This past weekend, I played a game called “We’re Not Really Strangers.” For those who are unfamiliar, WNRS is a card game to help develop and strengthen relationships in your life. There are three levels to this game, each level consisting of a deck of cards with curated questions that you would not typically ask someone. These questions forced an inevitable vulnerability upon me, allowing me to reflect on parts of my life that I had grown away from and enabled me to empathize with people in my life on levels that were previously unavailable to me.
Every question moved me, but of all the questions asked of me, there is one that I can’t seem to forget. The card read, “What is a dream you’ve let go of?” Before even fully grasping this question, memories of my childhood began to resurface. I reminisced about the wild careers I had dreamt of as a child and the extravagant futures I had envisioned for myself. Whether I was going to be a supermodel doctor or a zookeeping musician, my younger self placed no limits on the future. I dreamt freely — free from social expectations and constructs.
As I grew older and developed a stronger grasp of “reality,” my dreams changed. I was taught that success meant having money and that there were a select number of careers that would guarantee my success. I was taught that women were only qualified for certain careers and that instead of following my dreams, I should find a career meant for me. I was taught that, as a person of color, I would face more obstacles than my white counterparts, so I should take whatever route is easiest. These “limitations” shaped my mind in a way that hindered my ability to dream freely. I felt that a dream career was one that made money and was socially acceptable, but not necessarily one that I enjoyed. All throughout middle school and high school, I hated that my dreams were constructed by the minds of others and that I no longer had the liberty to create my future.
Since coming to college, however, a lot of those restrictive beliefs have diminished. At the University of Michigan, I am surrounded by students with identities similar to my own who are still holding on to their childhood dreams instead of letting their “limitations” stop them. I have met people who want to start companies, run for office and perform in Broadway musicals. I have met people who run clothing brands, have interned at top companies and have raised thousands of dollars for charity. These people, along with countless others, have expanded my worldview and have reassured me that I can still become anything I want to be.
I currently find myself at a point very similar to my childhood. Though my dreams have evolved from the zookeeping model-doctor-musician of my childhood, they are still just as important. I am blessed to be somewhere I can still believe in my dreams, regardless of what the world has told me. I hope that anyone reading this is striving to make whatever dreams they have come true. I hope that you never lose sight of what you once wanted. And I hope that if you ever play WNRS and come across the dream question, you will be able to answer with confidence that you have not let go of the dreams that still mean something to you.