Misc

Living the dream

Who even knows how to measure success anyway? Margaret Cabourn-Smith sensibly reckons truly ‘living the dream’ includes embracing life’s ups and downs, lock stock and mistake-ridden barrel.

The sky’s the limit? Image: Disney/Pixar Studios.

We often hear shiny-eyed X Factor contestants or Oscar winners gush they are living proof that following your dreams and working hard is all you need to make those dreams come true.

Yeah, sorry – it isn’t though, is it? There are people doing both those things RIGHT NOW who will only ever deliver speeches into their bathroom mirror; who will only ever cry in front of their mums, rather than Simon Cowell (sounds good to me).

There are thousands of gifted people you will never hear about, because they didn’t have a healthy dollop of good luck.

We’ve all heard people say things like, “If I haven’t made it by the age of 30, I’m giving up,” but who decides what ‘making it’ means anyway?

There’s no equation to tell you how success definitively adds up. And there’s only a tiny percentage of people who turn out to be the new Beyoncé/Jessica Ennis-Hill/Tracey Emin/JK Rowling/Mary Beard at any age (though I’ll be honest, I have no idea how you’d even try to become the new Mary Beard: GOOD LUCK with that).

Give things up if they make you miserable, but don’t live by someone else’s idea of achievement – especially not your dim-witted younger self.

“Work towards the next rung of the ladder, not the top. Or start another ladder. These are not slogans that will get made into mirror stickers for bedroom walls, but they work for me.”

When I got pregnant, I had a real fear that having a baby would stop me wanting to work in the way I always had. As it was, it turned out that it had the opposite effect, but I realised later; so what if it had? People’s dreams change, and that’s 100 per cent healthy.

Here’s what I think: dream small, dream often. Dream flexibly. Dream big, but not too specifically. (I have a friend who said recently, “I always said I either wanted to be as big as the Stones or nothing at all.” He’s not as big as the Stones, by the way; he runs a kids’ music group in Devon and seems perfectly content.)

Don’t be defined by your cock-ups. Work towards the next rung of the ladder, not the top. Or start another ladder. These are not slogans that will get made into mirror stickers for bedroom walls, but they work for me.

I speak to you as a failure. If, by a failure, you mean someone who has had many dreams not come true. My ego’s fragile so I’m not going to go as far as printing up a CV of them, like this awesome dude.

But I’m also not giving up on dreams, because it turns out that having them come true is beside the point.

In truth, I’ve been lucky enough to have had lots of dreams come true – and the failures made the successes all the sweeter. And if we’re honest, it’s the failures that take you to the interesting places, and get you the things you didn’t even know you needed.

And the successes never feel like you thought they would anyway. And as a man who doesn’t run a kids’ music group in Devon once sang: “You can’t always get what you want…” You know the rest.

And thank you Standard Issue. For everything.

@MCabournSmith

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Written by Margaret Cabourn-Smith

Margaret is a comedy writer performer popping up on your TV and radio who over thinks and over talks.