For as long as I can remember, I have been a dreamer. Frozen puddles became my ice-skating rink, a rickety swing set — my Olympic equipment, trails cut through woods — my escape to Narnia. As a child, the beautiful part about being able to dream was that it was free.
Unlike my reality, my dreams didn’t segregate me due to my socio-economic status. They didn’t tell me I didn’t have enough experience. And when I was in the moment, other people’s criticism was non-existent.
But something happened as I grew.
Where once stood a fearless girl who tamed lions and performed death-defying stunts in her imaginary circus, now cowered a constricted chameleon who did anything to stay out of view for fear of criticism, chastisement, and rejection.
Inside, I was still that girl who longed to take risks, dance in the middle of a crowded street, or quit my job to travel the world with the Peace Corps, but the me that feared the world’s perception kept her quietly caged inside.
As I aged, my life centered around everyone else. Giving to others made my heart happy. And so, I learned to find contentment and gratitude in the feeling that came with helping others. I would run myself into the ground organizing hat/glove drives for children in need, volunteering my talents to my boys’ school, and depleting our bank account to help others feel loved.
Busyness was my way of silencing the lion tamer within. Busyness was my way of validating my worth. Busyness was my way of avoiding me.
Yet, when I allowed the world to be still, if only for a moment, the emptiness that existed within was overwhelming. Stillness allowed uncomfortableness to reveal that inquisitive girl I used to be, peeking out from the door I had slid box after box of other people’s opinions in front of. Sheepishly, she would smile and for one small for moment happiness, true happiness, would ignite from within.
But just as soon as that joy would spark, shame came rushing in like a jealous sibling blowing out the birthday cake candles, shutting the door on joy and replacing it with responsibility, societal constraint, and conviction.
As I aged and my children grew more independent, life threw curveball after curveball. I found myself isolated from the very busyness I had relied on. And it was in this stillness that I realized just how much of myself I had buried.
Life has this way of revealing paths when we are ready. Had I been given this opportunity ten years ago, I would have missed it as I was too consumed by other’s perception of me.
What I didn’t understand when I was younger is that though my body continues to age, my soul, is ageless. The dreamer within still exists. The desire for passion, romance, love, to become a writer, to save animals, to dance in the moonlight, to lasso the sun and swim with the dolphins, to soar the sky with Falcor from The Neverending Story — all of that still exists within me.
I still feel the magic when I watch Titanic as Rose lifts her arms at the bow of the ship with Jack nestled from behind or when the snow begins to fall and the choir and symphony begin to play that haunting melody during Edward Scissorhands. The magic within never dies.
What happens is we bury it, drown it out, or learn to dismiss it for fear of what others might say, for responsibility, or for the sake of being a “grown up.” But the truth is, others miss that magic just as much. Why else do we read or watch movies in the cinemas but to chase that feeling if only for a second? Yet it exists within, longing to be set free.
This past year I was given the opportunity to set myself free.
It wasn’t a tornadic moment that darkened the sky and came rushing in, rather it was more like the cinematic build of a movie that lays the scene and then unfolds slowly and methodically. One moment led to another moment that led to another moment. Until one day I realized the door to the dreamer inside me had been opened and allowed to see the world for the first time in at least thirty years.
Like leaves falling from the Oak that stands tall in the wood outside my back window, my walls began to fall. I allowed myself to stand naked to the world, baring my imperfections and my scars. In my vulnerability, I allowed my quirkiness to stand with outstretched arms with the wind of perception to my back and the sun of self-acceptance on my face and I stood tall, leaves continuing to fall one by one.
With each word I have learned to merge with the dreamer within and replace worry with acceptance, to breathe through the hard moments instead of holding my breath, and I’ve learned to open myself to risk, knowing that though I am scarred, I am strong. The beautiful thing about scar tissue is that it grows back stronger than what existed before, connecting my former self to my authentic self, and bridging the gap that once held me back from all I desired.
How different would your life look if you allowed the dreamer within to be set free? Can you imagine the ripple effect if we allowed our hearts to touch with another without fear of rejection or in anticipation of the potential pain that may follow? One touch, one smile, one extension of kindness…a dreamer dreams without fear of the consequences.
A dreamer brings their brave.
Aging doesn’t stop us from dreaming, only we do that. While it’s true that our bodies may prevent us from doing some of the physical things we desire — it’s also more the reason to take the risk while you still have the physicality that you do now. Most dreams are still within reach if you just allow yourself the opportunity to take the risk.
Take Joan, for example. She is a 73-year-old woman who decided to transform herself three years ago. In her own words, “You can’t turn back the clock but you can wind it up again!”
May you be inspired to bring your brave, to try something you’ve always longed to do, and in allowing yourself to be set free, may you inspire someone to bring their brave too~
***As posted on the Originality By Design Blog by Grace Augustine where I was featured as a guest author.
JD Greyson is a mother of three boys, wife to an amazing husband, and a free spirit who runs on copious amounts of coffee, conversation, and compassion. She can be found chasing sunsets, breathing in nature, and having dance parties in her minivan at stoplights. If you enjoyed this or want to read more of her work you can reach her on Twitter here where she holds a weekly poetry battle or here on Medium where her soul lyrically expresses itself in the form of words upon a screen.