Please welcome today’s guest writer, Addison Smith. Addison is a 2015 economics and international development major who stumbled into the world of data. A self-proclaimed “not IT person” who is working in IT, Addison has a lot of self-reflection to do. She spends her free time collecting cookbooks, perfecting mojitos, and wondering how in the world she ended up back in her hometown of Pella, IA.
At the start of vacation I was optimistic. You know how this goes. Wading through spring breakers at the Charlotte airport, I decided to purchase a book that I was definitely going to read in its entirety, Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis. Needless to say, I spent more time with my nose in the water than in the pages of a book. When I got around to skimming and eventually reading the book I found myself rolling my eyes more than imagined. Was the cynic in me alive and well? Why did I become squeamish every time Rachel’s words scanned across the page?
Now, there’s a lot we could cover here. From the “embarrassment” she so bravely accounts over declaring herself a New York Times best-selling author eight weeks before it actually happened to her brazen pursuit of a goal to “fly everywhere first class.” Even starting a chapter with a Jay-Z quote and then talking about authors starting chapters with quotes for the next 200 words isn’t the biggest grievance.
Hollis brings readers through an exercise to list down their ideal life in ten years with ten dreams to match. No limits. No consultations. “Go as big as you can go.” Here is where I put the book down, stare at my wall for a minute, then grab a handful of chocolate chips from the freezer.
I am at odds with the voices in my head and the one on the page telling me to dream a dream for only myself. And then do that ten times over. My emotions move from skeptical to downright squeamish.
Recently at a meeting we were playing a word association game where you say the first thing that pops into your head. The topic turned to Calvin College/University. My response: conservative. Calvin is a conservative institution. Not in the political, social, or religious debates all to be made elsewhere. I’m talking about creating an environment to dream conservatively. Our doctrine limits our impact to a square inch.
How odd is it to bring the confines of our passions into a box? What if I break the square inch either in depth (through the relationships I form) or in width (through a large sphere of influence) or in height (by exclusively living in penthouse condos)? I think it wouldn’t be condemnation but rather a form of worship where embodying, living, and spreading your ordained gifts to the world would be the best compliment we could give ourselves and God.
There’s something to be said for dreaming dreams that are larger than is applicable or reasonable. Hollis’s goals of being on the New York Times Bestseller List, running a multi-million dollar media company and a few marathons are things I didn’t know I was allowed to have. Not that I want these dreams; they’re Rachel’s, not mine. I want my own.
But what does it mean to conjure up ten dreams of purely selfish origin?
It’s like digging up old troves from your childhood and finding all of the abandoned sketches and words from a time when imagination was encouraged. When limits weren’t a calculation and I could be the first female NFL coach or a limo designer or a bird. When a disproportionate amount of your life lays ahead, there’s nothing but possibilities. Nothing but paths not yet taken. Spend a little while wandering down those paths and you can feel pigeonholed by past choices—be they regrets or triumphs. Breaking through Rachel Hollis’s book was the voice of a past self reawakened. Her boundless enthusiasm of generic, optimistic, and, frankly, quite trivial advice about my dreams was all I needed to hear.
We spend so much time separating what we could be from what we are. To be placed back into the wonderment stage of a second grader is visiting an old friend. Through aging our talk transforms from “I could be this” to “I should do that.” We feel victim to our choices. We become what we should be, not what we could be. But what if underlying all of this is who we choose to be?
Because if we’re honest with ourselves, the things that make us squeamish are really hitting a nerve numbed long ago. And I wonder what it would look like if we all just admitted to mirrors what our hopes and longings, dreams and desires are. And then, rather than passing judgement on the God-given passions buried within our bones and souls, use that energy to make them and ourselves come alive.