I have a childhood memory of sitting in a circle with other kids my age, each taking turns stating what we wanted to be when we grew up. When it was finally my turn, I blurted out, “Movie star,” which was greeted with guffaws, snarky remarks, and even the supervising teacher suggesting I, “Rethink that.”
Let me save you the trouble of Googling my name. I am not a movie star. Although I do work behind-the-scenes in show business as a writer and producer. But my path to a career I love didn’t come from rethinking wanting to be a performer. At the time I enthusiastically shared my goal, that’s what I really wanted to be. And I was even working toward it by appearing in school and community theatre productions. For an introverted, extremely overweight child living on a military base, this was a fairly major achievement. And yet, anytime I shared my goals as they related to Hollywood, I was quickly dismissed. Even by my parents.
Why do we sometimes disparage childhood dreams? Do we think we’re doing children a favor by cautioning them to be more realistic? Why not greet whatever aspiration they have with, “Tell me more about that,” which can inspire them to explore the idea logically?
Encouraging children to imagine their futures without boundaries doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to have their aspirations crushed. Sure, there are going to be challenges, distractions, and detours along the way. But this will be as true for someone who wants to be a mechanic as it will be for someone who wants to see their name in lights. Just as it will be true for any life goal—whether it has to do with career, relationships, or something else entirely. To limit a child’s capacity to dream can potentially stunt their ability to imagine or even to think cognitively (i.e. “How do I get to there from here?”).
Because I still shudder at the memory of kids making fun of my career goal and the teacher allowing it, I decided that along with the TV shows, movies, and occasional books I write, I would add a children’s book to the mix. Biron The Bee Who Couldn’t specifically speaks to a child’s ability to dream big with a message that aspirations should never be discouraged (not even by our own selves).
Setting limits in life is never very productive. Dreaming is being. And sure, there will always be surprises along the way—twists and turns we didn’t see coming.
One such adulthood “dream” of mine turned out differently when writing my movie A Heavenly Christmas. While working on the script, I imagined the role of Pearl, a sassy guardian angel, being portrayed by actor Megan Mullally, who played the role of Karen on Will & Grace. Many would consider that to be a far reach since I was writing the movie for Hallmark Channel, which didn’t usually feature stars of that caliber in their movies. Imagine my surprise when my casting idea took a turn and Shirley MacLaine ended up playing the part. She even told interviewers that she felt like the role of Pearl was written for her. As you now know, it wasn’t. But the result of my dream casting, although not specifically realized, ended up being even better than what I imagined. Who’s to say the realization of someone very talented appearing in the movie didn’t start with what many would have considered unrealistic aspirations?
And lest anyone reading this think I’m writing about magical thinking or manifestation. I’m simply referring to holding onto hope that exciting life events lie ahead for each of us. So, while we can be more cognizant of encouraging the children in our lives to always dream big and never set limits on themselves or their life goals, perhaps we might do the same for ourselves. The New York Times recently published an article touting the virtues of embracing more anticipation in life (chronicling how looking forward to something can be almost as good as experiencing it).
As a helpful teacher (who happens to be a hummingbird) reminds the lead character (a sprightly bee who doesn’t want to make honey) in my children’s book, “There will always be others flitting about, who dismiss dreams or sow seeds of bee-doubt. But having bee-dreams is bee-fabulous because, thinking outside the hive creates the most buzz.”