Idealism or Illusions?
May 1, 2008, 10:01 am
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There’s this song from the musical “Avenue Q” that I used to listen to a lot when I was in school.  In the scene, a bunch of characters are singing about how they seem to have no grasp on where they fit into the world since they’ve graduated college.  These are the lyrics:

“I wish I could go back to college.
Life was so simple back then.

What would I give to go back and live in a dorm with a meal plan again!

I wish I could go back to college.
In college you know who you are.
You sit in the quad, and think, “Oh my God!
I am totally gonna go far!”

How do I go back to college?

I don’t know who I am anymore!

I wanna go back to my room and find a message in dry-erase pen on the door!

. . . .

But if I were to go back to college,
Think what a loser I’d be-
I’d walk through the quad,
And think “Oh my God…these kids are so much younger than me.”

(Hardy har har…except it’s true!) =P

So…how many of you out there really feel this way?  The only reason the song is funny is because so many people can relate to it, I think.  Not everyone, of course — most people who’ve been out of school for a while probably have a better grasp on their lives than other twentysomethings like me — but I think everyone’s felt this way, or similar to it, at one point in their lives.

I know that when I was in college (and even high school!) I had this super-inflated self image, like life would just fall into place for me.  I was going to be famous at whatever I did, and I had more talent than anyone else I knew.  I was sure I had that extra special “something,” that unique trait that set me apart from everyone else — and that “something” was going to turn me into a star!  So that line about “sitting in the quad” and thinking about how far life is going to take me was pretty accurate for me; I literally did that all the time!!

Now, don’t go thinking that I’m some kind of egotist!  If you look down deep into your heart of hearts, I’ll bet you anything that at one point you felt the same way.  Maybe you even do now, and there’s nothing wrong with that — it’s a great feeling, isn’t it?  In fact, since I graduated college I find myself craving that feeling all the time.  I miss professors telling me how talented I am.  I liked when my teachers would come up to me after a musical performance and tell me what a beautiful voice I had, or how I’d “better get them discount tickets” when I’m on Broadway!  What???  Come on — who doesn’t like that stuff?

Now that I’m graduated and in the working world, I don’t exactly get the same kind of pat on the back that I got then.  Does anybody?  Sometimes when I’m sitting in my cube doing Illustrator tutorials, I feel a tinge of sadness thinking about my dreams of being an actress, a singer, a writer, etc.  What happened to those dreams?  I guess they got lost somewhere along the way.

When I think back on the couple of years since I graduated college, though, I can’t complain about how my life has been since then.  I’ve had a couple apartments, a few interesting jobs, and spent most of my time with my family and friends (not to mention an amazing guy who I’ll be marrying in less than a month!!)  The career ideals I had as a teen are gone, but I think they’re replaced with solid, more attainable goals and dreams — and I no longer need that kind of constant reassurance from authority figures and peers that I have talent and that my life is going somewhere.

Now that I’m out in the working world I also realize that in order to have certain things, you have to give up other things.  It’s just a matter of prioritizing.  A lot of the larger dreams that people have when they’re younger kind of prove impossible to have when you get older, especially when there are other things that you want just as much.  Like, is it worth it to give up financial stability, being close to family, or love for traveling the world and being “adored by millions?”  It’s not for me — or at least not anymore!

Keeping in mind that not all things are what they seem, I think I’ve made a wise choice by deciding to live a fuller home life in lieu of the more “glamorous” career lifestyle that I used to dream about.  I predict a happier future, better relationships, and a closer and more awesome marriage as a result of it — and the reality of those things is much more fulfilling to me than all the traveling and fame in the world!

So my question to you is this — should we mourn the loss of dreams that we once had, or write them off as illusions of what we used to think life COULD be like?


2 Comments so far
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Although I personally did not go to college, I can absolutely relate to the song(though it’s apartments and shared houses instead of dorm rooms). Like you said, there is a time when most people seem to feel invinsible and special, as if life will fall into place, that the old head shakers just didn’t do it right, but you yourself have found the secret. Of course we don’t realize that the security comes from the cocoon of home that we all just left or the financial blanket that one way or another allows us to do more of what we like to without worrying about rent or bills or reprecussions. Then there’s that time when you realize- “I can’t just go home when things go wrong, now I’ve got to do it on my own and it’s hard dammit!” At that point it seems as if the dreams are over, and there’s nothing left but the grindstone and a more humble variety of things to get excited about. Of course, on the one hand, as you said, the more concrete and realistic side of life presents itself, and much satisfaction aswell as fulfillment can be obtained from such activities. Still there are always-I think- going to be those times when you think, ‘should I have just thrown caution to the wind and gone the way of the rockstar? have I limited my destiny?’ Well this is what I have come to think- During those times when I was dreaming, and plotting, and proffessing to future greatness I was also as changeable and unsteady, as devoid of details as most of my dreams were. When I did throw caution to the wind and go for it, I usually ended up with some crazy stories, alot of aches, feelings of disatisfaction, and the knowledge that I just didn’t quite know what to do while I was doing it. Now as a 20something with a wonderful girlfriend, a cat, alot of bills, and a full time job who looks forward to going out 1-2 times a week and more often than not ends up coming back early I have realized a few things. 1)By being more limited in what I do, I am able to really focus on details and truly imbibe each experience more fully, therefore making each small instance count for more than several “bigger” occassions. 2)That greatness and monumental achievements are most often achieved in one area and with alot of dedication. By living a humbler life I’m actually able to indulge in more of my interests thereby become a more rounded, complete individual. 3)That I still dream golden flecked and wild dreams, but now I realize that through all the small things I am gaining the experience, patience, understanding and confidence to make those dreams come fully true. So I guess my response to your question would be- Don’t mourn or write off those dreams, but know that to truly achieve them is to live much more, and in looking back, someday, you may realize that what you’ve accomplished outshines anything you could have possibly imagined sitting in the serenity of the quad or the safety of younger days, or that those dreams have become reality but with so much more to them. Well, I rambled~ Mahalo

Comment by Phil

Phil, that’s perfect!!! You hit the nail right on the head…and actually helped me see things even more clearly than I did before. You’re absolutely right about being able to focus on the details and making things really count. Thanks for the awesome post! =)

Comment by sopranogrl22

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