What interesting beings dreams are. They take hold of us and seem to control many of the decisions we make throughout our time on this planet. Some are short-lived, while others manage to cling to us like some sort of parasite – both giving and taking from us depending on the day. Many dreams we will accomplish – while others might be pushed to the side as we grow and our perspectives change.
But every now and then – there is one dream that is just different.
The type of dream that always comes back to haunt you. It is this haunting dream – the one that intrigues, frightens, confuses, inspires, and encourages you all at the same time that really gets a hold of you. We all have one within us whether we like to admit it or not. Sometimes, this dream speaks louder than at other points in our lives – but its presence is always felt.
So the question then is – did we choose this dream – our did this dream choose us?
Speaking from experience, dreams that haunt you are not friendly 100% of the time. Despite this lack of friendliness, they consistently manage to give you a feeling of empowerment 100% of the time. Like the moment immediately after you do the “right thing” even though nobody else might agree. Or that feeling you get when you complete a long-days to do list. Or perhaps the embrace of a warm hug from a parent after they just spanked you for not doing your chores (if your childhood was anything like mine). There is something liberating and captivating about this type of dream all at the same time.
For me, this dream has managed to control most of my decisions since I was a little girl and yet I still don’t quite understand where it is taking me.
As a young girl this dream taught me to love wildlife, wild places, and to want to change the world – whatever that meant at the time. This same dream also lead me to go home after school and watch Steve Irwin, take notes on Animal Planet documentaries, and spend more time with my pets than other kids my age.
As I got older, this dream became less of a guardian angel and more of what felt like an intrusive friend. I felt compelled to be different because of this dream – even though part of me just wanted to do what every other young adult my age was doing. I wanted to just not care – to resist the dream. To just choose a simple career path, work a 9-5 job, get married, have kids, and let that be that. But this dream was like a bad case of acne and it wouldn’t go away.
However, as I continued to grow this dream managed to get me into the college of my first choice. Because it just so happened that the same year I applied – was the same year Chapman University offered their first Environmental Science and Policy program. It was an easy decisions for the college and for myself. I was one of the first 8 students who entered into the program that year.
Fast forward four years and this dream became more of a whispering voice – it was as if the dream wanted me to learn for myself, but never left my side. I remember sitting in my Environmental Writing class about four days before graduation and thinking – I can’t stop here. What’s next?
Googling random degrees of interest lead me to Edinburgh Napier University’s site where I was immediately determined to get into their Conservation and Management of Protected Areas Masters program. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about in class that day – but I do remember my dream speaking louder than normal.
“Wow Brittnei, this is exactly what you have always wanted! You have got to do this. Think about where this could take you.”
So that is what I did – I listened once more to the whisper of the dream. The same dream that through those four years let me take some time off, but still managed to land me an internship with Orange County Public Works Watershed Division and a summer later -with the California Wildlife Center. But it was as if on that day, four days before graduation, the dream realized it was time to continue growing. To start the next step.
Not realizing at the time just how serious my dream was about me going to grad school – I took a slightly disobedient path and instead picked up a full time job with a local environmental consulting company right after graduation – because that’s what you’re supposed to do right?
After a year of working at the company – I was practically crawling out of my skin. I knew this couldn’t be it. And as if the dream knew all along – it seemed to creep back up and say, I told you so, as the months working their dragged on. I should mention that I did learn some valuable skills working at this job and managed to save some much needed money, but more importantly I learned one of my greatest lessons from my dream yet…
Your dream isn’t just hanging around to make you constantly feel unsatisfied – your dream gets closer to you with each wrong turn you make. The dream knows no defeat.
A fire for change, for purpose, and for the birthing of a new journey matured within me faster than a graduate student who has to start paying back their loans. I had to get out – I didn’t know to where at first – but Edinburgh Napier University became googled on my work computer more frequently as the months passed. And then I made the choice – graduate school it was.
Fast forward another two years… As I struggle to come up with my idea for my final thesis, I realized another very important lesson the dream had taught me.
You have so much to learn – enjoy the simplicity of your young mind before painting it with the beautiful brushes of education. Because these brushes will stain your life forever. In ways that feed the dream without you even realizing it when it is happening. You become your dream’s canvas – and giving yourself an education is like winning the paint lottery for your dream. You will be beautifully and overwhelmingly transformed by all that you learn – and nothing is ever again simple.
So, it was once again time to wrestle with the dream. This time it was a full out brawl. I couldn’t possibly understand why my original thesis idea wasn’t fulfilling enough. Just a year ago carrying out some population counts for wolves in New Mexico was the “go to” idea!
But nope! Nope, nope, nope. Not anymore…
The dream had taught me too much – and my education almost laughed in justification as my dream’s persistent voice kept urging me to change ideas. Something greater had to be studied. Humans must be understood on a larger scale. Our ability to relate to wildlife had to be investigated. The perspectives of the general public, right or wrong, had to be at least recorded. I had to know how to get others engrossed with science in at least a fraction of the way that I was. People mattered. In order to save wildlife, I had to change human knowledge and behavior first. It’s not the animals that are the problem – and all the biological statistics (and wolf population counts) in the world won’t help anybody – if nobody cares. Why did every paper I read in grad school end with a researcher saying – we need to understand how to get the public involved. We need to understand how our actions and research is impacting people overall – and why was THIS idea not being focused on?!
And on the other side of things – WHY COULDN’T I JUST KEEP IT SIMPLE IN MY OWN MIND!? After all, I didn’t have to pursue this idea – I could have stuck to the original thesis plan. But at this point – my passion to learn more about how to impact this world in order to ultimately help protect wildlife grew like bamboo in a field of fertilizer. There was no turning back. All that I had learned had led me to a new approach on how to impact wildlife.
And this is when my dream taught me another lesson…
Dreams often present themselves to one person, to light the way for others.
What I for so long thought was my burden to carry, suddenly became my obligation to this planet. This dream knew all along that every choice it lead me to would eventually take me to the creation of my final thesis at Edinburgh Napier University. A thesis that would lead to the creation of Why Should You Care in its entirety. A thesis that would later take its idea to the Cheetah Outreach in Africa – and to so many other potential organizations – to help them understand how to better protect wildlife by interacting with people more efficiently.
The dream was never selfish like I accused it of being so many times. It was giving itself to me, growing with me, keeping me nourished, and creating an idea within me – to be used in ways that I could have never imagined as a young girl.
Like the scene in the Lord of the Rings when Gandalf encourages Frodo as he questions his purpose – my dream too had suddenly become my Gandalf. And like Gandalf as he leaves Frodo on his way, I feel as if my dream has enough faith in me to leave me on my way for now…
So to answer our original question – I do believe this dream chose me.
I believe our relationships with our dreams have the characteristics and ups and downs similar to what a human relationship might also have. But unlike other human-relationships, my dream has never given up on me. And yet, sometimes I wonder – if it has ever been as tired with me as I have with it in the past.
Now, within the last five months my dream has taught me this latest and closing lesson…
Dreams have enemies. The stronger your dream becomes, the more enemies that will come against it. As you enter into new territory, you will be faced with new challenges. And naturally, as you progress in a dream – you will constantly grow to the next level. Each next level will demand a different you. But you have to have faith in your dream. Think of all it has taught you, where it has brought you, and remember that it will never leave you. Suddenly, your dream and you become one.
And now my dream has become once more what it started out as – my guardian angel.
Like losing a loved one, you will always keep your dream in your heart – where it is more alive than ever. But at some point – it is up to you to decide to finish the work the dream started – or to choose that simple life you once wished you could have.
But if you are anything like me – I would imagine not following your dream would cause greater discomfort in the long run than any challenge presented by your dream otherwise would. Because we all will meet our dream again one day, before we meet our wonderful creator, and I want to be able to shake hands in victory with my dream on that day… Or at least have a good laugh.
S0 here I am – posting on Why Should You Care, a product of my dreams work. Mentally preparing for a trip to Africa that my dream has told me about for so long now. And writing to you as you read this possibly contemplating your own dream.
So now I ask you – what’s the dream that chose you?
Listen to that dream – it is God given. And trust where it leads you. It always has your best interests in mind even when you don’t understand.