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Everyone Loves a Quitter: how to break up with your lifelong dream

I’ve spent most of my life listening to people say “follow your dreams”. It’s everywhere from high school lectures to motivational Instagram accounts, but what no one ever told me was that sometimes that dreams turn out to be a complete nightmare. Realising the dream that you’ve spent your whole life pursuing is not as amazing as you thought is a unique type of disappointment.

It seems like you’ve failed; you’ve given up on this “five-year plan” that you’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen. People say “no one likes a quitter” but sometimes quitting matters, sometimes dumping a dream means falling in love with another.

I’ve had to dump a lot of dreams in my life. When I was five, I wanted to be a vet, but then I realised I was allergic to cats. When I was twelve, I was destined to be an architect, but then I couldn’t figure out how maths worked. More recently I wanted to be a psychologist. I had it all figured out; I’d finish my degree, take sometime off, do my masters, become a psychologist and use my skills to help people understand themselves. In reality, the plan wasn’t so clear-cut.The dream no longer made me happy.

Now as I am writing this,I am a journalism major with absolutely no aspiration in psychology. If you, like me, have ever pursued a dream only to realise that it’s not what you want, you don’t have to feel like a failure. It’s a good thing to let go of a dream; it means you are one step closer to finding your true passion. Here are some things I learnt while moving on from my psychology dreams and into something that made me excited about the big bad world beyond university.

 

  1. Regress (go with me on this one)

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is the question of everyone’s childhood.You probably lament this question, but it is an interesting gauge of where your passions lie. What was your answer? What made you happy then and does it still now? When you’re a kid this question is less stressful and more imaginative, it can express what we truly want. Try listening to your tiny, idealistic self and ignore the pragmatist within. Being Nancy Drew might be a little difficult but go take a criminology class. Rediscover those aspirations and live a little impulsively.

 

  1. Dream 2.0

The good news is you have time. There can be the dream 2.0 or 3.0 or even 4.0.  Patience and a nice course advisor is all you need. Let yourself imagine beyond your current dream. Get out of the comfy classes you’ve been good at since day dot or finally join that rock climbing club you’ve always been curious about. You, like everyone else, is just chasing that elusive “dream” and maybe it doesn’t exist but at least you are gaining new experiences which will put you a step closer to figuring that out.

 

  1. Fail (a lil)

Let it be clear, failure is not the end goal, but it can be a very efficient way to figure your shit out. Failure can be a redirection; it shows you where you shouldn’t be. Failure can be an opportunity; it’s a chance to re-evaluate, to learn from your mistakes. Failure is not the end, it’s a step back. Now I’m aware this sounds like a load of hippie-dippie propaganda but trust me failure is invaluable. Failure has taught me many things, that Lenin is not the guy from The Beatles and that the break is on the left, not the right.

 

You don’t have to be a 50-year-old man in a sports car to be in a life crisis. For me ,it looked like taking a semester off to do nothing and wearing non-prescriptive glasses un-ironically. My quarter life crisis made me realise something needed to change.

Change is a sign of growth and experience. Your world isn’t ending; it’s just expanding. It’s OK to mourn a lost dream; in some ways, it can feel like you’re losing a big chunk of yourself. You may not be the person you or many others thought you would be, but that doesn’t make you less you.

 

Tess Astle

The author Tess Astle

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