Male and Female Dreams

Cuddling_CoupleIn our society, women are much more comfortable talking about their dreams. Certainly they’re more comfortable labeling them “dreams.” If men do talk about what they want in life, the word used is usually “goals.”

“Dream,” after all, is very femmy. It doesn’t help that the word is forever and inextricably linked with our nighttime wanderings, but it’s more than that. You see it in the self-help section. You see it in the blogosphere. You hear it at the coffee shop. While men might want to make things happen, achieve, accomplish, dreaming is largely for women.

Why?

I was so curious about this I spent some quality Internet time trying to get to the bottom of it and came across a few interesting things. According to TIME Magazine, men and women do have similar goals in life: they largely agree on the importance of physical health, financial security, career fulfillment and children. The largest divide concerned religion: whereas 58 percent of men valued it highly, 68 percent of women did. Still, across the spectrum, dreams matched up pretty squarely.

According to the Daily Mail, men and women generally hope to accomplish their life goals before the age of 40. (Which is interesting when you think about it. I do this too, but seeing it in print highlights the silliness of calling something a “life goal” when you can reasonably assume to live twice as long as the time you’re giving yourself to do it in.) Some small differences did emerge: men rank marriage fifth on their list of goals, women rank it third. Their ideal ages for having families, achieving financial security and having successful careers differed by only two years in each case. Mostly, it seems, men and women are on the same page.

So why does it seem to me as those guys are so often left out of the conversation? Are they? Am I just missing the venues in which they’re conversing, or does it take surveys to reveal what men aren’t revealing on their own? I don’t have the answers yet, but I think asking the questions is a good start.

You Are You

FrameYesterday I was hanging a picture. It was in one of those frames with the fussy little bendy pieces of metal that hold down the backing, the kind that cut you if you use your fingers instead of a tool and break after you bend them too many times. The really annoying kind. I finally ended up attaching the backing with bright blue painter’s tape and calling it good. When I turned it around and hung it, voila! It looked fantastic.

And that’s when I realized: this picture frame is a lot like life.

Who doesn’t spend too much of their life looking at someone else and thinking, “If only I were them.”

You would have a sweeter car, a nicer house, a better spouse, a more gratifying/glorious job, whatever. These thoughts are powerful, pulling us out of happiness, out of the present, and away from achieving our own dreams. They can eat away at us, especially when we compare ourselves to truly unmatchable models: I will never have Jennifer Lawrence’s hair; I will never have one of the Internet’s most popular blogs; I will never run an ultramarathon or have legs that look like pistons.

The thing to remember, though, is that you are seeing only the picture frame. The people we compare ourselves to hide their faults the same way we do. Their career paths contain humiliating setbacks we probably don’t know about. We might not see them in sweats with their hair in a moppy bun, but they rock that style in just the same way.

They are hiding their blue tape.

So why spend so much time trying to match ourselves up? The next time you see someone’s amazing vacation photos on Facebook, or are grinding your teeth as you hear about their career success, or are licking your lips over their new significant other, stop. Remind yourself that you have attributes others admire and wish for too, and that this isn’t healthy behavior. At the most, let yourself be inspired. At the least, remind yourself that they are them, and you are you, and nothing will change that. Which is a good thing.

Finding a Passion

800px-Two_left_hands_forming_a_heart_shapeIn a word, passion is supposed to describe what it is that turns us on, sets us afire, makes us want to get up in the morning and go to work — or perhaps what makes us want to leave work, so that we can follow it.

I’ve always considered myself a passionate person, always thought I had more dreams than one person could possibly cope with, as recently discussed in the post Combine Your Dreams: Slash Culture. For me, the problem is too many dreams.

For many, I’m starting to realize, the problem is that there isn’t one in the first place.

I can’t understand what this would be like, though I have to admit in some ways it sounds kind of nice. No unfulfilled wishes eating away at you like stomach acid? No sense of self-loathing or pervasive failure because every morning when you wake up, you still haven’t gotten to that magical “arrival” place? I’ll take it.

But others don’t seem to feel this way. In fact, judging by the wealth of articles out there about finding your passion, I think the opposite might be true. The titles alone really give a sense of how difficult a prospect this is. Consider Oprah’s “The Secret to Finding Your Passion (Hint: It’s Not What You Think),” or Tiny Buddha’s “Try This If You’re Struggling to Find Your Passion.”

Apparently, passion can be a real snake pit. Bummer. This worries me: do I not actually know what my passions are? Have I misled myself? Is this why I’m not succeeding?

I don’t think so. I think more likely, achieving dreams takes days, weeks, years and months of toil. A lot of the work you put in won’t be enjoyable in the conventional sense (i.e. enjoyable in the sense that barbecues, paragliding, or danging like a madwoman are enjoyable), but it is satisfying. I find that I want to do plenty of work I don’t have to do simply because it feels like it’s going somewhere. And in the long run (and the short run and the medium run and all the runs in between), isn’t that enough?