The Dreamers v. The “Responsibles”
I am one thousand percent behind helping you chase your dreams. Helping you create a life beyond school that you actually enjoy.
Sometimes, though, I gotta admit, it feels a bit reckless. Encouraging you in this way. After all, there are a ton of other adults out here telling you that dreams are foolish. That the realities of life, like the need for a house and a car, should actually dictate your career decisions.
Jason Reynolds might call these adults “the ‘responsibles.’”
Perhaps you’ve read some of Reynolds’ work. He writes poetry and novels.
In the introduction to his book For Every One, Reynolds hits upon a truth that so often goes unspoken.
That the “responsibles” once had dreams too. But, they hit a point where they contemplated stopping their chase. And, in that contemplation, convinced themselves that the realities of life required them to join the ranks of other responsibles.
This is the part of dream chasing so few have ever put into words. Reynolds calls it the “meltdown.”
For Every One brilliantly expresses what so many people, just like you, have experienced and will continue to experience. The unrelenting pressure to “make it.” To succeed. Arrive. Meet a standard. Set, not by you, but by our culture.
What Reynolds puts into words isn’t the uncertainty that comes from being an adult. Functioning in a world outside the structure of school. It’s the fear and doubt that inevitably occur because milestones haven’t been reached. Milestones that prove one’s arrival. Prove success.
Milestones that appear to be legitimate and true. Their truth existing in the pages of books or pictures on Instagram. Proclaiming the need to hustle, believe, and achieve. Selling the idea that there’s one way, one formula for success.
Countless adults so bought into these notions that they eventually gave up on their own dreams. Believed themselves to have failed. Felt compelled to lead responsible lives. Sometimes mixed with a sadness and bitterness for what could have been.
But then, Reynolds shows up, and puts out a book that reminds us of the need to keep chasing dreams. To acknowledge the uselessness of the milestones. The advice. The cries to hustle harder.
Reynolds puts into words the true tragedy that occurs when people stopped living their own lives. Started living within the boundaries of what’s acceptable. What’s appropriate and responsible.
And, it’s true. I’ve met some of them. Back when I was defending small crimes and misdemeanors, I met them. I saw their “legs of passion turned to soot.” I helped them.
Helped them avoid a few days in jail. To keep their job. In a factory they despised. I met them. Over and over again. Year after year. Helped them. Until I realized, to really help, I needed to do something different.
And, that something different is talking to you. While you’re still in school. Telling you that we adults have been lying to ourselves. We’ve been desperately trying to convince ourselves that happiness is attained through certainty. Certainty that comes from being one of the responsibles.
We gave up on our dreams in order to seek stability. To get to a worry-free existence. One where we knew for sure we had arrived. Succeeded. Made it.
Except we’re realizing that what we thought was stable and certain is not. That jobs aren’t always secure. That success, as defined by anyone other than ourselves, is hollow. Empty. Exhausting.
We’re trapped. And, we’re questioning where we went wrong.
Reynolds reminds us. We went wrong when we stopped chasing dreams. Gave up on ourselves. Gave into the pressure. Insisted “making it” was worth it.
Look, here’s the truth. The truth that Reynolds so courageously tells. Greatness doesn’t come from achieving your dreams. It’s not the arrival that matters. It’s the journey. The road that you’re taking.
“The courage in trying, the passion in living, and the acknowledgment and appreciation of the beauty happening around you . . . .” That’s what makes you great.
It doesn’t matter whether your dreams come true. What matters, in the end, is that you chased them.
And, here’s this truth too. Dreams evolve. Reynolds himself started with poetry. That’s all he wrote. For nearly 20 years. Then, he wrote a novel. And, more novels after that.
It’s not just the dream. It’s the chase. Which may alter the dream. Changing the course of the chase.
It’s a process. Repeating itself again and again. That’s the road you want to be on. The journey you want to take. And, enjoy.