“What happens to a dream deferred?”
Langston Hughes‘ iconic words have stuck with me since I first read this poem in high school. I thought about his question the other day, when an acquaintance of mine was telling me she decided to give up on her dreams. Normally my first reaction would be to say, “noooo,” but instead I just listened.
“I feel guilty giving up because this has been my dream since I was a little girl,” she said to me. “But I have so many other things I want to pursue now.”
I thought for a moment, and then asked, “When was the last time you were excited about this dream?”
She laughed. “Probably back when I was a little girl.”
In that moment I realized that we do not betray our dreams by pursuing something different, we betray our dreams when we ignore ourselves and forget to ask, “Hey, I’ve grown, I’ve changed, have my dreams changed too?”
We are not the same person we were ten, fifteen twenty years ago. We have different priorities, different views of the world, and different experiences so why would our dreams be the only thing that remain stagnant?
I went to college for painting. In high school I was known as the artist, and I always assumed that’s what I would become. There were signs for years, but it didn’t hit me until senior year when I could not drag myself to the studio. This was no longer my dream.
I haven’t done much painting since then, and this horrifies a lot of people who knew me as ‘the artist.’ They think because I’m good at something that should be my dream, but my dream is to become the best writer I can become. Writing has never been as easy for me as painting. I’ve struggled with it for years, and I’m never quite satisfied with anything I produce, but I would take that drive for improvement over the detachment I felt over making a pretty painting any day. I’ve come to accept that dreams are fluid, and whatever seeped into my paintbrush has seeped into my keyboard.
I told my acting friend about this, and she seemed a little relieved. It was almost like she needed permission to let go.
“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”
Maybe, or maybe it becomes something other than a raisin, but you have look inside yourself to find out.
- Poet of the Week: Langston Hughes (hcplteenscene.org)
- Dream Deferred (whitneyh2013.wordpress.com)
- Responding to “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes (confessionsofanimpressionablesoul.wordpress.com)