The first time we had this conversation was in a bar in another state seven years ago. His dream was not unusual to others in his profession but it was specific. A year earlier in my life, I would have said that I wanted the same thing. It was on that my dream chase that I met him, however, my dream had changed. I couldn’t tell him specifically what I wanted, but shortly after, I took another path towards something different.
The turn opened up another dream and I chased it so severely that not homesickness, not failure, not Al Qaeda could stop me. The end came, and I achieved my dream.
Achieving your dreams should feel incredible, and it does, but then you realize that it was never about the end but about the journey. That’s over now. Dreamless is an incredibly lonely state.
I took one path, then another, unsure of the final destination. In search of a new dream, I was brought to the same moment with this man from seven years ago. Again in a bar, we talked about where our lives had gone and where they were going. His end goal was still the same, and I still didn’t know what I wanted.
My mentee’s homework assignment was to read two paragraphs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
We took turns reading through the captivating language and inspiring message. I thought of the man who wanted to find a woman to watch King’s speeches over and over, “as if they were our favorite music” and how much I had wanted to be her at the time. Phrases, such as, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” and “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that – Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” ran shivers up my spine. And, like every year, I wished King’s words would be in my life daily, but I never make that attempt.
King was likely not alone in his dream for our country, but he was the one who had courage to find it. He was the one who was brave enough to believe that it could be accomplished and it could be accomplished in the light, with love. He dedicated, and lost, his life to this dream.
As we read through it, I couldn’t help but think about how, 50 years later, we need a King. Our country needs a courageous person to show us to believe in love and the light, to work for equality through peace. 2014 proved that we are nowhere near King’s vision, but I have to hope that if he was still alive he would not doubt that the dream is still possible. I have to hope that because this world is sad enough.
What can I do, I wondered as I read this speech with a young woman, raised in refugee camps, whose life I will never truly understand.
The problems of the world, from the streets of Ferguson to the villages of Nigeria, are too big for me. I am not brave and courageous like King, but I am capable of light and love. I can start there.
It was a good day for brunch.
The sun was bright and high, lighting up our table next to the window. I had run before the meal, so my stomach was good and ready for eggs and potatoes. While I waited for my friend, I read from the New Yorker and sipped coffee. When she came, we ordered cocktails, slowly sipping them as we inspected pieces of our lives.
This life, I said, was the one I’ve always wanted.
I asked her about goals and intentions, about the next phase of life, and she didn’t know. I nodded, because “I don’t know” plagues me every day. She said she is not worried that she doesn’t have an aspiration, but sad. If only she knew what to search for, she would be on that path.
Her unknown was my reassurance, at least I wasn’t alone.
I am unsure about my new dream. Do I really not know or am I afraid to admit it? Can I be brave and fight through all the challenges?
The greatest dreamers, King included, show us that we are capable of dreaming and pursing those dreams, not matter how unattainable. The greatest thing we can do though, whether we know the ultimate dream, is to shine light on all things. Wherever we are going, whatever we are meant to do, the path of love is the only true way to get there.