“There are dreamers and there are realists in this world. You'd think the dreamers would find the dreamers and the realists would find the realists, but more often than not the opposite is true. You see, the dreamers need the realists to keep them from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists, well without the dreamers, they might not ever get off the ground.” – Cam, Modern Family
As we grow up, we’re always told by our parents or teachers to dream big; so even if we don’t get there, at least we still have made some progress. So, we naively ‘dream,’ whatever the goal is. Whether it’s a girl who wants to ‘become’ her older sister when she grows up, or become a Noble-prize-winner scientist; we are told to think BIG and have bigger dreams. But as high school, college, and reality kicks in, you start moving accordingly to the social standards and judging yourself in others’ eyes and calculating all the odds in life’s decisions. As life gives lemons, that innocent child’s dreams are often buried and lost for years.
This was my case, where I was a helpless dreamer in my childhood years. Growing up in California and London, dreamers were welcomed and encouraged. Every time I learnt something new and found it amusing, it instantly and easily became my future dream. Like so, ‘dreamers’ are often defined or seen as people who dream big, who are optimistic and resilient.
But from the point of experiencing my first few failures, (ironically, when I came back to Seoul), I could no more keep my head in the clouds. The competitive environment and systems changed me into a ‘realist’ where I started to doubt every decision and comment pessimistically even towards others’ decisions. Threatening headlines reading “Lowest employment rate among youth,” “Poor Housing and savings among millennials,” kept me all night worrying about the future pressurizing myself thinking into the ‘what-if-I-become-nothing-syndrome,’ simultaneously crossing out the daily to-do list without any ultimate life goal but blaming myself for all the ‘failures’ compared to others.
I thought all of this was part of growing up and dealing with reality, until recently where I acknowledged that maturing does not mean giving up dreams. Instead, as the to-do lists were almost done; I recognized that this realist was actually missing the old dreamer.
“This is the funny thing about growing up. For years and years, everybody’s desperately afraid to be different, in any way. And then, suddenly, almost overnight, everybody wants to be different, and that is where we win.” – Michell, Modern Family
Growing up, we couldn’t bare the chances of being ‘weird’; so, everyone tried to fit in by doing the same thing or following the trend regardless of personal tastes, let alone perspectives. When you were secretly obsessed with High School Musical but it wasn’t as cool as The Artic Monkeys, you kept yourself from singing ‘Breaking Free.’ But as we enter a bigger pool, everyone wants to be ‘unique’ and ‘high-key’ in this kaleidoscopically changing world. This ‘uniqueness’ soon becomes versatility, which again, becomes an ammunition in the society with you and your only personality.
Becoming an adult doesn’t mean we can’t have fun nonetheless, realists. So instead of trying to answer the question: Dreamer or Realist, the ideal answer would be to be both, balancing the two out.
So as Phil Dunphy would say, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade and life will be like ‘whaatt?’”