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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dreams and Ambitions and Reality

Youthful declarations of ambitions and dreams once filled our notebooks, our high school annuals, and our hopeful thoughts. We carefully chose class superlatives and wrote prophecies about our friends based upon their scholastic achievements, sports prowess, popularity, and early success. As reality began to replace the safety-net world of high school, we attempted to adjust our desires and discover new methods for attaining future lives that fit our changing circumstances. Many found it difficult to leave a Disneyland existence to step into a job, a college, or a raging war.

For many people, this sudden requirement to change meant altering the pace and the desire of achieving their earlier plans for life. And, eventually, many of us merely changed our dreams because we made new realizations of whom we really were and what skills and resources we really had. For most, cold reality meant a stinging "smack in the face" and a recalculation of our versions of the elusive "American Dream," a promise given as a birthright in the United States.

As major decisions occurred in our lives, we merely made them, hoping at the time that we had chosen the right course to a successful tomorrow. Planning and thought went into these life-altering steps into an obscure future, but usually still a high degree of uncertainty remained after we chose the new-charted course. Often, today, we look back at career and social moves made in relative haste with thanksgiving that our prayers had allowed us to choose a risky option correctly. And still, exactly how we chose our individual paths remains a mystery.

Factors Affecting The Dreams of Youth Today

Now, most maturing Americans want their realities to strike a healthy balance between their public and private lives: between the lure of fame and glory, and a love of home and hearth. For their part, many women fully expect to do their share as breadwinners, though not necessarily out of personal choice so much as financial need.

Also, the fear of divorce hangs heavily over young men and women. Nearly three-quarters of those in a Time Magazine poll said that having a good marriage today is difficult or very difficult. More than half would not choose a marriage like their parents', and 85% think they are even more likely to see their marriages end in divorce than did their parents' generation.

Speaking of the new generation, Leslie Wolfe of the Women Policy Studies Center says, "I think they are more savvy than we were, about sexism, about discrimination, about balancing work and family, about sex." They may be wiser, too, about seizing fresh opportunities without losing sight of tradition. ("The Road to Equality: The Dreams of Youth," Time, November 8 1990)

What Does It Mean?

I wonder if the same fateful moments the Baby Boomers faced are occurring and will continue to occur with the Millennials, or Echo Boomer generation. Since everything seems more structured, planned, and sequenced now, will these young people still face many unknown fates or will they travel more charted waters as they seek their futures? Much of society certainly believes that they are capable of withstanding the stresses and complications of adulthood earlier in life than the Baby Boomers and that they can face it without passage through innocence.

I preferred our method of trial and error. Even though we possessed a ton of misinformation and sketchy detail as well as lacked the electronic resources available to young people today, we most often "fell" into some comfortable, fruitful positions in life. Sometimes, I marvel at just exactly how this occurred. And, true for some, their decisions left them cold and unprotected, yet many of these same people long for a return to a slower maturation for their own young adults. Different decisions do different lives make and also different preferable conditions of living.

Somebody once said the most appropriate question about a great life should be "Are you happy?" An article in Men's Health ("Are You Happy?" 2010) asked: "What makes people happy? Why do millionaires often seem wretched, whereas slum dwellers in Calcutta profess to be content? Why do we find satisfaction in activities that are painful in the actual experience, like running a marathon or rowing a 5000-meter crew race -- or being branded in a tribal ritual?" Read the article and ask yourself the question after your review. You may be quite surprised.

The Hopes and Dreams of Youth
By Katie Davis

As I sit here,
I feel like an old woman,
Looking back on her life,
Her eyes full of pain,
Her mind heavy with regret,
Her soul filled with the pain of missed chances,
Her heart cut to the quick with loneliness.
I feel like an old woman,
Filled with remorse,
And knowing it's too late,
Too late to start over,
Too late to go back,
Too late to change the future,
Too late to change the past.
I once was a girl filled with hope.
I am now a woman,
Filled with knowledge.
Knowledge that nothing will ever be,
What it could have been.
Knowing that there will always be hope.
And knowing that the very things you hope for,
Will never be.
And knowing that as hard as you might try,
The hopes and dreams of Youth,
Will never again be there,
Will never again be filled with the promise,
Will never again be filled with real hope.
As I sit here,
I feel like an old woman,
Whose tears that fall,
Don't really matter.

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