A thick mist hung over our small, hushed group. We had waited for quite some time now, huddled together in a voluminous darkness that enveloped us whole. The biting cold seeped into my chunky gloves and boots, numbing the tips of my fingers and toes. It was marvellous, waiting for something we weren’t even sure would show up.
All of a sudden, there it was. My childhood dream.
It burst into reality before my widened eyes – brilliant, sapphire green lights dancing across the spacious night sky; the incandescent showstopper whose otherworldly nature has sparked the imaginations of generations. Whether the souls of the dead travelling to their final resting place, or ancient spirit heroes battling it out to the death, the aurora borealis – or the Northern Lights – was everything I dreamt it would be, and exponentially more.
I cannot describe the barely-containable excitement of that moment. That night, I lay wide awake in my bunk and pondered what it meant for me, now that I had tasted the sweet euphoria of having a dream come true.
I was 19 at the time. Halfway across the world from home on a study exchange, I had flown alone into Kiruna, Sweden, where I learned to mush a dogsled like a professional amateur; forever savoured the exhilaration of speeding over a large frozen lake that spread as far as the eye could see; sat in a rustic log cabin with an indigenous Sami man listening to how his way of life was slowly disappearing; and sank my teeth into my first moose and berry steak. Above all, beneath the mesmerising glimmers of the Northern Lights, I discovered that dreams are the true sustenance of immortals.
Lofty words, I know. But I stand by them with more conviction than I have for most other things.
What I mean is, dreams allow us to live and breathe beyond the physical confines of an otherwise mundane existence; an existence too often believed to be a bland pill one must swallow in order to smother irresponsible delusions of grandeur. The collective wisdom of a whole host of brilliant men and women throughout history (and my own experience), however, suggest it is the pursuit of dreams which reminds our body-bound souls that we were born to be free.
I repeat: we were born to be free. We are meant to become more tomorrow than what we are today. We are meant to go where we have not passed before.
In a world still beholden to grinding 9 to 5’s bookended by weekends that never last long enough, our obsessive penchant for security seems to have relegated the realm of big dreams to the margins. To painstakingly seek out, shape and fervently pursue a strongly held passion or ideal is not a path well travelled. If it was, there would be far fewer of us squinting and struggling to spot the imaginary lustre of a comfortable, yet strangely unsatisfying life pattern we often resignedly – or worse, subconsciously – lock ourselves into.
For someone like me who was born privileged and have yet to suffer gross socioeconomic disadvantage or severe disability, an exhortation to chase dreams would be pretty rich. But I’m comforted by the fact that I dream in the great company of the likes of Maysoon Zayid (a female Arab comedian with cerebral palsy) and Raimundo Sobrinho (a Brazilian ex-homeless man turned published poet) – people who, despite the worst of odds, refused to accept the bare circumstantial bones thrown at them and went on to live out their passion with arms and eyes wide open.
I’m extremely grateful to have learnt the immense value of chasing dreams early on. It propelled me onto a path of ever-thrilling sights: among them the blazing Taklamakan Desert, the Amazonian wild, the boundless Maasai Mara and the mysterious Loch Ness. Perhaps more importantly, it acutely sharpened (and continues to sharpen) my previously blunt sense of urgency for justice and human rights. One cannot go into the world armed with dreams without coming away in dismay at the heinous barriers raised against the dreams of others.
I don’t know what you dream of – what drives you to become better than your best, what scintillates every fibre in your body, what dances behind the back of your eyelids every time you lay your head down to rest, or what shadows your every waking decision.
All I know is this: if I could only bestow one wish upon you, I would wish for you equal parts courage and crazy to chase your dream to its end. If my childhood dream turned reality has taught me nothing else, it’s that aspiring to the future is the best inspiration for living in the now.