What's in a dream?
First off, just to get it out the way, do you think this drawing looks like me?
Okay, now I pose to you: What is in a dream? I intentionally use the word 'pose' because I've been reflecting about my own dreams. Specifically, what are my dreams and what does one do when they achieve a dream?
My wife was the one who (re)prompted this question to me after she had achieved one of her dreams: to play the role of Christine Daaé in the musical "The Phantom of the Opera". While I am biased as ****!, my Love nailed it! Witnessing my wife and her friends put-on living room musicals is inspiring because the process of rehearsing for two weeks and then putting on two back-to-back nights of free shows, in which one or a few cast members may be playing a role they dreamed about (especially since they have no issue with swapping genders when it comes to roles, like when they perform Les Misérables with an all women cast), all in free time that no one has, is an awesome feat. Bravo! Brava! BravALL!
So when I talked with my Love about her take on the show, how they discussed and handled the problematic nature of the 'Phantom' (he definitely is an unintentional representation of an 'Incel' and one can argue that Raoul is problematic as well), and what it is like to have now achieved one of her dreams, I was left thinking, "can having a dream be problematic"?
To clarify what I mean, I pose these two questions to explore one of my dreams:
(1) If you have a dream you want to achieve, how do you really know it is driven by something you want and not something someone else wants?
(2) If you have a dream, whether it was organically founded or not, and you achieved it, what should be next?
DREAM #1: I want to become a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence Mathematics.
I initially wanted to achieve this dream to have a nationally recognized obtained status of being a high-quality professional teacher who is reflective and committed to excellence in the profession. I wanted to live-up to my own expectation that no matter what I decide to do in life, I would aspire to be the best at it. I remember having a conversation with my best friend in high school about what we wanted to do or be when we graduated. He said, "You know what, I just want to be great at anything I do. My mom told me if I wanted to be a garbage man [I know! I know! We should not gender the profession and refer to that job as Sanitation Engineers, but this conversation happened in 2004] that it was fine as long as I aspire to be the best damn garbage man there is!" That conversation has stuck with me because I have tried to take that approach in all my jobs. Granted, I did not reach that goal in all my previous jobs, but I consistently performed beyond expectations in most aspects of the jobs I had. With that said, do I really need to be National Board Certified to achieve what is the reason, the drive for this dream?
That is what makes me think, do I really want this dream or am I responding to something that is a dream of somebody else? I identify myself as a teacher of color, a black male, a Bostonian, an American, as married, and creative. While I do have other components to my identity, the most prominent ones, to me, I experience through this lens of "American culture". My experience of being a black male [I promise the rest of this entry is not solely about race] in this country is one of continuous pressure to 'do more' because I am defying statistical stereotypes with every breath I take. Yes, I had to overcome obstacles and make decisions that led me to earn a high school diploma, earn my B.S. from Boston University and Ed.M from the Harvard School of Education, but when I decided to become a teacher, it was culturally cutting 'both' ways. In one way I felt I was met with appreciation and raised fists to be in a role model, to serve as an example to other black boys. In another way I feel I am met with the question, "What is next? Principal? Superintendent? etc.?" as if being, no, just being and accepting the role of a teacher is not enough, it is an entry-level position of success. I have spoken to many black male educators over the years and quite a few have also felt the same pressure and have moved from the classroom to become Deans and/or Principals. However, I do not look at those movements as vertical, but rather horizontal; and I love the lane I am currently in.
So, do I want to become a National Board Certified teacher to stake my claim that I want to remain in the classroom because I am damn good at it, and to stave-off the pressure to 'do more'? Yes. Do I think this is problematic? Yes, but I can not escape one truth: my failures and successes as a person of color are often viewed as a reflection upon my larger group of color. It is very hard for me to have a dream that is conceptualized in a selfish manner, because my cultural upbringing was one of collectivism, and I certainly have not achieve any successes in my life on my own.
I do not want to veer too far away from what I want this entry to be about so let me bring it back to this question: What is next after a dream is achieved?
If, no, when I become a National Board Certified Teacher, what is next? I will have to recertify every five years, but is there a next level beyond this dream? What is the 'more' that I need to 'do'? This is what I feel makes dreams problematic, because our very nature of achieving a dream gives us two common options: become complacent or become better. When asked which NFL championship was his favorite (this was prior to earning his 5th), Tom Brady famously said, "The next one." Some people are driven to go beyond a singular achievement by consistently repeating the process. Some people are driven to place the trophy on a shelf and be satisfied with knowing they have achieved their dream. I think there is room for both, that a person can be driven by both as long as they have more than one dream. The problem I am having is that I do not know which one I am being driven by, because I have not yet achieved it.
Back when I was working at Codman Academy Public Charter School, I wanted to help coach the slam poetry team to a Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) Championship. We achieved that in my second year as Co-Coach alongside Porsha O. I was so proud of the hard work, vulnerability, and joy our team had along the way of achieving that goal, the dream. However, I was not sure whether winning that championship was a goal or a dream from myself or our students on the team. I have thought about starting a new LTAB team since I started teaching at Charlestown High School, but I have yet to follow through with that. It was not until recently that I started to understand that starting a new team was a goal of mine, but not my dream.
Poetry has been a part of my life since my late high school year, and it became my favorite and most cathartic form of creative expression in college. I still write and perform spoken word poetry, but it is sporadic. I have reflected on this a lot and about ways to start writing again, but my attempts have not produced that same spark I had in college. Then it hit me, my love of poetry was, no, is driven by my love of creative expression. This entry and website is an example of my creative expression! Perhaps one of my other dreams is have a meaningful impact through my creative expression. This has led me to my current draft of my second dream:
DREAM #2: I want to have a meaningful impact (perhaps on my community, the country, my profession, and/or the world) through my creative expression.
I do not have this dream detailed as I am still cultivating it, but it does feel good to have a direction. It also reminds me that achieving a dream takes time and I do not need to rush or stress myself out about it. Because that is another set of problems when it comes to a dream, by the virtue of cultivating a dream for days, months, or even years, it can add pressure, weight, and expectations to achieve that dream. In my opinion, dreams should not be a stresser or have you feeling extra pressure. They should be a motivator, something that pushes you to be, at least in that moment, your best version of yourself.
That may be what makes a dream different from a goal.