk to create the pattern you will need to guide your hand as you began to cut out your dream, and then use your faith, as the thread, and your ambition as the needle, to sew it all together.
Henry David Thoreau said “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” And in the time when that success seems so far away, and feels more and more unexpected, when it seems like all of your peers are succeeding, and you feel stuck, remember that no dream is one size fits all, this is your path, don’t measure your success by someone else’s design. As Jay-z said “Remind yourself, nobody’s built like you, you design yourself”
Remember young dreamer, you are young enough to try to be everything great. You will miss 100 percent of the dreams you chose not to chase, but what if you, try, and make it, what if you become all you were meant to be? You can do that. Dear young dreamer, continue each night to dream the life you want, then wake up and live your dreams.
Slightly older dreamer.
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