A Dream Deferred: Never Not At All

It’s impossible to do more than earn a comfortable living unless you also love what you do. Love sparks real creation. The absence of love evokes mimicry, at best. There’s a reason that our passion for what we do effortlessly inspires other people. It can’t be helped – we understand passion across any divide. The language of joy requires no translation.

I love words. I love the space between words, the cracks in a sentence. I love that a well-crafted story isn’t craft at all, but truth that keeps breathing long after a writer’s pen has left the page. Long after a speaker stops speaking. This moment is home, for me. Can you tell?

I respect art. I believe there is art in almost every industry, but that art only comes from individuals who feel an intrinsic joy for their work. When I encourage my friends to consider careers outside of science and engineering, outside law and finance, I am not devaluing these industries. Rather, I am valuing their happiness. I am valuing their capacity to Make Good Art.

Of course, that’s a heavy statement to make. I won’t deny that it contains value judgment. Passion over money. Joy over security. Who am I to decide which brings greater happiness? Who died and made me King of Your Autonomy?

I’m not really in a position to evaluate anyone’s life but my own. And believe me you, my life is an embarrassment of false starts and wrong turns. No one needs to defend their life or their choices to me. But I wish we would revisit our choices and defend them to ourselves. And, should we find our defense weak, I wish we would reconsider. Whether you do this or not comes at no immediate gain or loss to me, but I bet it will to you. And, in the aggregate, probably to our world.

Joy keeps us going. No commitment in life is ever easy. No experience in life ever matches our prediction. Only our unbridled, intrinsic joy for the work can keep us going, can allow us to create something new and invaluable in a world that desperately hates change. You can’t fight the good fight if you don’t put your foot down. You won’t put your foot down if you don’t truly care.

“It’s never too late to start something new.” Here’s my amendment to that platitude: It’s never too late to meet a new opportunity, but it is often too late to seize it. Following one’s dream is an ability. It’s a muscle waiting to be trained. The grand hope is that we can ignore this muscle through our youth and middle age, and come back to it in our twilight years. Yet, very few people who spend their lives deferring dreams wind up realizing any of them. The ones who in their old age pick up new tricks tend to be people who have always done something they loved – in ways big and small. Because they stretched that muscle, that agility stayed with them through old age. There is an implied relationship between us and our dreams. They request our attention. Our passions need to be considered, fed and fought for. In ways big or small, but never not at all. Otherwise they wilt and abandon us.



26 thoughts on “A Dream Deferred: Never Not At All

  1. You say your life is full of embarrassments and false starts, and I don’t know enough about your life to agree or disagree that. What I do know, though, is that you followed your dreams. You are doing what you truly and undeniably want to do, which is better than most people can say. You have inspired me to do what I want to do in life, no matter what other people think about it. Now all I have to do is find what I truly want to do.

  2. Pingback: Ang Lee: A Never-Ending Dream | What Shih Said

  3. I can’t recall the last time I read something this wonderful. I’m almost personally offended this hasn’t been published in the New York Times. I’m printing this out and putting it on the wall next to my desk for whenever I need a reminder to be passionate. Thanks for writing this. True service work.

  4. Simple, straight and conveys clearly your thoughts as they flow.
    Can I say ‘wonderfully natural’?
    mmmmm…, your writing is ‘natural’ and ‘wonderful’
    Regards, Ravi (62+)

  5. I’m not really one to peruse Facebook all day, but your extremely long (and insightful) FB status updates sparked my curiosity for what Shih says. I’m sure you get this all the time, but I really enjoy reading your work (FB statuses included) and have even recommended your blog to fellow writers who are currently suffering from writer’s block. I don’t find many blogs that I feel are worth expending my time and energy to follow, but with yours, it’s effortless. I don’t find myself sticking your blog on my daily reading list for educational and informed purposes (though those are very important), but it’s there because reading it takes my thoughts temporarily away from the chaos that is life and back to the very essence of what makes each one of us human.

    On another note, I wish I got to know you better when we were both in Theatre Rice. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dear Mabel,

      I hope you’ll forgive this belated reply. Firstly: Thank you. I’m really glad that my writing can provide you an alternative to the humdrum and white noise in our everyday routine. In truth, I write – not only but also – to transcend my own realities, to pull back and ponder aloud. Thank you, too, for sharing my writing with others.

      I wish we had a chance to know each other better during our shared semester in Rice. The expected thing to say here, of course, is that we’ll try harder in the future to reconnect – or maybe connect for the first time. That’s what I hope we’ll do, and I understand the impulse to promise it. Still, life will go on much the same (probably). In the end (middle, and beginning), friendships that live on survive by attention, not intention. So, I’ll simply endeavor to be present.

      Selfishly, I hope you’ll keep reading. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your attention.

      • Very well written. Thank you. I have a profound respect for those who connect us by expressing the fabric that makes us human!

  6. Pingback: “Ang Lee: A Never-Ending Dream” By Irene Shih | thisisjulialiu.

  7. Pingback: I love words. I… | Themoderndayjuliet's Blog

  8. Dear Irene,

    What a beautiful article. You are truly a gifted writer. As a psychotherapist, I often encounter people who are in jobs or relationships that are passionless and it’s difficult for me to help them to see that there might be something beyond their current situation. Fear is such a powerful obstacle to change. I am happy to have your additional perspective and voice to share with them.

    On a personal note, my husband passed away almost 4 years ago and I’ve started dating and questioning (at 58) if I should settle for a comfortable and companionate relationship, since I had a fabulous and passionate marriage. After talking to a good friend the other night and reading your article, all I can say is , “Hell, no!”.

    Many blessings,

  9. Pingback: Ang Lee’s Dream « STUDIO RISE

  10. Pingback: I Love Words – Featured Writer: Irene Shih | Julialiu.com

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