How to Keep Going When Your Dream Seems Far Off

“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.” ~Oprah Winfrey

I needed a bit of extra cash last month, so I took on a temporary events role working at a local design exhibition.

I’ve worked in events before, so I didn’t think much about it.

I just knew that I needed some money, I liked doing events, and a short contract had presented itself.

It seemed perfect!

So off I went to my first shift, feeling pretty good about myself and about life.

The first event was at a studio in a deserted industrial park. Even at 5:30pm, when it was still light, I felt uncomfortable walking the ten minutes from the bus stop.

When I got there, I quickly realized that the role wasn’t going to be as fun as I thought it would be: standing shivering outside in the cold, wearing an exhibition t-shirt, registering attendees, most of whom weren’t on the guest list but were expecting to be on the list.

So they got shirty.

And the line up grew longer.

So they got even more shirty.

Two hours later, and I was starting to wonder why I’d taken on the role. (And don’t get me wrong—I know there are worse jobs, and that I’d signed up for it myself. I’m not looking for pity.)

I started talking to the other girls who were working there. They were students, and it turns out they were a lot younger than me—nineteen and twenty-four. (I’m thirty-five.)

Now, I know that age doesn’t make a difference, and I’m generally pretty comfortable with my age. (Getting older is better than the alternative!) But in that moment, I felt pretty crappy.

So as I stood in the cold, with two girls ten to fifteen years younger than me, working for a near minimum wage job, I started to feel down.

I started feeling sorry for myself.

And at the end of the night, as I waited for the bus in the cold, dark bus depot, feeling pretty low, I texted a friend who I knew would understand.

My text read:

What the hell am I doing?! I’m thirty-five years old, and I just worked a minimum wage job in a dodgy part of town, with a nineteen year old, and now I’m waiting for the hour-long bus journey to take me home.

 My other friends are doctors or lawyers, own houses, and drive their (nice) cars to their places of work. 

Ever feel like you’ve missed the boat somewhere?!”

My friend was sympathetic (she’s temping and traveling around Europe while most of her peers are buying houses, having kids, and generally “doing very well.”)

And then she said something that really stuck with me. Something that brought it all home:

She simply said:

“Think of your long-term vision.”

This is how she explained it to me:

Yes, you’re doing a minimum wage role (temporarily). And yes, you’re working with people much younger than you. And taking the bus to work.

But you’re doing all this for a reason.

You’re doing this so you can set up your business. You’re doing this so you can create a new life for yourself—a life to really be proud of.

You’re doing this for the end goal.

So yes, it is sucky right now. But think of your long-term vision.”

I couldn’t have asked for a better reminder.

Because that was exactly it: I was working the job to earn extra money while I set up a business I’m passionate about.

I was temporarily in a murky patch so I could get to a better place in the future.

And I had forgotten my long-term vision.I had gotten caught up in the short-term

And this is so easy to do.

So I’d like to share my experience with you, to remind you of this powerful idea: Keep your long-term perspective in mind.

Don’t get caught up in what is happening now, only.

Think of the bigger picture: your big plans, your long-term goals.

If you’re setting up your business and feel like you’re not getting anywhere, think of the long-term vision.

You might not get anywhere in the first few months, but what about the next year or two? How far could you get if you kept going and putting in the effort?

If you’re working two jobs in order to go traveling after grad school, keep that vision in mind.

Think of setting off on that plane with your passport in hand, sipping an espresso in a village in Italy, or seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time.

Keep your long-term vision in mind.

If you’re writing a book and you’ve rewritten the first chapter ten times, think of your long-term vision: being an author.

Picture having your first book published and seeing it on sale in your local bookstore.

If you’re training for a half marathon and you busted your knee running, rest up, and think of your long-term goal: crossing that finish line.

Don’t worry about the things happening now. The crappy jobs you take… the revisions you’re making… the demo tapes you’re sending off with no replies… the manuscript rejections. These are all temporary.

But the long-term, if you keep taking action and putting one foot in front of the other, could be very different.

If you let it.

If you keep going.

If you keep your goal in mind, and keep it clear.

See, I had forgotten my reason for taking on this temporary events role.

It wasn’t to work in the cold while annoyed guests took their impatience out on me.

(Funnily enough!)

It was to earn money so I can keep working on my business.

To keep afloat while I follow my dream—my passion.

Something that makes me feel excited and proud and hopeful and exhilarated.

But, hang on, I know what you’re thinking:

Sounds easy, but how do you do it in practice?

How do you focus on the long-term, while you’re dealing with the difficulties of the short-term?

So here’s how I did it. I hope these points are helpful for you too:

1. Get clear on your goal, and display it somewhere prominent.

Post it on your wall. Set it as your phone backdrop. Make it your computer wallpaper.

Anything. Just make it visible. So you have a reminder, day in, day out, of what you’re working toward.

2. Know how your short-term plans are feeding into your long-term goal.

Get clear on how your actions are contributing to it.

E.g.: I am putting up posters in the rain at eight o’clock at night so that people know about my business and I can eventually help people with my successful and inspiring series of retreats.

I am taking the bus to this business event two hours from my hometown so I can meet people who might be able to help me get a job in my desired industry, or give me tips on how I can make it in this competitive market.

3. Team up with someone doing something similar.

Texting my friend was the best thing I could have done because she understood. She sympathized. I didn’t feel judged, or stupid.

So find someone in a similar situation to you. It doesn’t have to be in person—go online and seek out supportive websites, Facebook groups, whatever it is that helps you realize you’re not alone.

4. Know that everyone goes through this.

The people you see at the top of their game didn’t start there. They sweated, and toiled, and kept going when the end seemed unrealistic, or even impossible at times.

No one promised them they would get to the top. So they used their belief to keep them going.

Think of anyone you admire, in any field…

Did they work hard to get there, or did they have it handed to them magically on a plate? Did they take time to get to where they are now, or did it happen overnight?

5. Appreciate where you are now.

See the positives as well as the negatives. Your blog only has four readers? Great—think of all the mistakes you can make without anyone knowing or making harsh comments!

Working a boring job while you pay your way through school? Then sign up with a friend, and make it fun!

Because—without sounding negative—you will still have issues and problems when you get to where you want to be. They’ll just be different problems and issues. So enjoy the problems you have now.

I might have moaned about my long bus journey home at night, but if I’m traveling for business in the future, there could still be times where my flight is delayed and I’m hailing a cab in the pouring rain at one in the morning.

Appreciate where you are on your journey—it is all important.

So there we go. Five ways to keep going when your short-term reality doesn’t match your long-term vision.

Because we all have to do things we don’t necessarily want to do to get to where we truly want to be.

The trick is that most people don’t want to put themselves through this.

They don’t want to go through the tough times, the yucky stuff, to emerge out the other side, stronger and clearer on where they’re headed.

It’s easier to stay in the easy, safe zone.

So use this to your advantage: Do the things you gotta do, to get to where you want to be.

Because we only have this one life. So why not live it pursuing the things you love—your big goals and dreams?

Why not go after those dreams and adventures rather than moaning that nothing good ever comes your way? (Hint: it’s because you have to go out and get it.)

And now, over to you:

What are you working on now to fulfill your long-term vision?

What are you going through now, in order to create a brighter future for yourself?

What have you learned along the way?

Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear!

About Claire O'Connor

Claire O’Connor works with people who struggle to get things done. They desperately want to make progress on their side-hustle, project, or business, but keep getting stuck. Through her accountability program, she helps them turn their feelings of overwhelm into progress and moving forward. Check out her blog at The Five Percent.

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • I like the plan you developed to endure the needed hard work to attain your future goals.
    My plan is to do the best I can in the given day to move closer to my future goals. My system needs work. I will use a few of your tips. LOL
    They say the journey is what you remember fondly when you finally reach your goals. I hope that is true. I use that as motivation to continue when times are hard.

  • ShaunTheCHB

    My ultimate goal is to become a historian. By hook or crook, I will become a great historian. I’m always looking forward, but the bizarre thing is….people often tell me to enjoy my journey and to appreciate the now. But the thing is…..I don’t care about the journey as long as I win. When I become a historian and that certificate is put in my hand, I win. That’s all that matters. I have nothing against people who treasure the journey, that’s their wish and I respect that, but I focus on the destination, it does not matter to me how I get there as long as I do get there. I’m a destination person…..the journey is just the journey. It’s all part of the fight. The victory is the time to remember and to celebrate.

  • Shruti IP

    Thanks! I’d like to type a lot more… but I’m so tired. .but this came to me right when I needed it so thank you so much.

  • Vivek Abner

    Great work Claire…I like your story impact because these are the small problems we ignore at first but in a long way, they could stop you from moving in your life.

  • RoxGalda

    Great tips, I was sitting down in the traffic instead of complaining something in me says visit Tiny Buddha while waiting for the green light. Your Article came at the right time I needed the most. I really struggle with my current job but I need it for my long term goal, to run my own business in the future! Thank you very much

  • I’m so pleased it was helpful for you, Shruti. Thanks for your comment. And rest up if you need to! 🙂

  • Hi Shaun, thanks for your comment. And good luck with your goal – I can really feel your determination! You’re totally right, it’s whatever works for you. For some people it’s the journey; for others it is more than that. Figuring out what spurs you on is a key part of it. Wishing you well with your certificate and being a historian!

  • Hi Tony, thanks for your comment. Yes, we all need to do hard work to get to where we want to be (but it’s totally worth it 🙂 I like your plan of doing the best you can in the given day… that’s a great way to look at it – and it’s all we can do, as we only have today! And don’t worry, we all have parts of our lives that need tweaking – myself included! Good idea to keep that idea of the journey/goal in mind when times are hard. Wishing you well with your future goals… keep going, day by day, bit by bit!

  • Thanks for your comment, Vivek – I’m glad you liked the article!

  • Thanks, @RoxGalda. I love your idea to check out Tiny Buddha instead of getting frustrated at the traffic! I’m glad to hear the article was helpful for you. I’ve also struggled in jobs I hated (but needed to do for a certain amount of time) – it is definitely tough. Take care of yourself and keep focusing on that bright future you’re creating for yourself. And good luck with setting up your business!

  • Tracy Doren

    I really need this today. Two big things in my life right now. Getting fit which is actually going pretty well right now. To the gym 5 days a week and eating well. The other thing is that I am needing to move out of an unhealthy relationship. It will take time to be where I am at financially to do that and it gets discouraging but maybe if I can keep my sight on how it will be when I get to that point I’ll feel better about things.
    Thank you for sharing your experience!

  • Laurentiu Eana

    I have the feeling that the Universe has just brought me this article! It is exactly what I nedeed! I also have almost the same “symphtoms” as in the article and the tips will help me a lot keeping my focus on my main goal. Thank you Claire! God bless you!

  • Hi Tracy, thanks for your comment – I’m glad the article was helpful for you. Great to hear that the getting fit is going well – that’s an awesome goal to have (and gym 5 days a week and eating well is fab, good for you!) I’m sorry to hear about your relationship, and yes – although it may take time, keep your eye on your future vision. You can do it. I hope you have some good support around you. Even having the awareness that things need to change is hugely important – many people don’t even get to that point. I wish you well, hang in there for better things, and take care of yourself while you’re going through the process.

  • Hi Laurentiu (beautiful name!) – thanks for your kind comment! I’m really pleased to hear the article was helpful for you. Glad to hear you are keeping your focus on your main goal – I wish you well with whatever that is. Remember you’re not alone… there are many of us going through similar things! Take care 🙂

  • Nuri

    This article came right on time. I was just feeling the monotony of my daily grind and realized I can look at it from a different perspective. I can endure the daily grind with pride as long as I remember my ‘Why’ and take joy in the small daily accomplishments. Also my best job prospect may be returning to an old job which isn’t even a guarantee now. Le sigh… But thanks to your article I can see that sometimes we can step back to move forward as long as we remember our end goal and that most people would have given up BUT we are still holding on so that is something to be proud of. Thanks again.

  • ShaunTheCHB

    Thank you Claire.

  • Hi Nuri, thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear the article was timely for you. I love that you decided to take a different perspective with your work, good for you! And remembering the ‘why’ is hugely important – as well as taking joy in the small daily things… awesome. I totally agree that sometimes we have to step back to step forward (and then afterwards it might not seem like a step back, just a diversion along the way!) If it feels important to you, keep going. The only way we won’t get there is if we quit! Wishing you all the best with it 🙂

  • Niyati Soni

    Hey Claire O’Connor
    Thanks for sharing such a nice thoughts.
    Its really helpful to get rid of many negativities in life and keep faith in positivity .

  • Jersey Fonseca

    This was a great read and a great reminder. I’m currently in college and have cut off my relationship with my abusive parents. It’s hard putting myself through college, I have three jobs at the moment… But I am loving every minute of college and that is why I am working so hard! To keep having these great years 🙂 Also, after college it will be so worth it to have a job that I actually enjoy!

  • Michelle Feric

    Hi Claire
    Read your article at just the right time doing literally what you did. Taking jobs for the current money. I am studying for my real estate license but having hard time focusing due to short funds to live for my daughter and I. Ive been stuck in a long rut and keep meeting closed doors or living through odd circumstances beyond my control. Rough 5 years but still taking forward steps. I am also signing up for college again as a back up to real eatate without knowing how I will pay for it as yet. Will check out your other links. Am seeking out help from other sources yet its been slow in coming also. So I can relate fully and thank you for sharing. It is helpful.

  • ann

    Thank you very much for the article Ms Claire. I needed this more than you ever know! The whole year have been very difficult for me. Sadly, i don’t have anyone to rely on or share my worries/fears. I have the habit of beating myself up for the past mistakes and lose sight of the future. I have been feeling very depressed and just wanted to give up on everything. Your message is a great reminder that there are people struggling with their life just like i am. Keep writing. I would love to read more from you. Peace!

  • Keia

    This is really nice. A helpful reminder since I’m experiencing this one right now. Being stuck and sometimes wondering if my decisions is right as of this moment. But looking back I think i would still make the same decision as where I am now. Focus on our vision and surely we’ll be there and we will be amazed on the journey we have been and will encounter in the future. Thank you for sharing this 🙂

  • Freethinker1968

    Wow….thanks for this….I really needed to hear this today…. I have been feeling down because my plans seem to keep getting put further back and other delays seem to be happening…but I think it is all for a reason and perhaps later I will see the wisdom in it all….I hope…..

    But thanks for this…..good to keep perspective!

  • Hi Niyati, thanks for your kind words. I’m glad the article helped you! 🙂

  • Hey Jersey, thanks for your comment and for sharing your journey. My goodness, I love your attitude. Do you know how many people would have said “I had to deal with all this with my parents, and I have three jobs, and life is tough…” – but instead, you’re focused on a goal, you’re not drowning in sorrow, and you have a great future vision and are doing whatever you need to do to get there! I’m really impressed – keep going! I know your positive attitude will get you to awesome places 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your time at college, and I wish you much success getting a job you enjoy!

  • Laurentiu Eana

    Thank you Claire for your kind words! PS Your name is also beautiful, it brings ….Claire-ity 😀

  • Haha… I like it! Claire-ity indeed! 🙂

  • Tim

    Claire – terrific … I’ve had a need for this kind of an article over the last few days! I’ve been working on a book for the last 13 years and am slowly getting towards the end. I never imagined it would take so long, but now I know it’s very ambitious work – kind of like building the Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall and the ESB all at the same time. I teach for a living so writing gets shunted off to the side. But with the end of the calendar year approaching so do exams and that affords me time to return to the writing I left in September. I think of another year passing, how little I seem to have accomplished on the manuscript these last few months, how much more effort it will take to polish the narrative and make it sparkle the way I want. It can be a little discouraging, but I’m not tired of the book and your words in these dark, chilly days remind me, as Albert Camus wrote, that “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer … ” Thank you.

  • Srini

    Brilliant post Claire, and very personal. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment. That’s the main thing – we all have tough issues to deal with (some more than others), but it’s taking the forward steps that makes a difference. It sounds like you’re taking action and planning ways to create a bright future for you and your daughter, which is great. Sometimes we have to go through tough times to come out the other side (plus it helps us appreciate all the good stuff in the future!) I hope the links on my website are helpful for you. I’m glad the article helped – keep taking tiny steps forward. There are lots of people who don’t even try – but they’ll never know their full potential. Best of luck with your real estate license!

  • Hi Ann, thank you for your kind words. I’m glad the article was helpful! I’m sorry to hear you had a tough year. I hear you on beating yourself up – but the past is done and we can’t change it. We can only learn from it, and focus on making each day we have as good as we can at that time (which makes the future better as well!) Don’t give up – I’ve gone from being depressed and not knowing how to go on, to feeling much more on track with my life – and I’m just a “normal” girl (I’m lazy, I procrasinate, I’m not the ambitious over-achiever type, etc). We all have struggles, for sure. And you can learn from them and use them to help you grow, or they can rule your life. Do check out my website and my blog to see if there are any other articles that might help you. And remember that you’re not alone – there is always someone going through something similar.

  • Hi Keia, thanks for your comment. It’s funny to hear how many of us are going through these kinds of situations! Trust in your gut, and go with what feels right to you. Yes – keep focusing on where you want to be, and take little steps as often as you can to get there. And enjoy the process – there is joy to be found in being okay with where we are. I try to find something good about each day (even if it’s really really small) – it gets me through the days when I’m working to earn money to pursue my dream! Best of luck on your journey 🙂

  • Hi Freethinker, thanks for your comment! I’m glad it helped. I do believe (most) things happen for a reason – so you’re right that perhaps there is some learning you can take from the delays. We can only change ourselves and our actions and thoughts, not the situation around us. It took me a LONG time to learn that! If something feels right to you or sets a spark off in your heart, keep going with it. Good luck, and thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks Srini, for your kind words and for taking the time to comment! I’m glad you liked the post 🙂

  • Hi Tim, thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear the timing was right for you. Wow, awesome work on your book and on coming towards the end! Good things take time 🙂 I’m learning with my business that things take way longer than I thought they would. I guess that’s why a lot of people give up. But the time will pass anyway, might as well spend it doing something that makes our soul sing! I hear you on dreams having to make way for income. And I get lost sometimes in looking forward at how much I have left to do/how far I have to go. So I have to focus on the day/week in front of me: what small things can I do this week? How can I make my passion a priority, so it’s not at the bottom of my list? I’m glad you’re not tired of your book – and I LOVE that quote! Quite agree. I’d love to hear when you finish the book!!

  • Gillian Armstrong

    Well, I got a master’s degree in a field I’ve found is not where my true passion lies, and there are not many (decent) jobs in it to begin with. I just remember during my first job out of grad school, my cousin laughed at it and one of my professors commented that it was a “humble” position. And then we had volunteers helping us out at one point, so I started talking to one about my age. It turned out she was a lawyer, just doing this volunteer work on the side– exactly what I was getting paid to do. I’d never felt so badly about myself. I don’t want to spend my life in front of a computer at the same desk every day!

    My ultimate goal now is to get a certificate to learn more about working with ESL students. I have several years of experience in tutoring English language learners, and that is what I truly enjoy. Eventually, I’d like to become an ESL teacher or full-time tutor. For now, I’m tutoring outside of my full-time job, both paid and volunteer, to gain more experience. I’ve realized though that I value creativity and personal connection, and I have many interests in this life, and I don’t need to feel “stuck” with any decision I’ve made– there are always other options.

  • Sam

    I’m doing a degree I’m 50 years old in a month with students a third of my age, I’m struggling with depression, trying to get my son into uni… I’m skint, fed up and lonely travelling a two hour round trip everyday to get my graphic design degree, so many times I’ve wanted to quit, I’m not good enough, the hassle isn’t worth tge effort the list goes on… and yet a post like this reminds me why I am doing this!

    I’ve always wanted to get a degree to master my art and work at a fulfilling career which I put on hold for 18 years to raise my son single handed.

    I WILL graduate this year, I WILL get to do the job of my dreams and all this seemingly worthless effort WILL get me where I want to go!

    Thavks for sharing it is just what I needed to read today 🙂

  • Hi Gillian. Thanks for sharing your story. Sometimes it’s good to find out that our study is in an area we don’t actually feel passionate about – it makes us question what WOULD make us feel energized and inspired. And I totally hear you on not wanting to spend your life in front of the same desk every day 🙂 Good for you for figuring out what you enjoy – many people don’t. You’re going the right way about it with the tutoring as well – getting paid and volunteer experience. I 100% agree! There are always other options, and we can always change path. That kind of thinking creates a lot of freedom and opportunities, I believe. I wish you well with your certification and tutoring!

  • Hi Sam, thanks for your comment! First of all, GOOD FOR YOU for doing a degree with younger students. I’m sure it’s not easy – but what an inspiration you are being to them, and to your son. I firmly believe age doesn’t have to limit us unless we want it to. I’m glad to hear the article helped. I love your attitude! YES you can do it, and YES it is an amazing goal and achievement… so be proud of what you are doing! So many people take the easy option, and never figure out what they truly want to do (or they’re too scared to go after it). Best of luck with your degree and finding an awesome job afterwards. And remember that you’re not alone 🙂

  • Abitha

    Thank you dear for the wonderful post. Yes, even I am at a temporary land and pursing my long term goal. Thanks again.

  • Journey towards success

    You are inspiring and thank you for posting. I wish you good luck for your degree and your dream job.

  • Abitha

    Thank you Clarie for this post. It is so inspiring.

    I am on my journey for job change.

    I was with the same company for 10 years and have given my best. But due to some events, right now my family’s financial stability is lost and I am the only one who can set it right as an only breadwinner.

    For the welfare of my son, my parents and for me I will end up in a good job and financially stable.

    Everyday I am learning and practicing the skills I need for my new job as well putting efforts to get better.

    I had to travel 3-4 hours per day with a 9 hours job and a 3 year and my parents to care for. But I embrace them all and I will win in my journey along all my dear ones.

    I am determined that I will make it happen in 2018 while enjoying the moments of being with my dear son.

    Thanks again.

  • Hi Abitha, thanks for your kind comment. It sounds like you have a great attitude – doing a little bit every day to increase your learning and skills. Good for you! Also great that you are able to enjoy precious moments with your son, while pursuing your long-term goal. I wish you much success on your journey! All the best to you for 2018 and beyond.

  • KUDOS! I needed to read this today, particularly after deciding to practice daily gratitude.

    I recently realized that I want to leave my “safe” boring job and pursue a creative profession. i have two art degrees, and have been afraid to put them to action. I will not continue to let fear hold me back.

  • Aritra Sen

    Thank You for sharing this. I have wasted 5 years of my life doing a job that was not right for me. One day I decided to quit and took steps towards what I really wanted to do. Its been 2 years now in a different career, a better one actually. My income is low, my parents are retired and I do have high salaried peers in other jobs. It does get difficult. Every time I step inside a crowded train to go to work or return home, I feel very low. And then I wish I have had made bold choices back in the day. I do feel like you said “Have I missed a boat somewhere?”
    Today after reading this article, I feel little happy and hopeful. Thank You Again. I really hope you achieve your long term goal very soon.

  • Thanks Justine – I’m glad it helped you! And great idea to practice daily gratitude. I don’t always manage to do that – but I’m happy when I do! Congrats on the realization about your job! It’s that old saying: if we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we always get. Awesome work on becoming aware of your fears as well… it’s tough to tackle our fears, but SO worth it! I had the same thing – I asked myself (before I started on my path towards a life I loved) what the 70-yr-old version of me would say by pushing myself like this… and I realized she would be cheering me on. I keep that in mind whenever I can. Wishing you luck and success on your journey… I have a feeling you will do well! 🙂

  • Sandeep Singh

    Here is something that touched my heart , i feel that frequency on which this was written , get a physiological massage that inspires ,do not leave your way to success even after many hurdles.

  • Thanks a lot Claire, may your 2018 be filled with lots of light and love!

  • Thanks Justine, and the same to you! 🙂

  • Abdul Wafi

    Hey Claire. My dream is to become a pilot which is seem impossible for me. Thousand of thought and hope living in my mind right now. As I sometimes feel tired thinking of what I should do, what step should I take toward my dream, I still losing my way. And yet, I found your article which help me to think back and be optimist on my goal eventhough people around me quite not sure I can achieve my dream. Everyday I thinking about successful people and how struggle they are to be who they are today. And it quite help me with my dream. By the way, this is just a glimpse of what I thinking right now. Thank you for the amazing motivation.

  • Carrie

    Hi Claire,

    I am really happy I stumbled across your article. I have been struggling greatly with self-doubt and crippling fear that I will not achieve my dreams.

    I began college over 6 years ago (right out of high school) as a biology and chemistry double major. After three semesters, I decided to change my major to social work and even transfer schools. Why I switched from science/math to social work is a very long story… but I will say it was mostly because I felt it was something I was supposed to do, not necessarily something I knew I would simply love to do.

    So I graduated in 2016 with my bachelor’s in social work and began working in the field. After one year in the field I knew I could not continue. I have struggled with depression most of my life and social work made it significantly harder to manage. I was very unhappy and kept returning to my dreams of pursuing science/math. I regretted my decision to switch to social work and felt I wasn’t living up to my potential. Social work was intellectually stimulating to me – in the ways that math and science are. While social work taught me many invaluable life lessons and introduced me to some of the most beautiful people, I knew it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life so I thought to myself… why wait any longer? Why not go ahead and pick back up where I left off with science/math.

    So I re-enrolled for my second bachelor’s in environmental science and began this previous fall. I am headed into my second semester of the program in a week.
    I have been so happy to be back in science/math. It feels right. While I know this field is very challenging and requires A LOT of work… I know it is what I want to do. My dream is to do research. Specifically, climate variability research. My dream when I was a little girl for many years was to work for NASA. My dad, who passed away 2 years ago by suicide, always told me that there was no doubt in his mind that I could do it. He would tell me that if anyone could do it, I could. He made me believe in myself. But I still struggle greatly. My ultimate dream is to work for or with NASA in climate research as they are at the forefront of current scientific research. I feel that claiming this as my dream is nearly impossible at times. Who am I to think that I am intelligent enough to actually work for NASA?

    I’ve got massive amounts of student loan debt and know that by the time I finish my education, I will have an amount that I will spend my entire lifetime trying to pay off. I worry that I may fail and then have accrued all of this crippling debt for nothing. I wouldn’t be able to pay it off or manage the payments.

    I am constantly telling myself that I should be making money right now. I have one bachelor’s degree already. If anything, I should be working towards a master’s in social work so that I can earn more and more up.

    I am challenging myself more by pursuing a mathematics minor in addition to my second bachelor’s. I am taking many advanced math and physics classes in the hopes that I would stand out to a good graduate program in the future or a good research job. I look at the daunting classes I am scheduled to take and am gripped by fear… partial differential equations while taking advanced physics II?! I’m terrified. I think I can do it. I’m pretty tenacious and stubborn… but I know how incredibly difficult it will be for me. This whole new path that I have chosen to take. And it will be a long and slow process. It will likely take me another 6 years to complete my education (grad school) and to possibly begin a full-time career as a researcher. I know many opportunities may pop up along the way, but that 6 years is daunting to me. I am excited to pursue what I love. Very excited. But I feel that my anxiety/fear/self-doubt often over-shadows my love and passion for science/math.

    Sorry for the rant. Getting this out is making me feel a bit better. It is encouraging to read that I am not alone. Patience is such a difficult practice. I get through it by “keeping my eye on the prize”, similar to your message. But I also want to become better at practicing mindfulness and living in the present moment so that I don’t miss out on enjoying life for the next 6 years while I keep looking towards my end goal. I feel that looking to the future causes more anxiety… when I think about all the great challenges ahead. But it is also good to imagine myself achieving my dreams. Ahhh. It is a very difficult balance.

    Thanks so much again for your thoughts.