In the past 2 years of the pandemic, varying degrees of lockdown, and never ending stagnancy, we have all been angry, restless and unhappy with the environment we are in, and mainly, with ourselves. We had dreams and plans and many things to do, but now they are all postponed by (atleast) a few years and it feels demotivating.
I have always consoled myself in these times by saying, “You know what? Someday I will reach that goal and I will do everything I have got to get there!” But it took me a whole year to realise that my goals, dreams, and timelines are going to have to change entirely, because the environment around me did. I am not going to lie, I was heartbroken after that realisation, and tried to deny it as long as I could.
We have been told to do whatever it takes to reach our goal. Remember Bunny’s dialogue in Yeh Jawaani Hai? “Main udna chahata hoon, daudna chahta hoon, girna chahta hoon…bas rukna nahi chahta’. Same, right? We’d keep going to reach our goal, even if that means doing a job we hate because we earn well, working till 2 am, or neglecting our health completely – but we just don’t want to stop, much like Bunny.
We will do it for that house, phone or car we want to buy in the future because earning it with our own money is important. It’s become a way of proving our own worth to ourselves and others. These goals mean a lot, but thinking about them might always leave us feeling unhappy, because first, we can’t achieve them as ‘easily’ as we thought we would (thank you, 2020) and two, we know that our dreams will grow bigger with each fulfilled goal. We’d want a house, then a dog, then a car, then a bigger house, 5 more dogs, and a sleeker car.
I have spent a lot of time watching movies (instead of reaching set goals, sigh) through the pandemic and I watched one called Immanuel. The main plot of this movie didn’t even matter to me, because what I sat with for the whole week after watching the movie were my own goals. Because, the film taught me that it’s okay if you don’t fulfill your (and your society’s) dreams… at all. I know, giving up or stopping is tougher than it sounds. I agree. As much as this thought made me uncomfortable, it also enabled me to sit with my unfulfilled dreams.
All the big dreams people achieve become success stories, and we are told to follow their footsteps – wake up at 5am, meditate, hustle, invest, so much advice! But the truth is that most of us might not be able to fulfil all our dreams. We don’t get our loans in time, don’t crack our entrance exams, don’t get past the last interview stage, get rejection letters and we lose hope. We are pretty sure that that’s the end of it all. Because that’s what society (and movies) teach us. This is why Immanuel felt so different to me. It gave me space to grieve the goals I couldn’t accomplish, without any shame or guilt.
Our happy ending doesn’t always have to be achieving the unachievable. This is what we have seen in movies, on social media and with influencers. Firstly, Bollywood movies are fictional. Secondly, we almost always forget to account for privilege. And third, I am sure there might be people who have achieved amazing feats – but with that lens, let’s also look at the other goals they had to let go of for this one goal to be achieved.
So, if you have recently had to give up on a dream, had them postpone them or had to try and try and try to make them happen to no avail,
Is it really the end? Nope.
Do you have to try and try till you succeed? Nope.
Can you postpone your plan? Yes.
Can you change your plan completely? Yes.
Can you take a break? Absolutely.
Who is deciding all of this? You.
What will people say? Alexa, play ‘Kuch Toh Log Kahenge…’
We are so used to having to constantly work towards these dreams, that at some point we almost forget that changing our plans, our steps, or ways to reach them is not such a bad idea. We can change our job, take another job that doesn’t pay as much, and wait before we buy a house. We can buy a smaller house. We can take a break, and we can give the entrance exam a few years later. We can decide to do some other course completely because we were tired of or don’t like studying for this one. We can drop our lifelong dream and choose something completely different. It really (and entirely) is our choice.
Yes, having to change your goals sounds terrifying, but imagine having to constantly try to reach that goal in the wrong environment. It’s like trying to grow a plant that just cannot grow in that soil. It gets tiring, frustrating and demotivating, right? On the other hand, adapting your goal to the environment you are in, or sowing a seed that can be nurtured in that soil is rewarding!
And contrary to what most people say, your dreams and goals can wait. We have been given milestones to complete our degrees, to get a job, to get married, to date, to go for trips, but in reality, it’s okay to do them if and when you want to do them. Your goal could be as small as wanting to hydrate yourself tomorrow morning or as big as wanting to go to the best university in the world, and at the end of the day, you have agency over these and they are your decisions to make.
That being said, there might be some opportunities you have missed this year that won’t come back. There might be dreams that cannot be adapted to your environment and it’s something you cannot revive. That’s okay. If you are grieving the dreams and the alternate realities you could have been living, it’s valid.
It was your want and your need and not being able to fulfil them after almost touching that opportunity can be heartbreaking. It’s not trivial. If it matters to you, that’s enough. Take your time with those feelings instead of jumping back in the race to run toward the next big thing you wanted. Allow yourself some rest period.
Having goals and dreams is important. Investing in them is important, but changing them based on our environment, and our own physical and mental health needs does not mean we are unworthy. In fact, it might mean that we are aware, we adapt, and we are realistic about the opportunities we get.
We see more and more people taking breaks from the goals that they (and the people around them) want to achieve, like Simone Biles in the 2020 Olympics. And in today’s world of hustling, there is nothing more important than breaks and changes in your plan. Now, more than ever, it might be important to look back and reflect on the goals you set for yourself.
I know a lot of people say don’t be afraid to chase your dreams. They say try and try till you succeed. But I am also going to add to this, and say, don’t be afraid to change them, drop them, take a break from them, or think of a new one and start from scratch while you chase them. Try things and if they don’t work out for you, try different things, try taking breaks, until you feel like you have met your goal. Remember that success is subjective too.
Your dreams, your success and your journey to reach them are (and always will be) your choice!