Opinions, Column

How to Dream Beyond the Ditch

I just spent my morning in a ditch. 

I mean, it was more of a mental ditch, but it was a ditch nonetheless. Now, I throw out the word ditch in any number of casual situations. After all, when my mother asks me about my future plans, I simply answer that “I’m just praying I don’t end up in a ditch somewhere.” 

Melodramatic doom and gloom aside, the word “ditch” has always been my way of deflecting any ambitious dreams I might otherwise take on. Growing up, I balked at the notion of dreams because they seemed like a luxury I could never afford. I’m a child of immigrant parents who gave up so much to provide me with access to greater opportunities, and I feel haunted by their sacrifices. I face the stress of trying to build a life magnificent enough to warrant their struggles—a feat that is made even more difficult because I have no one to compare myself to. 

I know it would break my parents’ heart to hear that despite all their sacrifices to build a life for their daughter in this country, she still doesn’t feel like she can dream. It would crush them to know that I am afraid of daring to demand more from life than simple survival—that I only seek to avoid the “ditch.” 

This internal pressure is precisely what brought me to my “ditch” mentality this morning—I realized that I have low expectations for the future to cope with my fears. Rather than push down this swelling pressure, I embraced the very same ditch I always mention. As I sat in my ditch-like mood, desperately afraid that every failure I ever imagined would come true, I settled among my worst fears—once I acknowledged them, I could let myself dream.

What I saw were a number of seemingly shallow desires: bougie vacations around the world, fine dining in fancy restaurants, and a wardrobe filled with luxury fashion pieces. As trivial as these visions may seem, they were something. When I tried to envision my dreams, I saw a world flush with rich experiences and shared with the best people. And in the depths of the ditch that I landed myself in, I felt a hint of the warmth that my life could bring in the future. I felt the stirrings of a dream. 

The next time you are struggling to balance having targeted goals while feeling like a failure, I recommend envisioning the juiciest, most enticing steakthere lies your will to keep going in life. 

But in all seriousness, it’s perfectly okay to have nothing but fragments of dreams. It’s okay not to have labyrinthian pathways planned out for the future, with articulated routes and consistent markers of success staked out. It’s okay that your dreams feature moments more than occupations, that they’re more sensory than sensational. 

If you have a story that parallels mine in any way, sit with the fears that haunt you the most and see just how much you can envision for your future. It is in this pit of my greatest fears that I have birthed some of my most precious dreams, and in the process, learned not to fear the depths of my mind. 

I hope you can be proud of making it thus far with the fragments that you have. I hope you can have the courage to dream beyond the ditch.

January 24, 2023