Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Can't Do That!

Dear-Abbyphoto © 2010 Ray MacLean | more info (via: Wylio)
I once wrote a letter to Dear Abby. I was probably 12 or 13 and I was so upset because I wanted to be an actress when I grew up and my parents were realists who knew that it was a long shot. So I wrote my letter to Dear Abby, pouring out my teen angst about my non-understanding parents and my deep desires and mailed it off to the address in the newspaper, with my self-addressed stamped envelope.

About a month later, I got my response. I smuggled the letter up into my room, waiting to have Abby tell me that I was a super-star and she was going to personally contact my parents and tell them that they should be more supportive of my dreams. It was going to be awesome.

Except that it wasn't. 

She totally agreed with my parents. She wrote that I might be fine in my school, but that it's a rough business and odds of making it are minimal. She wrote that it was naive at 12 or 13 to think I knew what I wanted to do with the whole rest of my life. 

The letter boiled down to, "You can't do that."

I don't think I took it all that hard. I'm sure I cried for a minute and then moved on with my life. Because ultimately it was right. Being an actor was a really lofty goal and I had no doubt set my sights too high. I don't live my life in regret that I didn't study theater in college or run off trying to find acting gigs. 

But I learned a lesson that day. And I think I'm probably not alone in the lesson.

Some risks aren't worth pursuing. Some dreams are just not practical. Some goals are just plain unattainable.

You can't do that.

So we pursue safe avenues. We push our dreams aside. We set reasonable goals.

And those things are fine. We have families to take care of, bills to pay, people to answer to. Safety is not a bad thing. People don't get hurt or disappointed or angry when we choose the careful path.

But abandoned dreams can have a way of haunting us long after we thought we'd put them aside. We long for the excitement and beauty and adventure of the what ifs. We do what needs to be done, but we know in our heart of hearts that something is missing.

There will always be voices telling you that you can't do something. And you know, maybe you can't. Maybe you can't write that book or learn that new skill or repair that broken relationship. Maybe you aren't going to be a gourmet chef or a star vocalist or a world-renowned speaker.

But there IS something you can do. Something that all of us can do.

We can try.

And maybe we'll find that we can do a lot more than we think.


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