The Case for Keeping Dreams Alive - America's Future Foundation

June 15, 2020

Career Advice

The Case for Keeping Dreams Alive

By: Tris Dandie

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with creating stories. It started when I was a “bossy little girl” playing house with my cousins. “You would say ‘But I don’t want to go to school!’ and then I would say ‘But you have to, Amanda!’ and then you stomp out of the room.” Back then I didn’t realize I was crafting storylines and creating dialogue, I was just influencing how the game should go.

 As I grew, so did my storytelling, and when I was 12 years old, I began writing my first story. As the plots danced around in my head, I spent my adolescence in a world I created. I would sit in class and scribble scenes into my notebook. Characters of books that didn’t exist were arguing in my mind while I listened to music, tried to go to sleep at night, and even while I was showering.

As a preteen, when I would tell people that I wanted to be a writer, they would smile and say things like “That’s nice!” As a teen, their smiles got smaller and they’d ask what else I wanted to do. When I got to college and told people that I was an English major, they would frown and ask, “But what are you going to do with that?”

Sometimes you have hard lessons to learn. This was mine: As you grow up, the world slowly stops smiling at your dreams, and instead asks that you be more realistic.

You see, I was never banking on the fact that I would be a best-selling author paying my bills on book sales alone. Even as a 12-year-old, I knew that I would eventually have a job to support myself, and that job might not be the dream. That didn’t mean that the dream wasn’t possible though. 

I went on to graduate college, get my teaching credential, and I’m now happily entering my fourth year teaching American literature to 11th graders. I don’t teach because I couldn’t make it as a writer, I teach because I want to encourage teens not to give up, that they can make their dreams a reality if they work hard enough. That’s the difference: Dreams can only become a reality when hard work is involved.

It would be easy for me to “talk the talk” – to tell my students “Don’t give up on your dreams!” while no longer pursuing my own. It would be easy to clock out at 4:00 pm and be done for the day. I’m not in it for the easy route though, I never have been. I’m here to make waves, to prove people wrong, to be an inspiration for my students. So, for me, as one work day ends, another begins – but this one doesn’t pay (not monetarily, that is.)

Writing is my passion. It fuels something deep within my soul, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult to keep up with as an adult working 40 hours a week. Scribbling in my notebook during class and tuning out the teacher is no longer an option – I am the teacher.

So, no, dreaming isn’t easy as an adult – perseverance is even harder. And although writing makes me happy, there are downsides. Rejection comes – again, and again. People will always doubt you, encourage you to give up, to take the easy way out. Don’t listen to them. They’re not the ones who make it.

When I was young, I dreamed of the day I would get my first rejection letter from a literary agent. I told myself that I would print it, I would frame it. That rejection would be the first step on my journey to becoming the author I always dreamed of.

 This week that dream became a reality. With my first rejection letter flooding my mind with euphoria, I called my friend and shouted with excitement “I got my first rejection letter!” It wasn’t a disappointing feeling, I didn’t feel sad, or less-than, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t make it. Instead, I felt like the next step was in my grasp. I was on my way.

The truth is, even Hemingway was rejected, and he was rejected hard. You can’t let the little things bring you down. I’m not ashamed of my rejection, I’m proud of it. It’s a step in my journey, and it’s only the beginning. I will be published one day, because I refuse to give up. That bossy kid within me will have her name in bookstores one day, and so will the 12 year old scribbling in her notebook. I do it for them.