“Letting go of the past means that you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz
I grew up on a small cattle farm in the very small farming town of Savannah, Missouri with my grandfather and great grandparents.
My great grandmother used to sit outside on the back porch and string green beans or peel apples when the weather was mild, a worn dish towel over her knee and an ancient paring knife moving with practiced ease. As a very small child I would often sit with her, watching, and sometimes we would talk.
One evening we shared a conversation that would come to influence me for the rest of my life, though I didn’t realize it at the time.
I asked if she had ever had something that she always wanted to do, a dream? She smiled, set down her work, leaned back, and looked off across the farm for a moment, lost in thought.
She said that she had always wanted to see the ocean, visit Hawaii, and see the Eiffel Tower. She had only seen these things in pictures and on TV, and they were beautiful to her. But relatives and friends scolded her for having such ideas and encouraged her to put away these things that would never happen.
So she did.
Instead, she got married, raised two children, tended the farm alongside her husband, and prepared every meal without complaint. She packed my lunches, took me to school every single day, sewed my dresses and Halloween costumes from scratch, and made me cinnamon pies.
She paid all the bills on time, did the grocery shopping, helped her community in any way she could, and was a very good wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.
At her funeral the church overflowed; every seat was taken by lives she had touched, and more stood in the vestibule and were forced out onto the sidewalk. She gave so much in her life while asking for nothing in return. She was an amazing woman, but I knew she never forgot her dream.
That one afternoon spent sitting with my great grandmother, watching her as she spoke with such warmth and sadness, stuck with me.
As I became older I turned the story over and over in my head like a coin because I instinctively knew its lesson had two sides, but I was only seeing one. After many years of inspection, I found the duality that her story contained: a warning and a gift.
The Warning: Make the choice to not let others dictate your dreams or goals.
Your dreams are yours, no matter how simple or small or large or complicated they may be, and you have a right to chase them at any point in your life, for any reason.
Do not give in to fear or uncertainty, do not doubt yourself, do not ask “Why? Why is this so important to me?” Your dreams are yours and yours alone. No one can take them from you, and you should never give up on them.
The Gift: Make the choice to find happiness in your current path.
Sometimes, for some reason, we choose to walk away from what our heart wants. Maybe we make the choice out of necessity, maybe we do not really have a choice in the matter, maybe we did not realize what we wanted till it was too late, maybe we did not want to seem “weird” to our friends.
But life will always find a way to give you happiness, so be brave and keep yourself open to receive the joy that life is trying to give you.
My great grandmother never gave herself permission to go do what she had always wanted to do, even when she had the time and money to do so. But she decided to never resent her choices; rather, she chose to find new meaning and fulfillment in her situation. This gave her the ability to grow past her hurt and loss to become a truly fulfilled person.
Have the strength to attain dreams you think are out of your reach, while allowing yourself to find peace when you don’t follow your heart. Learn to succeed when others predict you will fail, and to laugh when you stumble or get lost.
Your dreams and your life are your own. Never forget that.