When we are children, we are our authentic selves. Completely unaware of other people’s feelings, emotionally self-centered, we learn from society how to behave. These behaviors are essential, especially to a child. It creates a set of rules in which they can begin to build on, to “fit in” and share. Humans are social animals. We need other people – and that means learning to communicate with others.

What we gain from becoming societal animals, though, we lose some of our authentic self. We compromise our personality a bit, but it seems so harmless at the time. We’re children, after all, voraciously learning everything, learning so much we don’t always have time to question everything we’re learning.

Also remember that our parents’ message might be well meaning, but the understanding may in fact become flawed. My parents taught me common sense, a strong work ethic, and a desire to take care of others around me. What I learned was that following my dreams was a good way to get hurt. That was in no way what my parents intended me to learn. That was my interpretation of what they meant.

Now, I’m beginning to unravel the faulty understanding that I built through my childish misunderstandings. I am starting to feel the security of believing in myself… not in the ra, ra, everyone expects me to believe this so I do kind of way, but in the quiet certainty that I got this. I’ve been through this cycle before, but I was nineteen, and my break from not believing in myself was overcompensating with rock star levels of arrogance. Fortunately, I couldn’t be deported back to my hometown, and I grew out of that phase as I left puberty behind me.

When I was twenty-five, I had a life-changing conversation with my cousin Von, in his friend’s newly remodeled kitchen. My cousin Von is also a writer, but he’s ten years older than me, so his level of experience is always a decade ahead. Probably moreso; he’s always seemed like an old soul to me. It was this rare moment that he told me that things would begin to change, and that I would experience life on a different cognitive level. I would feel more in charge of my life. And he was right.

The interesting part of that reaches me now, that I am just past the age he was when he told me how my life would change. He was telling me how twenty-five would be different, but he never got around to telling me how different thirty-five would be.

Now, I have seen past the incorrect view, that dreams are too hard to achieve. Now, I see what my parents meant, which was that you can set yourself up for disappointment chasing dreams, if you don’t use your common sense and work ethic to chase them.

There are six billion, swiftly becoming seven billion, people on this blue-green marble in space. We don’t compete for the things we used to. Corporations gang up and roll in, dominating mineral rights and land and resources. But it’s not just them. It’s your neighbor, competing for a job. It’s your co-worker, competing for a promotion. It’s your children, competing for your attention. When you’re competing, it makes dreams seem like a very nice thing to think about, but they seem as far away as a date with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

At least, it did to me. I felt as though nothing would ever change, until it did. These moments of insight are becoming more frequent, and it feels like when I experience one, I am left feeling different. They resonate with me, despite knowing that I’m not the only one who knows these things, and that there are people who have beat me to this understanding, and have been enjoying their knowledge for years.

Hopefully I can keep going, and I can inspire a few others to find this way for them as well.