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Have you ever wanted to "sail into the sunset?" To chuck your current life and chase a dream? If you had $200,000 in your pocket and could use it to go anywhere and do anything, where would you go and what would you do?

What are your dreams? I'm not talking about fantasies; things that are completely unrealistic and beyond the realm of possibility. Rather, I'm referring to things you believe are within your reach, things you have always wanted to do but, because of the people, obligations, circumstances, and other twists and turns in your life, you have never really had a chance to pursue. "One day," you keep telling yourself, but that day never seems to come.

For many of us, the path we have followed has been anything but straight and clear. There have been times our way has been blocked by obstructions and we have had to detour, times we have ended up traveling in circles or retracing our steps, times we have been distracted by sights along the way, and times we have had to stop and ended up staying much longer than we had planned. Unless we are careful, we wake up one morning and realize we have deviated so far from the path we started down that we are now moving away from, instead of toward, our desired destination.

That's the trouble with dreams. We don't see them as achievable goals so, when confronted with a "here and now" decision, we are inclined to set our dream aside to deal with the exigencies of the moment or take advantage of a current opportunity. "It's only a dream," we tell ourselves. "I'm really not giving up anything because it will never happen anyway." Say that too often and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Since my junior year in college, one of my dreams has been to sail around the world. After graduating from law school and getting a teaching position at a university, the first thing I bought was a pickup truck. The second thing I bought was a 26 foot sailboat. I spent the next three summers living aboard and sailing.

Those were some of the happiest days of my life. The primordial joy of being on the water. The intimate interaction with nature. The freedom to go where I wanted when I wanted or to go nowhere or nowhen at all. The people I met. The places I saw. The skills I acquired. The things I learned about myself.

I was ready to move up to a bigger boat and cruise more distant waters, so I quit my job and chased my dream. But things did not work out quite like I had envisioned. Eventually, I had less and less opportunity to sail. There came a day when I had to put my boat in storage and spend all my time working to meet my obligations. My boat was broken into and trashed. My obligations multiplied and most seemed to take precedence over sailing. As the years slipped by, I watched as people I had "turned on" to sailing, people I had taught to sail, got bigger and better boats and spent more and more time sailing while I drifted in a different direction.

Several years ago I realized that if I didn't do something my dream would become just a fantasy. I began planning and taking what action I could in an attempt to salvage as much as possible. Right now, it appears everything is going to fall into place. Barring an unexpected catastrophe, I will be departing in the Summer of 2003 or 2004. I don't know how far I will get, but it really doesn't matter. I am content for the present because my dream is alive once more.

The moral of my story? If you are not vigilant, it is all too easy to become preoccupied with the demands and pleasures of daily living and keep deferring your dream until later. But later can keep getting later and there is a point at which it becomes too late.

So nurture your dream. Use it as a compass that keeps you headed in the direction you want to go. Every time you have a choice, make the one that takes you a little closer to your dream. If your forward motion is stalled or you have to backtrack, resume traveling toward your dream as soon as you can. If there is any way to avoid it, never, never make a choice that effectively kills your dream. It will kill some of your spirit and passion as well. On the other hand, following your dream will make you feel alive in ways that many people only dream about.

Copyright 1998
David Guenther

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