When is the last time you remember having a dream of some sort of achievement? Maybe it was what you wanted to be when you grew up as of Kindergarten graduation, or perhaps it was something else. Are the young the only ones who dream? Are they the only ones who would pursue a dream? With age comes responsibility. Marriage, children, a mortgage, and a job that supports the family are all part of it. And as responsibility comes, we tend do give up on our dreams. We give up our own dreams for those of our children. The dream becomes, as Langston Hughes put it, deferred.
I’d like to share the story of one of my dreams. And in a way, it’s a dream that, rather than me chasing it for many years, found me.
Ten years ago I walked out of my classroom for the last time. After 3.5 years teaching high school math, it was time for a new adventure. I told the principal I was giving up something I loved for something I loved even more, which was the dream of someday being a dad.
I went from math teacher to support analyst. Six months later I took a role that was part analyst and part IT. Over the course of nine years with the company, the role took me into full blown IT systems administration. I made a move one year ago to a different company to help rebuild the server infrastructure. While I enjoyed the work I was doing, something unexpected happened.
A friend told me about an amazing opportunity and encouraged me to apply. We discussed the role at length, I talked to others who did the same kind of work, and it sounded like something I would really enjoy. I had never heard a negative thing about the company with the opening and knew people working there who loved it. Even when you’re happy with your current job, you never want to pass up an opportunity to better yourself, so I submitted an application just to see what might happen. This was dream job / dream company caliber.
I’m not sure I believed at the time I had any sort of chance. But, on a fateful day much later, I received a call about my application. The hiring process was rigorous, but the recruiter believed I had a shot. He put me through to the next round.
This is where the whirlwind starts. As the process began, I tried not to get too excited, knowing the road would be long if I made it to the end. I also knew I was not the most qualified for this role based on my technology exposure. When things progressed past the initial stages, I knew this was opportunity knocking, and I was the underdog. The only choice was to try to kick the door down.
Anxiety, fear, excitement, doubt, confidence, and drive were concurrently swirling around in my head. The mind can be a powerful ally or enemy depending on where it is allowed to take you. My wife probably thought I was a complete nut job (or at least more so than usual).
I often wonder if Olympians begin to doubt as they get closer to their dream of a gold medal. At the moment when I realized I had made the finals, I wondered, “can I really do this? Is this really happening?” I would at least get a chance. As we got closer and closer to the end of the process, I realized just how much I wanted this. Rocky would get his title shot against Apollo. It became my dream. Now I was so close I could almost reach out and grab it. The only way to grab it was to take it and to make it impossible for them to tell me no. On the other hand, I knew it would be foolish not to consider the fact that I might not get it. Accepting the possibility of failure was the only way to not let it break me if it did. I had to be willing to give the final interview everything I had and be ok with walking away empty handed.
My wife and I drove to another city for this and stayed the night. I walked out of the interview the next morning feeling like I had done well. As we were about to leave to head back home, the car wouldn’t start. It turns out the battery had died. It could have died at any point on the way, but it didn’t die until the interview was finished. I don’t think that was a coincidence. We got a new battery and made it home safely.
This isn’t a story of failure. It’s a story of going after a dream with everything you have and actually taking hold of it.
Have the heart to dream big. Have the grit to fail while daring greatly. Be like the man in the arena. Be brave enough to chase after your dreams regardless of your age. Because sometimes, with help from the good Lord and those who support you, you just might catch one.
The mother ship has called me home. Today is my first day as a Systems Engineer at VMware. At some point there will be a new dream to pursue. But for now, I think I’ll enjoy living this one and seek to be as successful as possible in my new role.