We live in the land and time of dreams. The inundation talk of dreams is significant. It is everywhere. Follow your dreams. Live the American dream. Dream big. A dream is a wish your heart makes. I have a dream. If you can dream it, you can do it. Make your dreams happen. Dreams do come true. Live your dream. I am sure there are many more inspirational one-liners out there. The list is not exhaustive. I like to beg questions. Here is one for you. How would you define a dream?

The number one definition in the dictionary is “a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep. We all have experience with dreaming. I have a handful of dreams that I remember. They are vivid and intense. However, the bulk of my dreaming is fleeting, barely impressions. I find this also to be true with the second definition of dreams. You know those wispy aspirations we chase after at least in minds.

Dreams change with time and maturity. I don’t have the same dreams I did as a young child. Nor should I. Although, I must confess. I do still cling to one childhood dream. Ever since I knew what it was, I knew it was for me. To this day, I dream of traveling the world. The point is, aside from one or two aspirations that may endure the test of time, dreams are fleeting at best. Why would I want to chase that? More importantly, why would I want to live that? We get so caught up in the idea of dreams. Don’t get me wrong. It is good to work hard, to grow personally, and to ultimately achieve what you set out to accomplish. It is the chasing after fleeting dreams that set us up for failure. They are notoriously hard to catch. Here is an idea to contemplate. By the very language we use, following dreams suggests the external. We all know that success does not come from outside of ourselves.

Instead of focusing on evanescent notions, turn inward. Ask yourself, “What can I do to reach my full potential?” My son, who is seven years old, likes to watch the TV show Ninjago. Parents everywhere understand the repetitive nature of children watching their favorite shows. You pick things up, whether you want to or not. As a consolation, I believe you can find bits of wisdom anywhere, even in a children’s cartoon. You just have to listen for it. In the very first episode of Ninjago Masters of Spinjutsu, within the first five minutes, Sensei Wu strongly encourages his four students, who are playing video games instead of training, to get up off their tushies and obtain their full potential. Profound, right?

Let me illustrate my meaning or rather, Senesi Wu’s meaning. Recently, I decided I was done being the mediocre version of myself. Hold on, before you jump to conclusions, I am not self-bashing. I am facing reality. Have you ever felt you could be so much more? That you could do so much more? I do. Three years ago I had to face a grim and heart-pounding realization.

My husband was less than ten years away from retiring. At which time, I would have to take over being the breadwinner of the family. The thought scared me into action. I didn’t have a degree or a way to support our maturing family. So out of cold fear, I went back to school. That’s okay, whatever motivates us. Once I hit my stride in school, a realization hit me. I was home. Home as in I felt comfortable and mentally stimulated. I know that is the nature of college and I love it.

Around the same time, I was asked to teach a genealogy seminar. For those of you that don’t know, I have twenty years of genealogy experience under my belt. I was excited by the opportunity. I put together a How-To booklet, created a power point, and provided several case studies. Approximately a hundred people showed up that evening. I lectured for three hours about the ins and outs of online research. I will clue you into a little secret about me. I was born a shy child. So shy in fact, if anyone looked at me I would burst into tears. It was that bad. So, that night it was an illuminating moment for me. I felt very comfortable.

A second realization hit me. I love to teach. The math was simple: love of history + comfortable with teaching + feeling at home in college = History Professor. That is what I am meant to do with my life. You may ask, “How can I be so sure?” When I stop to think about it, history permeates throughout even my day-to-day existence. Acknowledging what was right under my nose, it was time to make a plan.

In the past three years, everything I have pursued working towards my ultimate career goal, I have obtained. I am not bragging. It is an illustration. I wanted to improve my writing skills, so I became a writing consultant at the college. I set my sights on the University of Washington Seattle. I applied and got in. I wanted to start my journey in martial arts. So, I did. None of these things were easy. It took an insane amount of hard work, determination, and perseverance. I set small goals for myself, taking it one piece at a time. Think of a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. With each new piece put into place, I am that much closer to achieving my full potential.

Back to chasing dreams. Aren’t you tired of running after the elusive?¬† I am not saying don’t do what you love. Just the exact opposite. Stop. Look inward. Ask yourself, “How can I reach my full potential?” Remember, only you can answer that question. A word of caution as you move forward in life. The world is full of doubters. It is their job to test your resolve. Yours is to walk past them without blinking an eye.

As I conclude, I want to purpose a change to the cheesy one-liner quotes meant to inspire us to follow ephemerality. “Live to your full potential.” That could be catchy. Or how about, “Follow your potential.” Here is another one, “Make your full potential happen.” And last but certainly not least, “Be your potential.


Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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