Over the Back Fence: For grads, dreams are just the beginning

Ever cruised along a major freeway in a van full of teenage boys drooling over sports cars zipping by?

“Wow! Look at that Corvette! I’m gonna have one just like that someday!”

“Ooooo … sweet! A Ferrari – that one’s mine!”

“I’m getting a Mazda RX-7. Cherry red …”

“I wanna Viper!”

It’s more likely they’ll be driving a Hyundai. And that’s when they’ll realize a huge gulf exists between dreaming and making their dreams come true.

Our daughter and several of her friends graduated from high school in recent weeks. During the past four years I can’t count the times I’ve heard them talking and planning their futures. Did I mention that every other week their plans changed? Okay, slight exaggeration – every other month.

Junior college, university or vocational training? Stay local or move near relatives? Maybe study abroad? Work for a year or two before college or go this fall? Pursue the interest as an occupation or keep it a hobby? Start a home-based or an online business? Serve in the military and then go to school, or stick around and turn the after-school job into full-time, to someday become manager?

So many more options are available to this generation than in the past.

A retired friend told me recently, “When I graduated from high school I had three options: I could get married, go for my nursing degree or become an airline stewardess.”

She chose world travel.

In case you’re wondering, it’s OK if our graduates haven’t decided yet what they want to do with the rest of their lives. The choices are endless.

What’s important is to take small steps in a direction they’re interested in. If they find the fit isn’t right, they can always choose something else. By completing short-term goals along the way, they’ll be learning and growing through the process.

Today’s opportunities have a way of becoming the necessary components to reaching tomorrow’s goals. Most successful 30-year-olds I know aren’t doing exactly what they envisioned when they were in high school, or even college. But the education and experience of the past 10 to 15 years brought them to where they are today – smarter, more determined, more mature and able to see more clearly for the decisions they’ll make today and in the future.

Final steps toward goals come only after the first steps are taken, and all the steps in between.

It’s good for our kids to dream, as long as they understand dreams are only the beginning. And the bigger the dream, the more work is involved turning the dream into reality.

Ideas conceived must be labored over, nurtured and invested in. Add to the equation tons of perseverance, which translates into long hours and hard work.

But not every piano student has to become a concert pianist. Not every linebacker will make it to the Super Bowl. Because not everyone is meant to be larger than life. And that’s OK.

“If you can dream it, you can do it,” isn’t a true statement on its own.

Maybe we’ve done a disservice by encouraging younger generations to reach so high. The sheer distance and weight of a “shoot-for-the-stars” mentality can easily overwhelm. We don’t want to discourage them from trying anything less than world record breaking.

Putting too much emphasis on star quality hinders the efforts of most of our kids doing everyday tasks well. They’ll lose sight of the value of making a difference on a small scale, within their own communities.

It wouldn’t hurt to have a few more responsible employees at our local stores and businesses.

It wouldn’t make the papers, but it’d be nice to see more family members who are devoted and available to the ones closest to them.

And we could use more business owners, teachers, legal and medical professionals, government leaders and other community members with integrity.

Couldn’t we?

By allowing our kids to become enamored with celebrity status, they’ll miss the opportunities to shine right where they are. I don’t know of many neighborhoods that wouldn’t benefit from a little more light.