It seems like it should be simple. To follow your dreams means that you should figure out what it is you really want to do and then go for it, with gusto. Only for so many of us, this is far easier said than done.
First of all, many of us don't really know what our dreams are, or if we do, they're not entirely realistic. Dreaming of sailing around the world and never having a full time or even part time job is one thing but how many people would be able to pull that off without a trust fund, a lotto win, or a ridiculous inheritance?
Sitting in his accountant's chair, crunching numbers all day, every day, for years, the accountant may secretly dream of becoming a stand up comedian. He writes jokes in his evening hours, chuckling and trying them out on friends and family over the holidays. But if he were to follow that particular dream, he feels, he may actually end up without any money left, his past labors and future security gone forever.
So perhaps the challenge is to realize there's a fine line between following our real dreams and tempering them somewhat to be able to live responsibly in the world. Of course there are those shooting star people who throw caution to the wind and "just go for it," never looking back, all their eggs in one basket.
Maybe that's why shows like "American Idol" are so popular; we see a microcosm of what it's like to try and go for your dreams without hesitation, sometimes falling on your face, sometimes reaching incredible heights.
What I have come to appreciate is the sense that while we may not all get to live out our dreams, every person we meet actually has them. I understand the poignant beauty of the secretary who used to paint as a college student, or the doctor who was a modern dancer, the janitor who wanted to be a doctor or the cleaning woman who is fluent in seven languages and almost worked for the U.N. These dreams may have faded, but inside all of us there is still that place of knowing them and, in knowing them, knowing the core of one's deepest self.
I don't want to feel so much pressure to follow my dreams when my dreams involve walking down avenues which do not include a steady paycheck or health insurance; now is simply not the time.
But I do appreciate encouragement to nurture and foster these dreams, maybe transforming them into something tamer, more manageable. For if I can't sail around the world without working, perhaps I can read about it and plan a family vacation on a cruise ship for a couple of years from now.
After all, living simply and dreaming calmly is still a vibrant way to live. And, as the song says, "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream."
Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER. She is a special education teacher who dreams of writing full time, at home, in her pajamas.