What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
We know dreams are powerful. Literature and history and music and art are all brimming with themes dedicated to the raising of hope and the shuttering away of doubt. I first realized the hold that dreams can have through one of my favorite stories as a child, "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen. If you are not familiar with it, and you may not be, because you prefer bright sunshiney tales that feature unicorns and rainbows and pots of gold, it is sad. (Sad things and I go together like dubstep and hipsters in Park Slope.) Because I am lazy, I offer this, from Wikipedia:
On a cold New Year’s Eve, a poor girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is freezing badly, but she is afraid to go home because her father will beat her for not selling any matches. She takes shelter in a nook and lights the matches to warm herself. In their glow, she sees several lovely visions including a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. The girl looks skyward, sees a shooting star, and remembers her deceased grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone died and is going into Heaven. As she lights her next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. She strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother nearby for as long as she can. The child dies and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the dead child in the nook.
Nice, right? I know, I'm stretching here; it's not so much as a dream as vivid hallucinations brought on by hypothermia. The point is, The Little Match Girl held hope in her sooty little head, even if it was a false one, and it comforted her.
But when does a dream become a burden? The June 2012 issue of Psychology Today features a wonderfully biting article by Augusten Burroughs titled, "How To Ditch a Dream". Burroughs says:
"...(T)here are many, many people who do not need to be told to cling to their dreams; they need to have those fantasies wrenched from their little fists before they waste their entire lives trying to achieve them.
I am one such person."
I laughed heartily at his familiar self-depreciating humor (thankfully, the article was free of his other hallmark: shockingly lurid descriptions of past abuses suffered at the hands of...oh, everyone) then stopped short. HE'S RIGHT! I panicked. You are now reading a blog post, so chances are, dear reader, you are familiar with the internet, and the phenomenon known as YouTube. Or Facebook. Or, actually, Blogger. The internet is FULL of people who think they have talent (ahem, all kinds of talent, or so I hear from anecdotal evidence). You know that this is not so. Their talents are greatly exaggerated. Except for that one guy who...never mind. You understand. So what if I AM ONE OF THEM? (This, incidentally, is partially the reason for my departure from the blog. Not that one guy - the fear that I am a no-talent hack showing off.) But I digress.
When do we give up on our dreams? The real ones. The ones that keep us warm at night like the poor Little Match Girl, and the hopes that raise us afloat during the day, promising better tomorrows and ever afters? And how do we keep living when all hope seems lost? It's not in me to give up. So I won't. But I will always wonder if I'm doing the right thing.
(PS sorry I called you "dear reader". The only thing I dislike more that that is "What say you?" I will try to refrain heretofore.)