Dreams Are the Ultimate Defiance

Clara Barnhurst

The world spends its time telling us to be practical. It pushes us to desperation; desperate people don’t dream. Desperate people don’t think beyond the event horizon of their desperation. Desperation fills our heads with worry about bills, isolates us with egocentric philosophies that insist we are masters of our own fate. The world simultaneously tells us to dream; that dreams come true so that when they don’t, the world can blame us, as individuals, for an inevitable failure. Dreams don’t come true; that’s not why we dream.

When I was a child, my mum did my star chart. I remember a few salient points: many t-square conjunctions to make my life difficult, as it was explained. Capricorn, which I already knew, Leo rising, Aries moon. Evidently I had a big mouth (I knew that too). I forget the exact thing or where, but apparently there was a strong indication that I wanted a family. I made a face at that one; I didn’t want to get married or have kids. The whole idea seemed crazy.

What’s fascinating about the star chart, and what I understand now, is it’s a place to start dreaming from. The actual statements were unimportant. That I embraced or rejected them gave me a dream of myself: who I wanted to be. It wasn’t going to dictate who I was. I did that.

I went to university because I couldn’t draw someone in the park one day. I wanted to learn how to draw people, so I accepted my deferred position at the local uni and said I would do art. I didn’t do art. I did theatre: I was placed in the wrong induction group. The dream of doing art brought me to that place where I met people and found something to be excited about. The dream didn’t come true; I did learn to draw people but not at university and not for some time later. Instead, I grew into myself and landed at the end with an outlook I treasure. I learned how to present myself honestly (though that didn’t happen for some time later); I learned how to draw myself in life.

Sometimes dreams take us into danger and we don’t win out. I chased a girl to England with a dream of a life there. She and her family abused me for just over a decade and when I escaped, I found I did have a life in England but it came at a high price. We don’t always win by chasing dreams. They come true at a cost or they don’t come true as we believed when we started.


Dreams are addictive. Chasing them is a high; part of what makes life exhilarating. They create adventure in the true sense of the word: high risk, high reward. In some ways, the world telling us to not dream is practical: it’s minimising risk. People worry about those they love and they don’t want to see it go wrong. Staying away from dreams keeps us away from the fire of discovery; we don’t get burned.

Socialising us to see realising dreams as a reflection of our worth from a tender age makes us dream avoidant. I was fed legends about celebrities, businesspeople, inventors and politicians and how they were self made: people (men) with dreams. They had a vision, and now look at them! Children are still told these legends. They’re told that good things come to those who make their lives their dreams. Some time later, we’re told that life doesn’t allow for these dreams. That actually, we need to be practical because if we chase those dreams we will be failures. The ‘reality check’ comes at about the same age we are discouraged from believing in faerie tales and make believe. Dreams are framed as part of that make believe.

I dreamed I could live authentically. More, that I could be powerful. The sort of woman people looked at as a positive force in the world. That dream took me to a local LGBTQ+ charity where I burned out, but not before I started a psychology degree. Turns out, that degree is more about confronting my grief over my dad; a means to process. Turns out, I already was powerful and a positive force. But I still dream about being those things as though I wasn’t.


The world tells me I’m weak. The world tells me I’m worthless: in a world where value is placed on one’s ability to make the rich richer, I have no value. Chasing my dream of strength and positivity makes my life more difficult. The power I have worsens my struggle, but I still chase the dream. Dreams are addictive and I can’t let it get away. Chasing a dream that is worthless to the world is my way of defying the world.

Everyone will tell you to stop. They do it subtly by asking what job you might do for following one path vs another. They ask you where whatever you’re doing will lead you. They discuss the little things along the way as an end, and on this last point, they are correct: the dreaming isn’t dreamt to come true. It’s dreamt to keep us moving; flexible. Growing. Resisting. Everyone will appreciate your growth even as they tell you to stop.

Those legends of our childhood, those humans that, in reality, did nothing to get where they are, can teach us the value of getting noticed. Nobody gets noticed without defying the world in some way. Dreaming is the ultimate act of defiance; the one thing everyone tells you to disregard.

Living life visibly and authentically is the hardest path. Chasing dreams creates a path of heavy resistance in life, but it’s a path of true adventure: risk it all, gain something precious. We just never quite know what we get at the end, or what the cost will be. It’s frightening, but for me a life without dream chasing is not a life I want.


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