Our parents have always told us to go for our dreams, and that if we put our minds to something, we can accomplish it. We listen to them and see, for instance, winning Olympic medals, becoming president, and marrying a prince in our futures. I never really thought about this until I started paying attention to the kids around me who are playing three sports at a time, taking SAT classes, hitting the books like crazy, and constantly pushing their limits, all in the name of being great. I was no exception to this mindset. I woke up at 5am to practice soccer before school because I knew I was a superstar waiting to happen. In school, I’d stress over making straight A’s because anything less meant I wasn’t living up to my potential. Once I tried to argue the point that a B is good, that it was average. My mom came back with, “That may be fine for other people, but you are not average.” And that actually made pretty good sense to me.
As time passed by and my little world got bigger and bigger, it became harder and harder to see greatness as a viable option. In elementary school we are all superstars, everyone gets to be exceptional in something. In middle school we begin to see what our abilities are, and people equate potential with inevitability to be successful in something. In high school we set out to accomplish that destiny and just know that it will all work out if we work hard at it. Once we hit college, I think there’s a big switch. Though our worlds are still relatively small, the reality that we have to prepare for a legitimate future starts to kick in. I think this is where we start to give up on ourselves. The competition of everybody in the whole world seems fierce, and our odds of being the best seem low. With the help of academic counselors, we set forth on a path that will secure us professional and financial security.
What we’re left with are traces of dreams we never fulfilled and didn’t even realize we let go. I’m not saying that dreams don’t change or that changing what we want is tantamount to failure. However, I do believe that deep down inside, everyone wants to be great, and that we are all at some level afraid of finding out that we are not. I can think of times throughout my life starting at age 15 thinking, “Ah man, if only I knew then what I knew now, I’d be set. What I wouldn’t do if I were (fill in the blank age) again!” I think that right now about when I was two years younger, and I remember two years ago thinking the same thing.
In the 2008 Olympics, Dara Torres won 3 silver medals setting numerous American and world records along the way. She was 41 years old, and when interviewed about her experience she said that she decided to train for and compete in the Olympics because she wanted to show her daughter that there is no age limit on dreams. She said in her book, “I’d proven to the world that maturity, experience, dedication, and ingenuity can make up for a little senescence. Muscle tightening is not the only thing that happens to our bodies over time. We gain knowledge, focus, and understanding, and those things can help us win.”
And it’s true for anything. Whether we dream of athletic prowess, changing the world through politics, writing a best-seller, or acting on Broadway, we can be great at the things we love. We don’t have to be satisfied landing in the stars when we shoot for the moon; we can actually go all the way to the moon. We just have to brave enough to take off and strong enough to keep believing in ourselves despite our doubts and setbacks.
I want the world to be a place where we get over the mindset of the glory days of yore and look forward to the exciting days to come-which is my jump off point. Three weeks ago I started diligently training for racing again, and today I am accepting that winning races is a distinct possibility. From here on out I am focused on this goal, this recovered dream of greatness, and believing in it so much that I dedicate myself to it. We must all go forward knowing- not hoping- that we will make a difference and that we will succeed in whatever we dedicate ourselves to.