How To Live Your Childhood Dreams Now

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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When I was a little girl, I had three big dreams. Rock Star!

One was to be a famous writer.

I started dozens of novels that ended up, unfinished, in the bottom of desk drawers. I was a skinny little school-girl with glasses who dreamt up characters with qualities I longed to embody  — they were sexy and powerful and lived lives full of intrigue and drama.

I, in the meantime, went to school every day, won science and math contests, and got made fun of for being such a total geek.

I also thought it might be fun to be the first female president.

Today I am not sure I would characterize Obama’s job as “fun.” My family was in politics when I was growing up however and I found it glamorous.

Campaigns meant I got to stay up until midnight, eat pizza, and flirt with cute boys. Pizza, boys, late nights, what more could one girl need from life?

My third childhood dream was to be the back-up singer and dancer in the band.

I used to memorize my girlfriends’ jazz routines. I remember one hot little number we performed in my friend Julie’s basement to “Another One Bites the Dust.”

I always thought I could be that girl in the sparkly dress and go-go boots who belted out the “woo-woos.” Why Prince never discovered and hired me, I will never know!

That said, as an adult I have taken my dreams into my own hands. In my own way, I am living each of these dreams now.

Sometimes it’s on a modest scale. For example, last Thursday evening my best friend and I headed to a karaoke fundraiser for her workplace. We sang Prince’s song Kiss, dancing seductively, and were a giant hit.

I joined a gospel choir at Glide Church while living in San Francisco. Every Sunday I stood on the risers and joined my voice with 100 other singers, spirit moving through us in an ocean of sound.

I was also a professional dancer for years, teaching and performing lindy hop.

I haven’t run for office yet, but spent years training for it. I earned my MPA degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. I have been asked to run for office multiple times in the city where I live – Troy, NY – although the timing hasn’t been right.

And of course I am writing my first book now, as each of you watch and hopefully cheer me on.

I’d encourage you to find ways to live YOUR dreams, whether on a small scale — like my karaoke number at the bar! — or a bigger scale, like going after a job you’ve always wanted.

Randy Pausch, a former Carnegie Mellon professor who died of pancreatic cancer at age 47, had incredible things to say about Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. Check out his famous “Last Lecture” for inspiration.

What were your biggest childhood dreams?

And can you do something today to set those dreams in motion?


Lisa_avatar(Lisa has launched her dream by signing up for Ellen Sussman’s “Memoir-in-a-Year” class, speaking her story out loud at a Take Back the Night rally, and committing to a regular writing schedule — 50 pages due by December! Being invited to join was a dream come true, and she looks forward to chronicling her writing process. Lisa is currently bi-coastal with her home in historic Troy, New York and her heart in San Francisco. Lisa’s post day is Tuesday).


  • Great read. This is my 1st visit to your blog. Thank you for sharing this. I must subscribe to this site. I am a auto repairman for a long time. Our do-it-yourself tip of the year is: Please do not make an attempt a extremely difficult fixer without a professional. That most likely will cost you more in the end. Thanks again!

  • Sandi

    Great blog. I always wanted to be a singer, but was too shy.

  • Kim, the traveler

    Great blog. I always wanted to be a singer, but was too shy. Now I have an outgoing child who is tone deaf. Can’t win!

  • Reminds me of that song – and when you get the chance, to sit it out or dance, I hope you DANCE… :-)

  • Heather, the e-commerce builder

    I agree – it doesn’t matter when you start, just that you do. Enjoy the dance!

  • Aww thanks Dean… I am grateful to have met you too. YOU are an inspiration and I look forward to learning more about you and to reading your wonderful memoir… What a story you have to tell! You also just have the most delightful and joyful energy. :-)

    Cath I know I am so happy with what I learn from everyone who posts here… Loving the dialogue and insights. Thanks to everyone who reads and contributes!

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  • Deany Brady


    I am so enjoying your refreshing, fun, and inspiring comments. Your thoughts as well as your dreams and, just as important, your positive and powerful actions toward those pulsating goals, are really important to us, your fellow writing students, in boosting our progress as we enjoy and follow your forward moving example

    I am grateful to have met you you.

  • Catherine

    Great comments.

  • Dear Lisa,

    I’m honored to call you my friend too – lucky to have you in my life! THANK YOU for your kind and heartfelt words – I have to say this made it all worth the time I put into writing these:

    “So I look forward to Tuesdays because on Tuesdays I take the time to do something for myself that will inspire me to be the best person I can be at that moment with the information I have on hand.”

    That’s exactly what I hope for in doing this… that I will be able to pass on some inspiration, and that others will know it’s never too late to live our dreams (in big or small ways) and just to be happy with what we have now as well (both are possible, at the same time!).

    I loved the story about your stepsister. Yes, you make an impact on the lives around you – knowing you is a gift!

    Love, Lis

  • Lisa C

    I am really starting to look forward to Tuesdays so I can read your blog. First, I want to say that I feel privileged to know you and call you a friend in my personal life. I feel when you write it is directly from your heart into mine, and in turn I feel all of the emotions that you are expressing through your writing. I relate, I smile, I remember the sadness in growing up and the joy, the innocence, the carefree feelings but most of all I feel inspired to look at my life for what it is now. To see how much I have done even if it was not my original dream. To know that I am still viable and can continue to grow and make progress on my dreams everyday. I don’t have to wait for the right time that never comes because I am so busy waiting. To know that we are all a collection or scrapbook of what has happened to us. How we have effected the people and world around us even if it was not been in a huge way like becoming a star or the President. I know I have made a difference in the lives around me. I am grateful that by talking with you and reading your blog, I am seeing parts of my life with different eyes. Things I may have disregarded as ordinary or uninteresting really are the learning stepping stones of my life. What I do with the information and how we interpret the knowledge into our daily lives will be what will determine the life we live. So I look forward to Tuesdays because on Tuesdays I take the time to do something for myself that will inspire me to be the best person I can be at that moment with the information I have on hand.
    Some time ago my stepsister called me on the phone to ask for help, even though we are not exceptionally close she will reach out to me on occasion if she needs older sister advice. She was struggling with the idea of getting married. Based on many relationship issues and having seen the downside of divorce she was worried that she may be making a mistake and she never ever wanted to get divorced. She went on and on about the multitude of “what if’s” happened. While I was listening it occurred to me that the best answer I could give her was simple. It just came to me at that moment but it has changed the way I think since then. I told her that we all have doubts and are unsure if we are doing the right thing especially when it is a life altering decision, all any of us can do is to make the best decision we can based on the information we have available at the time, period. She thanked me but as we hung up I was really not sure if it made any impact on her at all. However over the years she has repeated that phrase to me many times. She tells me now when faced with a decision she just makes the best one she can with the information she has. Really what else can we do? We want to control everything in our lives but we cannot. I know I cannot control what has already happened in my life but I can darn well make the best damn decision I can will the information I have. Thanks for making me remember that.

  • and p.s. Amen to you dancing and finding your own sense of grace, balance and beauty in that Rachel… beautiful. It is never too late. :-)

  • Rachel, this is a great reminder- thank you:

    “It’s a mistake to think that a dream has to be something big or unusual (because really, having a good solid family IS big.) It just should be what makes you happy. Some people spend so much time and energy wishing for things that won’t make them happy, when the really good things are in their reach — they just can’t see it.”

    I think that’s part of what I was trying to say in my post too – that it’s more about doing the things that make us happy (whether that is dancing, or having a family, or writing, or whatever it may be) and not so much about the “end goals” of reaching the pinnacle of the dream – whatever that may be!

    Life is about the journey… I just think it’s important to remember what we loved to do when we were young and nurture that if we aren’t doing it now. There is often something to it!

  • Rachel

    Julita said “…wished for a normal home where people would be nice to one another, with a healthy dinner cooked at home every night. so that is why I was so happy when I got to have my own family, got to stay home and cook those dinners…”

    It sounds like you are living your childhood dream. It’s a mistake to think that a dream has to be something big or unusual (because really, having a good solid family IS big.) It just should be what makes you happy. Some people spend so much time and energy wishing for things that won’t make them happy, when the really good things are in their reach — they just can’t see it.

    • Julita

      Rachel you are so right, having a loving family WAS my childhood dream!! you are a smart lady, wonder what you do for a living? a psychologist or a doctor, I bet.

      yes, simple things are important too. who dreams of being healthy? only sick people, :)

      thank you for your great insight. I treasure my family more than anything in this world. they are my everything, my husband and my girls.

      again, thank you!!

  • Oh Julita sweetheart I think you are so beautiful and brave and am so sorry that you did not feel safe in childhood to dream… I support you in living your dreams now my friend and will be here for you.

    I know that you’ll find your way to your dream job (excited about your new job now!) and that you’ll continue to stretch your mind and grow. I trust that your girls will learn again over time how to appreciate their loving mom – I’m sorry it is a bumpy patch right now! I know that will pass. Teenagers are often hard on their parents and I am sure they will grow out of it…

    And skiing this winter sounds like fun :-)

    Don’t stop dreaming sweetheart and know that you are WORTH it. Love you!!!

  • Julita

    oh Lisa, do I even remember my childhood dreams now? it was so long ago for me. I had to grow up very quickly as my dad left when I was 10 yrs old and my mom left when I was 11, so as a child my dream was to have something to eat, and to have a place to go to, where I would feel safe, which was not my home, where I was abused sexually and physically.

    in other words I never got to dream as a child, but wished for a normal home where people would be nice to one another, with a healthy dinner cooked at home every night. so that is why I was so happy when I got to have my own family, got to stay home and cook those dinners, which nobody wanted to eat as I am a terrible cook I have discovered.

    my life has always been so full of excitement or ‘drama’ as you call it. I love doing things, but as I age I realize that my family is what I really care about. I also care about money as it provides security, which I dreamed of as a child.

    when I asked my 90 yr old neighbor: how much time do we have to dream in our lives for something new and exciting, she asnwered we can dream up to 45 years old, which is when we stop being young and give up on our dreams and accept our life for what it is. this is a super smart lady so she just might be right. I am still hoping to have a great job in acute care and then medical/nursing research. I am still hoping to have my mind grow as I finish my graduate program I started in 1990, but in a different field this time. hoping to enjoy skiing this winter with my husband, just hoping to talk to my girls more, so they can know how much I love them. and hoping to stay healthy, :)

    I am so happy you are living your dreams, Lisa! I can’t wait to see you dance at one of your competitions, read your book and vote for you some day when you run for our future governor and/or president!!

  • p.s. which is why singing and dancing to Prince at the karoake bar – vs. getting selected to be one of Prince’s back-up dancers – still counts in my book. ;) Living the dream!!!

  • BTW a few quick suggestions for anyone on how to live your childhood dreams NOW:

    1) Remember what they are. :-)

    2) Write them down!

    3) Decide on one small action step you can take toward living out those dreams now (examples: take a class, buy a “How To” book, find a mentor who has done it and ask them how, tell your friends and family – ones who are supportive of you! – what you are up to, etc…)

    4) Take that action step!

    5) Lather, rinse, repeat.

    6) And most importantly – have fun!!!

    Remember that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination, and that doing something you love is its own reward.

  • Love it Cath!!! Yes to dancing again at any age!!! and I love the explanation. ;)

    You rock. :-)

  • Catherine

    Great post. I say go ahead and begin dancing again at 50, even if you haven’t done it for years and look like some darting chicken, thus throwing your hip out.

    Go for it.

    You can always lie and say you hurt it practicing the Karma Sutra with two 21 year old guys.



    • Rachel

      I always wanted to dance, myself. I started ballet lessons when I was 5, and quit when I was 6, because I thought I was no good at it. (I just told my mom I didn’t enjoy it, because I knew she’d make me keep it up if I gave the real reason.) I remember especially wanting to do partner dancing like I sometimes saw in movies… and especially liked the swing sort. In 1992 (or ’93, maybe?), I saw a piece on T.V. about people who were reviving lindy hop. When I saw them dancing (the way I remember it) I leaped up, pointed at the T.V, and cried, “That’s what I want to do!”

      It took me another 10+ years to actually try it, though. All those years, I had a number of reasons for not actually learning to dance, but the biggest one was that I knew I was a klutz, and was afraid I could never be any good at it. It took until I was 40 before I decided that I didn’t have to be good to enjoy doing it. And I did enjoy it. The dancing brought my smile back, and 3 years later, I’m better at it than I ever thought I could be. Not a professional, by any means, but all the non-dancers think I look great, and a rather good dancer has even told me I always look graceful when I dance. (And yes, I guarentee that’s the first time anyone has _ever_ said _I_ look graceful.)

      I say it’s never too late.