Even the best, most thought out of future plans take surprising detours. As we grow up, we are taught to dream and to live out our lives expectantly for the future. Somewhere along the way, I fear this dream-like nature has been lost and instead has become a cold hearted approach to making a way into a career and living our lives materialistically. From school age, we are taught to value ourselves based on grades from exam papers and we are brought through a system that deems these grades to be the most important thing about us. Typically, as students, we put pressure on ourselves to be working towards the next thing. We are encouraged to follow the tried and tested formula (options, GCSE’s, A Levels, Degree and then a career) but the reality is that sometimes the journey is less linear than we are led to believe. I would argue that the majority of the dreams we chase involve risk to some extent because dreams and risks often come hand in hand. Risk is the grey area between a comfort zone and a dream. Everyone will have different ideas of where their comfort zone and dreams lie therefore risk looks very different from person to person.
One dreamer I’ve always admired is my brother. Dan came through his school days with great grades, flew through his undergraduate degree with a first class-honours and went straight into a job. He faced his fair share of life’s curve balls but always worked hard and dreamt big. Many music students will identify with that battle to convince others that a career in music is possible. Dan knew this going in, but the risky degree choice paid off as he paved his own way into a job that utilised his degree, fitted his dream and paid the bills! At the same time as working full time, Dan also completed a master’s degree and I’m proud to say that just last week, we celebrated his graduation. Risks here were undoubtedly taken during his time at university and having spoken to him, he would recommend others to do the same. He said, “I jump in with two feet and I’m relentlessly optimistic, that’s the only way I seem to get anywhere.” Wholehearted is definitely a word that comes to mind when dreaming big and the word I would use to describe him!
Sometimes we have little to no control over the shape our lives decide to take. Life just happens and there are always going to be times where life proves to be messy. Life is inherently risky with no guarantees, despite humanity seemingly wanting guaranteed formulaic answers for everything, academically and in our life choices. Uncontrollable things happen that aren’t necessarily what we would dream up for ourselves either as a result of the risks we take or often as the result of this unpredictable life.
Twelve-year-old Millie was fairly sure she would follow the tried and tested method through school, university and into a career as a Marine Biologist. It’s safe to say that’s not the line my life appears to be taking (though I like to believe it’s never too late). Fortunately, I had parentals that encouraged the nature of dream making and risk taking! I’ve always been encouraged to take risks and a lot of my life has been shaped by the risks I’ve taken. In my life – I always seem to take the ‘long road’ which can feel wasteful and pointless. Generally, I set out with one plan and end up following a completely different one depending on unexpected challenges. At times, I have found it disheartening to not be able to set myself on a path without multiple crossroads. But what if these risks enable us to dream bigger and risk better? Throughout high school, I felt the constant burden of expectation both academically and socially at which point I made a fresh start for sixth form and was grateful to fall into a great group of friends and to begin thriving in a more creative sense. These risks taught me what it looked like to dream bigger and therefore the risk later was better placed when I started looking into university. During my journey at uni, I have moved north to an unknown city about three hours from my comfortable small village life, I have changed my degree part way in, I have moved out of halls into a flat in the city – none of which I could have done without taking risks earlier on in my life and I continue to take risks all the time. At the moment, the risk has been continuing my degree despite a constant battle with chronic pain and anxious thoughts – this felt like a pretty big risk to take for my dreams but I like to think it’ll be worth it and that it’ll lead me to crossroads I have yet to imagine.
There have certainly been moments along the way when I’ve felt like I’ve failed. However, I try to see it like this; my journey to this point hasn’t been linear but it’s still one worth travelling. I’ve learned a lot from the risks I have taken. I’ve learned that every mile I’ve walked matters but doesn’t have to define me. I have seen that the course of my life can be shaped as I am shaped so that I never stop dreaming even if those dreams have to change with me. Dan and I both took risks and had very different journeys to this point in our lives but in both cases, taking risks was an essential part of the process. So, whether you’re reading this as a student or just someone beginning a new day – let’s be a generation of dream makers and risk takers and continue risking for our dreams.