I spent a few days with most of my nieces and nephews. They range in age from 2 to 22. The toddler is obviously full of joy and laughter. Everything in the world is new to him. He explores with genuine wonder. He is trying to make sense of his world. The next kids are 6 and 9. They seem to have a good understanding of the world around them, but are still trying to make sense of it. They ask a lot of questions, which leads to more questions. And the teenagers/adults are in the growing up stage. Becoming independent. Moving out of the house and they too are trying to make sense of their world. Maybe we all are in some way.
This got me thinking though, about growing up. And maybe how I’ve changed. So I pose the question – do all kids start out as dreamers, and is it life that turns us into realists? Or once a dreamer, always a dreamer? And vice versa. As I looked around the room yesterday, I could see our differences as siblings. I could see the ones who are like our mother, and those who are like our father. In looks and in mannerisms. I could see how they have changed over the years, and those things that remain the same.
The males in my family all seem to be very linear. They excel in math and science, and most are already engineers or on the path way there. The females in the family seem to be less inclined in the math and science part of things, but tend towards more health and social related occupations. As children, we all have a sense of wonder about the world around us. So, are we automatically dreamers as children? According to dictionary.com, a dreamer is “a person who is unpractical or idealistic.” But is that fair? Can we characterize dreamers that way? Or are those even bad traits to have. When I think of a famous dreamer, my brain automatically goes to Walt Disney. And look at what he built! Was he unpractical or idealistic? Probably.. but in his case, it worked.
I mention the difference between the males and females in my family, not to be stereotypical, but it appears that we follow those paths more. Take my sister for example. She has always been very creative. She can paint, and draw and even write to a lesser extent. But she can’t do basic math to save her life! Sorry, but true. My brothers though, are both engineers. They can design well, and understand numbers a lot better. I think I fall somewhere in the middle. Not really excelling in either a creative or a “math” direction. The reason I mention this is because I think of my sister as more of a dreamer. And my brothers as realists. And I would contend that she was always that way.
So how are dreamers and realists different? The Oxford dictionary defines a realist as someone “who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly”. So maybe the difference is that a dreamer doesn’t accept their situation, and strives to change it in some way? Whereas, the realist just deals with it. Which is why I wonder if we go through a phase where when we become more independent adults, we suddenly become realists. We seem to lose that sense of wonder and “what if”, and bunker down to deal with real life.
Maybe the difference between the two is around expectations. The dreamer expects to succeed, no matter what. Whereas the realist is prepared that if he doesn’t succeed, he will have a back up plan. The dreamer doesn’t have a back up plan because this is it for him. Neither one is necessarily worse than the other. Both have their own merits. But it seems that we view dreamers in a negative light. We want them to know that they aren’t “normal”, and they should come back to reality. They are the outcast and those living on the fringe. But deep down, we are all dreamers with a back up plan.
If I go back to my family example, and look at my sister. In her case, I don’t think the drudgery of every day life has gotten her down. I still think she is a dreamer. I’m not sure that she thinks that, but if I think of the definition and think of how she tackles life, I would qualify her that way. But is that really a bad thing? She doesn’t seem to be overly stressed about life. Sure, maybe a specific situation will get her down, but overall she has always been extremely positive. That’s not to say that realists are generally negative, but I think it’s almost like a defeatist attitude. Realists accept their situation and are prepared to deal with it. That doesn’t sound very positive. In the end, I think we were all dreamers at one point in our lives.