My father was a dreamer. It’s actually one of the things I admired most about him. He was born in a small village in Nigeria but he dreamed of more, and by his 40s he was a sought after doctor living with his family in England. A poor, black, village boy from a place I’m sure no English person had ever heard of went to Medical School and became a top Gynaecologist that every hospital he worked atwanted back.
My dad had dreams; he wanted to be a consultant, he wanted to own his own teaching hospital, he wanted to be an entrepreneur, he wanted to be wealthy. I remember him talking about owning a bus company once. The State I was born in Nigeria did not have great coach service so he wanted to bring it there. They would be air conditioned luxury buses. A few years after that converstion we visited Nigeria only to see one of those buses rusting outside his home. It was broken down and useless.
We used to have hospital equipment in our house. When hospitals would buy new equipment and I guess either sell or give away the old stuff my dad would get it. He stored them in our garage and dining room because he said one day he was going to ship them to Nigeria to his hospital. When my dad left, my mum was left to figure what to do with all that equipment.
My dad became frustrated in England. He wanted to be a Consultant but he kept getting passed over for the position. And as he reached 50 he started to fear that would not happen in England. He had already been passed over a few times. I guess at the height of his frustration he left. He decided his dreams were better pursued in Nigeria so he went there to chase them. He went there without stopping to consider what was best for us.
In my adolescent mind my father left us because of his dreams. He wasted money on buses and equipment he would never use because of his dreams. He sacrificed the wellbeing of his family because of his dreams. We struggled because of his dreams. And subconsciously I began to hate dreaming. I began to believe that it was foolish to dream and that dreams only led to disappointment.
My mother taught my sisters and I to pray. She told us to pray every morning when we awoke and every night before bed. I used to have nightmares that scared me and felt so real so every night before bed I would pray and ask God not to give me any nightmares. After my father left my prayer changed to “please God, don’t give me any nightmares or dreams.” In my mind the dreams were just as bad as the nightmares because when you awoke and it wasn’t true, it led to heartache. I prayed this prayer for years without ever truly realizing what I was asking for.
When Instagram became a thing I tried to get my name as a handle. It was already taken. Curious as to who had my name I followed her. She was a beautiful Nigerian girl, a model, a dancer, a doctor. A girl who had achieved dreams I secretly had but never chased because I didn’t believe they were achievable. I didn’t believe in the power of my dreams. I admired her. I began calling her the better version of myself. I would show her profile to my sisters and say, “this is the diamond to my coal”. To me she was everything I had secretly wanted to be but believed was foolish to try.
I am afraid to dream. This is a fact I didn’t even realize about myself until this week. I am afraid to hope for more, to admit my desires. My husband is a dreamer. He loves to talk about his dream vacation and his dream home. He talks about what he would like to do when we retire or if we win a million dollars. I have always hated those conversations. And it is something that I know frustrates him but until today I wasn’t able to fully understand or explain why they bothered me so much. I remember telling him one time “don’t talk to me about something if you can’t guarantee it will happen”. But life has no guarantees. At any moment it could come crashing down on you. That realization leaves you feeling hopeless but do you know how you grasp unto hope? You dream.
I have spent so much time associating dreaming with pain that I created a life where I lived in that pain because I refused to dream. Rehearsing tragedy doesn’t protect you from it; it simply means you stay in it, you live in it and you rob yourself of any joy you might have found.
My father’s dreams didn’t destroy his family; his choices did. His dreams didn’t make him leave; his choices did. His dreams didn’t make him fail; his choices did. There is more than one way to achieve a dream. His flaw was never that he had dreams, it was that he never included us in those dreams.
My sister asked me once what my dreams were. I thought about it and came up blank. Then I told her, well I always wanted to be married with children so I guess I am living the dream! Then I thought about it some more? If this was my dream, my only dream then why did I feel so incomplete in it?
I prayed to God for years not to give me any dreams. And I didn’t dream at night for years. I associated dreams with heartbreak so I didn’t set great goals for my life. I set small ones, achievable ones. But I felt incomplete because my heart needed more, my soul was destined for more.
So today, I am daring to become a dreamer. I am daring to chase those wild and ridiculous desires I pushed far down. It is a dare because it scares me but I am choosing to do it consciously. From today I will dream bigger and make choices that not only benefit me but the ones I love.
I am daring to hope for more, to strive for more, to believe in more. Maybe I will fail, maybe I will succeed, but I must forge ahead anyway because my only choice is to dream. To choose any other way is to accept misery as my lot and I deserve so much more than endless sadness.