So here we are.
From the time you’re a wee peanut, you’re aware of your dreams and all of the lovely things you hope will come true in life. As you grow up, you’re encouraged to follow your dreams, and you attach your heart to successful mentors who stand at lecterns and assert that with hard work and a little luck, your dreams can come true.
However, there are not-so-lovely things that no one tells you about dreams, mostly because it would make the worst graduation speech ever. But since I’m a person who insists that inspirational graduation speeches from successful people are boring and often unmemorable (as I implied in 2011’s “pomp”), let’s lift the veil and expose some truth… just in time for the start of commencement season.
We’ll try to keep it light, though: Let’s say that your ultimate dream-of-all-dreams is to live in a house made entirely of candy. (Hey, it’s no more ridiculous than wanting to win a statue of a little gold bald man, or to make a living as a puppeteer.) You’ve wanted to live in a house made entirely of candy as long as you can remember, and if that dream ever came true, you just know that you’d be happy forever and ever and ever.
Using that as our example, here come the cold, hard facts about dreams, kids:
Some dreams do come true, with persistence and hard work: You can go to pastry school, engineering school, and architecture school. You can spend untold hours handcrafting the building materials out of the finest ingredients. You might toil for months, even years putting it all together, but it is not completely out of the realm of reality for someone to be able to create a dwelling that is completely made of candy. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and sugar to get to that home sweet home.
Some dreams come true, but you might have to buy them: You could hire all the right people for your research, design, construction, and confectionary team, and that doesn’t come cheap, my friend… but with deep enough pockets, any dream can become a reality! (I’d list examples of people who purchased their dreams, but I don’t think I need to.)
Some dreams come true, with a lot of luck: Who knows? You could win a candy house in a contest! You could find a genie or a monkey’s paw and simply wish for a candy house to appear out of nowhere! You could bid pennies on the dollar for a candy house that was seized from mobsters in a police auction! You could have a candy house fall on a wicked witch and you happen to be her next of kin! Who cares how it happens, only that it happens! Done!
Some dreams don’t come true due to a sheer lack of luck: Just one load-bearing candy wall that was boiled at the wrong temperature because of a malfunctioning thermometer or a copper pot with a tiny imperfection, can shatter and destroy everything. A simple gelatin mixup at the marshmallow factory can impact the integrity of your roofing. Global conflicts or unfortunate weather patterns can negatively affect sugar cane crops. And goodness knows what might transpire if you happen to look exactly like your cocoa distributor’s ex-girlfriend and he has a vengeful streak.
Some dreams don’t come true, but it’s not your fault: There are laws and zoning issues and building codes that would most assuredly prevent the creation of a 100% candy domicile in most states and counties.
Some dreams don’t come true, and it might be your fault: Just sitting at home eating Skittles and crossing your fingers isn’t going to get you that house made of candy, no matter what the Internet and YouTube would have you believe.
Some dreams come true, but sometimes they don’t stay true: One good rain, one invasion of ants, one pair of kids named Hansel and Gretel… these are things that will eventually erode that dream house. And then what? Your dream came true and then it was gone. Is that a happy ending or not? Is there another dream you can turn to? What now?
Some dreams probably shouldn’t come true, and that’s for the best: After a few months of living in a house made entirely of candy, your shoes will no doubt start sticking to the floors. Crumbs will become embedded in the candy countertops. Let’s not even speak of the toilet situation. You are better off without this dream, and maybe you don’t want to realize that the hard way.
Some dreams come true, but when they do come true, they’re not at all what you thought they would be: When you dreamed of living in a house made entirely of candy, you probably dreamed it because you wanted to be surrounded by - and especially eat - candy all day long. But if you actually did build and live in a dream house made entirely of candy, you wouldn’t be able to eat it at all… because you don’t want to destroy your own home. Also, the calories. Also, after a day or two of chewing on your Snickers end tables, I can guarantee that you’ll desperately want to cook a steak, and you’re not going to be able to do that on a lollipop grill. Also, streams of tourists will be trampling your bubblegum begonias as they take pictures of your magical candy house all day long, and that will get old fast. You never thought of all that when you dreamed of living in a candy house, did you? Of course you didn’t. No one ever thinks of the downside of dreams. No one even thinks there could be downsides to dreams.
Some dreams come true, but they might change you: How could you possibly live in a house made entirely out of candy and not be changed? Just the expectations that come with living in a candy house alone would probably cause stress of some sort. Could you ever live up to them? Also, you’d likely become paranoid that others were out to steal your candy. You’d accuse loved ones of being jealous of your house. You’d become obsessed with maintaining every grain of sugar on every gumdrop, especially during pollen season. And you’d never, ever have a puppy. Not to mention the effects of your inevitable, crippling sugar addiction. Yes, you’d become the witch who stuffs Hansel and Gretel in the oven. Is this dream worth giving up who you are, or who you always wanted to be?
Some dreams don’t come true, but that might lead to something better: Maybe your candy house didn’t come to fruition, but in the midst of that pursuit you found great joy and satisfaction in sugar sculpting, something you’d never thought of doing before. Or you may find that what you really wanted all along was to live in a plastic house that just looks like it’s made of candy. It may not be your original dream, but it’s a happy existence… and a happy existence is an amazing thing.
Some dreams don’t come true until long after you’d given up on them, and when they do, they might be a little different: Perhaps it won’t be until there’s just the right 3D printing technology, genetically modified sugar beets, or heat-resistant chocolate, that candy houses are a reality… so you might have to settle for living in a candy retirement facility. Or maybe you’ll have to compromise a little once you realize your dream may be ahead of its time, and dwell in a house made entirely of nuts.
Some dreams don’t come true, but that doesn’t make you a faulty human being, and vice versa: A good person who failed to live her dream in a candy house is still a good person. A rotten person who succeeded in living her dream in a candy house is still a rotten person.
Some dreams come true, but they don’t automatically make everything in your life better: Even if your candy house was a domestic utopia, you’d still have to face the same illnesses, the same taxes, the same headaches and struggles that everyone else does... you’d still experience all of the everyday heartaches and pains that come with life. And yet, everyone on the outside looking in to your candy-filled lifestyle will say, What does she have to complain about? She lives in a freaking candy house!!!... even if a candy house doesn’t help your broken leg heal any faster or fix your dented fender or prevent deeply personal crises from overtaking your soul.
These truths are not intended to be rain on a candy house. By all means, keep dreaming. We need dreams to drive us forward, to give us hope, to innovate and to prevent us from becoming useless clumps of cells. But all dreams require perspective and a dash of reality to keep us grounded. If we define ourselves by our dreams and only our dreams, we are bound to be disappointed on some level. Better to put in the lion’s share of work on our selves than our somedays. After all, isn’t it better to be a quality person, with or without a candy house?
And now you know why I’m not speaking at any commencements this spring or getting endorsement deals from M&M Mars.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.
P.S. By the way, I did forget to mention that sometimes, dreams do come true for all the right reasons, they stay true, they are everything one hoped the dreams would be, there is no downside or personal cost, no one is hurt or changed by them, everything is magically okay, and life is long, sweet, and full of literal and figurative candy until a quiet, peaceful death that comes in one’s sleep. Of course, this happens to approximately four people every 100 years, and none of them are you.