My Dear Ivy,
In my last letter, I wrote about desires. I wrote that I want you to have your own desires for your life, independent of what other people want for you (and as always, yes, that includes me).
Implicit in that piece of advice is the advice I want to offer in today’s letter. Don’t just have your desires – setting them on a shelf to admire like some exquisite piece of decor, collecting dust. Pursue them.
That’s not always easy. Things that are worth doing are hard. If it was easy, anyone could do it, and it wouldn’t be much of a dream. And anything worth doing is not only hard, it is probably harder than it seems like it will be when you start out. Pursuing your desires is going to take all the things I’ve talked about in these letters up until now – including, at times, the part about asking for help.
Once again, I’m giving this advice to myself as much as I am to you. I’m not very good about this. I’m a “planner” . . . very good at coming up with lots of ideas for things that would be really great, but not so good at pursuing them. And I’m not very good at enlisting others to help me pursue my dreams. Typically I try to do it on my own, and typically, that doesn’t work. Because again, anything worth doing is probably complex and difficult enough that it can’t be done on its own. We are social creatures by nature, and we need each other in order to succeed.
Having big dreams, and then doing nothing about them, is a recipe for a long string of disappointments. Take it from someone who has disappointed himself more than he has anyone else.
This also relates to what I wrote earlier about the cultural barriers to desire – there are certain streams in our culture that urge us to set our desires aside completely. Some even couch it in the language of faith. I remember a conversation many years ago with a good friend, where we were discussing some of the things we’d been taught growing up, and one of the things he said was: “I feel as though anything I want must, by definition, be wrong.”
That’s a significant part of the culture we live in. There is a strong tendency toward self-indulgence in some parts of our culture – the belief that anything we want must, by definition, be good. But the reaction to that self-indulgence is an equally unhealthy self-denial, a literal denial of our selves and what, and who, we are. A belief, as my friend put it, that anything we want must necessarily be bad, simply because we desire it.
Don’t buy it. That’s not the way God works – not the God who says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Let yourself dream, and give yourself the space to pursue those dreams.
The other piece that it will take is that part about empathy – in particular, self empathy. Because you will sometimes fail. Because this stuff is really, really hard. And when you fail, it’s easy to condemn yourself, label yourself by your failures, and let them discourage you from getting back up and trying something new.
Understand that failing is part of the hard. Failing to achieve what you’re trying to do doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It just means that strategy didn’t work. Have empathy for yourself, the same as I urged you to have for others, and let yourself be imperfect. Let your dreams be imperfect. And let yourself work toward them in your own way, in your own time.
But do work toward them, rather than standing still. Dream, and dream big. But also, pursue your dreams. Take breaks. Give yourself grace. Don’t try to do it all alone, or try to do it all today. But have a way forward to get to your dreams, and be working toward that way forward, even if the way you’re working toward it right now is having a little rest to refresh yourself later.
I love you.