It has happened to all of us at some point.
You carried a dream within you like a piece of bright hope,
a soul-calling growing like a gleaming ember in your chest.
That dream that set your palms ablaze with wild possibility whenever
you allowed yourself to visualize it…quickened your breathing as the hot
air of its anticipation funneled its way from your lungs into your impatient mouth.
Could this really be?
Finally, trembling, you released its red-hot ember from your tongue and spoke it
into the air, releasing a wisp of charged smoke. You gave it words and in doing so,
began the process of making it a reality, timorously weaving it into the fabric of space
This summoned all of your courage.
This placed all of your timid hope on the edge of your palms as an offering to the
world, your most sacred alm in service of humanity.
And someone crushed it.
Instead of gasping in admiration of your sacred offering, carefully taking it under
their soft wing and helping you nurture it into a full grown, living being, they stomped
all over it, until it became a dark piece of burned out coal.
Ashamed and embarrassed, you swallowed it bitterly down your throat and there it sat
extinguished in the center of your chest, heavy and foolish. And stupid.
And you vowed to never let it sing again. Too painful to let this happen again.
No one wants this anyway.
Why was I so stupid to think that this could be a reality?
My dream-crusher was Walter.
A tiny, 70 year old award-winning teacher of voice in the music department at college.
A thin, shriveled man in a mustard cardigan and brown polyester pants, whose lips
puckered into a prune when he said to me with such conviction and all-knowingness,
“I’m not going to lie, you’re incredibly talented. Your voice could be one of the greats.
But you’ll never, ever make it as a singer. You’re 19 and it’s too late for you.
You should have started when you were 15. You should give up.”
I went home that morning to my dorm room steps and cried my eyes out while
the rest of campus began to wake up. I felt like someone had crushed my heart
into a thousand smithereens, blasted my chest out with a shotgun. But still I went
back to my next voice lesson with him out of sheer defiance.
And in that follow up lesson I learned one of the most important lessons
I’ve ever learned about how to deal with dream crushers and how to keep your
Walter could see I was visibly upset when I walked into his classroom the
day after he had told me I should “give up now, because it’s unlikely”.
So naturally he tried to explain himself, “I was a young teenager like you once
and I had great hopes and aspirations of being a successful musician myself.
But my teacher showed me it was not to be for me. And I’m just trying to stop
you from wasting your time, like I did”.
And there it was.
Like a wave it came crashing over me.
He actually thought he was helping me.
He could not see that telling himself that his dream-crushing speech was helpful was
his way of avoiding the one thing he was most terrified to find out.
What if the person who reminded him of himself when he was 19, rose and made it?
It would prove to him that he had wasted all those years repressing his own
dream and he couldn’t bare to face the fact that he had given up on himself.
Better to tell himself he’s “helping” by making sure others follow in his footsteps.
I could see his fear like an orange halo around his head as he “helped” me that day.
I saw the weight and the permanent crack in his heart caused by denying himself
the one thing he’d been called to from the time he was a little boy.
I felt how he had caved in upon himself trying to keep his desire down.
And I felt so sad for him.
A dreamcrusher is a person who has had their dreams crushed too.
Only they swallowed the bitter pill of that crushed dream, internalized it and
made someone else’s opinion their reality.
Whenever a bright shiny person with a dream comes around them, it is too
painful for them to bear, because it reminds them of the hope they once held
inside and had to bury, long ago. Not only are they left with the pain of burying
their calling, but they are also dealing with years of dying to themselves every
time they held back that dream of theirs. So they feel they have to crush your
dream, to stop the pain in themselves.
If you have a calling, hear me loud and clear–no one is the authority on your
purpose, unless that someone is you.
In Fred Astaire’s first audition, the casting director wrote down:
“Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little”.
I read an article recently about an 80 year old man who started learning to play
the piano in his late 60’s and is now a highly respected piano virtuoso traveling
all over the world giving concerts.
Misty Copeland was just named the head ballerina at American Ballet Theatre after
being told she “didn’t have the body to become a prima ballerina” and is the first
African-American woman to hold that position.
The illusion of “it’s too late” or “you can’t do that” is just that.
An illusion in someone else’s brain.
No one can get inside of your soul, listen to your soul’s voice guiding you and
tell you what it’s saying–only you can interpret that.
So if you’ve had a dream crushed by someone, you have a choice.
You can become like them and shrivel into the pain of holding back, or
you can make today the day to light that lump of coal stuck in your chest
and let it begin its slow burn again.
See your dream-crushers for what they are–wounded ones who had their
light snuffed out by someone else. Not authorities on whether or not you’re fit
to follow your deepest calling.
Their opinions are not facts and they never really had anything to do with you….
Those opinions DO have everything to do with the pain they’ve been fighting all
those years that they haven’t allowed themselves to live their calling.
Can you imagine how painful that is? If we learn to see the dreamcrushers for
the wounded beings they are, we can use our compassion to create healing for
But while you hold compassion for your dreamcrusher, don’t forget that you
are the protector and nurturer of your dream.
I stopped going to my lessons with Walter after I “saw” him.
Though I felt compassion for him, I realized this was a person living in a paradigm
and perspective that I did not want near my burgeoning dream.
And I was wasting a lot of energy trying to prove him wrong. Energy that could be
spent on someone who did believe in my dream.
And though it did take me many years after that experience to recover from his words,
and I still get nervous about singing in public to this day, I eventually did begin to sing
in public again. Life has taken me in a different direction which I also love… and
when my soul feels called to sing professionally again…I will.
In the end, you are the tender of the sacred flames of your calling.
You are the nurturer of your soul’s most profound desires.
You create and weave the dream of your life as you see fit.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you any different.
I’d love to hear from you below–have you had a dream crushed?
If you’re still holding it back, what’s one baby step you can take to revive it?
ps: Here’s a quick little video I recorded of me singing, if you fancy a watch.