Don’t let the Dream Stealers stop you

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Our new Postmaster asked me the other day, “Are you retired?”

“No,” I smiled at her impression of me. I was sorting my mail; some of it went straight to the trash, the rest was coming home with me.

“What kind of work do you do?” she asked.

Eileen’s PO Box contained a yellow card. Handing the card to the Postmaster, I answered her question while she retrieved Eileen’s package.

“Communications. Marketing,” I said. “I also write a weekly newspaper column, and I have a music blog.”

“You’re lucky,” the Postmaster said. “I’ve always wanted to work in the arts.”

She said her medium was painting, design, ceramics, “anything, really.”

“Why don’t you do it?” I asked.

She shook her head firmly. “No. It’s too late,” she said.

When following dreams, I believe, until your heart stops, it’s never too late.

Author Steven Pressfield has written a few insightful, helpful books for battling the “Resistance” we all run into when we pursue our “Dream.” “The War of Art” is Mr. Pressfield’s most famous book. “Do The Work” is excellent too.

In a June 2013 post on his “Writing Wednesday’s” blog, Pressfield explains, “The Dream comes first. Resistance follows. Resistance is the equal-and-opposite-reaction of nature to the New Thing that you and I are called to bring forth out of nothing. …Resistance’s strength is equal to the power of the Dream. Big Resistance = Big Dream.”

Once again I encouraged the Postmaster to pursue her art, reminding her the internet alone offers countless opportunities for her to reach other artists and the public.

“No,” she said again. “It’s too late. I could have pursued art, but I made other choices. It’s too late.” With a quick hand gesture she seemed to sweep her dream of creating art back into the shadows.

How sad. I wonder if the Postmaster’s “other choices” were her reaction to discouragement started when she was a kid dreaming of being an artist. Maybe her parents, a teacher, a sibling, or peers — some Dream Stealer — ridiculed her over and over until she believed the Dream Stealer and not her heart.

From my own life experience I know children aspiring to be artists are Dream Stealer targets. I also know the stealing can be well-intentioned; parents wanting children to pursue “practical” careers. “You can’t make a living playing guitar,” is a common warning to kids. (The musical instruments named, or the art form, vary.)

For a time, the kid is confused. He sees Eric Clapton, or Andres Segovia, or Bill Frisell making a living playing guitar. Instead of Dream Stealers droning on about “the odds” against a kid being the next Clapton — encourage the kid. Help him learn about how Clapton learned to play so well. Help the kid develop discipline, good study and work habits.

I cringe remembering one member of an acting troupe of former prisoners — Theater for Social Change of College and Community Fellowship in NYC — tell the story of how she, as a young woman, aspired to be an actress. She joined her high school drama class, worked hard, earned an “A” for drama.

Looking forward to hearing her mother’s praise and encouragement for her school acting, her mother looked at the “A” on the report card and said, “I know what you’re expecting. But let’s face it. You’re too ugly to be an actress.”

There are far too many children without dreams — a horrible way to live. If you know a kid with a dream, count your blessings, and help that kid make his or her dream come true.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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