Dreams Hurt

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(This post was written and published on 5/1/2014. Though I am older now, the sentiment expressed here is still very true.)

My calendar just popped up a notification:

Tomorrow is Dan Cumberland’s 32nd Birthday.

I have no idea how that happened. 32 is a big number. I’m not ready for it. But then again, I haven’t been ready for my birthday since I turned 18. I guess I have birthday sadness.

I feel sad. I feel sad that it’s been so long. I feel sad that life is still not what I want it to be.

I’m scared of getting old. I’m scared of missing out. I’m scared of not finding a way to make a difference. I want to change the world. I want to change people’s lives.

The problem with big dreams and big hopes is that they will continually remind you of how far you have to go.

So I have a word for you dreamers out there— for those of you you who believe that more is possible, and for those of you who are foolhardy enough to believe that what you do actually matters:

Don’t stop. Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop desiring.

But oh, you will be tempted. You will be very tempted.

There’s a problem with audacious dreams that few talk about: they hurt.[Tweet this]

The more you desire and the bigger you hope, the more tension you feel between where you are and where you want to be. The more you believe, the more you will be disappointed. The more you strive, the more you will miss the mark and be let down.

Projects will let you down. People will let you down.

If you dare to dream you will be disappointed.

But this is equally true:

It’s better to live with a broken heart than not to feel at all.

It’s better to taste only a fragment of your ambition than to be dead to your desires and hopes. It’s better to feel the tension than to live your life asleep.

There are days when I wonder if it’s worth it. I know it is, but I still wonder. Today is one of those days. I turn 32 tomorrow. Is it worth it for the struggle? Is it worth it to strive after living by my own rules?

I believe it is, but on this day before my birthday, my doubt is larger than I want it to be.

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  1. My post-32 future comes in a day less than a month. Definitely feeling that sadness as well, but I’m also hopeful for the future, as I keep trying to teach my heart to dream (it’s a slow process for me). Thanks for your thoughts and encouragements.

  2. This is where I think reflection and celebration become key. Keep chasing your dreams, but stop regularly to look back and ask, “What impact have I already had? How has God already used me? What should I be celebrating?” Because Dan, you’ve already had a ton of impact. I’m just one of many who’s been touched by you. And there will always be more that you can do. So stop and celebrate. If you need some more help thinking of things to celebrate, ask me, or Stacia, or anyone around you. Love you man!

  3. Dan, I’m Mariah–Tyler’s sister and Michelle’s sister-in-law. I read your posts religiously and every time am encouraged and inspired. Reading this post today though, I thought, “There is someone else like us.” It seems sometimes that no one else around us is dreaming–everyone else has chosen not to struggle in the way we have…and we ache for a community to dream with us.

    All I can say is thank you for writing what you do, for expressing what I often don’t know how to. Keep dreaming. We’re dreaming with you.


    1. Mariah! It’s so good to hear from you. I’ve heard so much about you from Tyler and Michelle. Thank you for reading religiously and thank you for letting us hear/read your voice here. There are others like you. We may not be with you in person, but we’re building this community to dream together— and I find that to be so hopeful.

      Thank you for your kind words. Don’t stop dreaming. Please.

  4. I really related to your birthday sentiments. I too have dreaded the day as a reminder of the not yet. This year on my 29th birthday on the cusp of quarter life crisis I decided to get my first tattoo: the Greek word poiesis. It is where we get the word poetry. It is about making and calling something into being. Heidegger described it as a bringing-forth like the butterfly from its cocoon. I think people with vision for how the world needs to be healed and bettered are forever going to live in the not yet as ” poietic” people. I relate to the tension you described and encourage you in your creative acts of becoming and transforming the world. Thank you for all your wise and encouraging words.

  5. ” …but on this day before my birthday, my doubt is larger than I want it to be.”

    But you can be confident of one thing … that on the days following your birthday, your resolve and commitment will be larger than during the day before.

    Savor the flavor of each and every birthday because you’ll never celebrate that same milestone again!

  6. Happy Birthday! I just turned 50 and have never understood the anxiety over birthdays. I LOVE getting older, to me it affords me more of everything. There is a calmness in realizing you can pass the baton to those younger, wiser, smarter and more creative than you and feel good doing that. I have goals and dreams but I don’t measure those on a scale. Its a trip, you enjoy the ride, you soak it all in and then its over, its as simple as that. On my birthday i wrote.. “From my first breathe until my last breathe..the only thing that will have mattered will be LOVE”

  7. Dear Dan, I am wondering why a 32nd birthday is a sad time! I am 78years old and still feel a surge of excitement about groups getting together to support one another on this planet. There are millions of people out there who need to know there is meaning in life. I believe in searching for the good in our lives for it lifts the spirits immensely. So lift up your heart for I have just found this site and look forward in time to see what others think as they also search for meaning. Hopefully we are moving in the same direction. Enjoy the rest of your birthday.

    1. Hi Helen! I’m so touched by your comment and so grateful to have you reading along. Thanks for the encouragement. I hope at 78 I can be as kind and encouraging as you! Thanks for reaching out 😉

  8. You have doubt, but doubt is our cultural inheritance. It isn’t what defines us though. Turn and face that doubt knowing that Christ never treated doubters as second citizens. He turned and answered their doubts, giving them the proof they begged for.

  9. Bless you and your dreams. And also for your honest words. I turned 38 about 2 weeks before you turned 32. At six years your “senior”, I have no intention of letting the dreams go. Sometimes they change, or more likely, God changes them. Throughout my 30s, I feel like God has woven more grace into my dreams and expectations, so I relate more to your more seasoned commentators than younger. I pray that for you, too.
    grace and peace,

    1. Thank you Jen. I appreciate your blessing and prayer. It’s encouraging to hear that you’ve grown in grace throughout your 30’s. I hope for the same for myself. Thanks so much for being a part of this.

  10. Stumble upon this post as i was reading your post about making the future ( equally awesome), and I have to say that i can identify with the feelings. Although I have not reached my 32nd birthday, I have been living with the thought that I am 30 ( I am actually 28) and with that the feeling that I haven’t accomplished much -( part of the reason i joined this movement). As of late, I have seen so many “young” people die and that makes the alarm tick louder : what are you doing? But am also realizing that I have been measuring achievement or impact on the basis of what I am seeing on the outside – what is expected of me at this age? can I fit the norm before I can think of exceeding it? and how long do I have ?
    thank goodness for KIM and JEN NIELSEN’s comments – they are timely 🙂
    To Dan: to 32 +32 ( and another 32 if you’d like) more years of meaningful post, and impact on world shakers.

    1. Hi Alex! I’m so glad to have you here. Thanks for your words. I totally resonate with the struggle to measuring achievement and impact based on what’s on the outside, when there’s so much more going on inside. So here’s to you, Alex, and to the next 28 years ahead 😉

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