What advice would you give the next generation if you were asked? When Dolly Parton (yes, that woman is a legend, an inspiration and a fabulous role model; I could extol her virtues and achievements at length if you asked) was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (D.H.L.) degree from the University of Tennessee in 2009, she gave the commencement address telling that year’s graduates to never stop dreaming.
We all remember our teenage dreams (thank you Katy for not trademarking random phrases in your lyrics). How close did you get to achieving them? Linda Ronstadt decided as a young girl that she wanted to be a singer and she went on to forge a path for women in rock ‘n roll music, becoming not only the first-ever solo female artist to perform sell-out arena and stadium tours, but also the top female artist of the seventies (yep, the whole decade), the winner of eleven Grammy Awards and one of the best-selling artists of all time. (So what are you doing with your life?)
I watched a recent interview where Linda told ABC News that it took her ten years to learn how to sing. The interviewer was startled and asked, “What do you mean it took you ten years to learn?” Linda said that it took her ten years to learn to control her “instrument” to deliberately perform any way she wanted it to. She said that she loved singing so much that she wanted it to be her job so that she wouldn’t have to waste time doing anything else. To make a career of singing, she would have to work as hard at it as anyone else works at their office job, so for ten years she practised singing for six to eight hours every day. All that hard work is what enabled her to sing everything from pop rock to jazzy ballads to Mexican mariachi music to opera (I’m not making this up) to killer duets like this gem from 1987.
Fortune favours the dreamy?
But is hard work always enough to achieve your dreams? Firstly, the term “hard work” is relative – depending on how much you really want that dream and how much you are truly willing to sacrifice for it. Are you willing to spend eight hours a day for ten years working towards your dream?
Secondly, for every aspiring actor, singer, athlete, writer that makes it, there are hundreds if not thousands who work just as hard, or in some cases even harder, who are never successful. Often there is as much luck involved as there is talent and hard work. Countless success stories come from people simply being in the right place at the right time.
I think it is okay, even healthy, to adjust, change or even give up on certain dreams as you get older. The stream of life and time goes on whether you want it to or not. Sometimes holding on to a dream that you’ve been swept past, that is getting further and further out of reach, only causes regret and heartache, and you end up missing out on the opportunities life is offering you now. Letting go creates room for new dreams to grow.
Time to wake up?
How do you know whether it is time to give up on a dream or not? What if you give up and it turns out you would have made it if you had just kept trying for one more year? That’s a risk everyone must take – but whenever you are thinking about letting go of a dream, that would be a good time to do it, as you are probably already in the process of making peace with it. You must be able to live in harmony with yourself about your decision, which brings me to my last point:
Giving up on a dream does not make you a loser or a failure. It may even make you a strong, wise and resourceful person. But no matter how many dreams you let go of, you can never ever give up on yourself. Once you give up on yourself, there is absolutely nothing left. Dreams are easily replaceable, but you are where they are born and there is only one of you. You will have more dreams and more successes. That is where Dolly had it right – dream more, even if you have to come up with a new dream every once in a while to replace the old ones.
*Seriously, you need watch Dolly’s commencement address to become a better person.
**In 2012 Linda Ronstadt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. As a result of the illness, she now has no control over her vocal cords, which means that she is no longer able to sing. I almost didn’t add this fact to the blog post, because it is heartbreaking. As can be seen from the interview linked to above, she seems to be philosophical about it and remains grateful for the years in which she could realise her dreams. Here she is performing live on television with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris in the ’70s (Linda is on the far right and Emmylou in the middle).