Each of us are on our own journey in life, thus your dream is specific and unique to you and you alone. Nobody else had, has or will ever have the same journey as you, and everyone defines what’s meaningful and worthy as a purpose in different ways.
Because your path is yours alone, you are the only person in the entire world who can walk it. Even if you long to emulate others with similar dreams like yours, your journey will never turn out exactly like theirs, nor can you compare yourself to them and assume that your paths will be the same.
Thus the only way to discover a worthwhile and meaningful purpose for your life is to take action on what you believe matters to you now, what you’re passionate about, and what you believe your dream currently is, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
This is because what we believe is our dream will remain nothing more than an idea until we take action to bring it into our physical reality. And we will never know if this idea is truly “right” for us until we test it out and express it in a tangible form.
Plus sometimes in the process of pursuing what we believed to be our dream, we might get to a point where we realise we’re not expressing it in the “right” form, or that the dream seems to have “changed” as we evolve, grow, and learn more about ourselves and what resonates with us.
It’s only in the process of pursuing the initial idea that we are able to open doors to possibilities we otherwise won’t have seen, which leads to more doors, and more doors, and other paths, until we arrive at the end of our lives, and look back at the masterpiece we have created.
The key thing is that when inspiration strikes, when there appears to be something you really want and that matters to you, you must choose to answer the call and go for your dream in whatever form it takes at the moment.
How pursuing my singer-songwriter dream led me back to my forgotten artist dream
Years ago, before I became a visual artist, my big dream was to be a singer-songwriter, specifically in contemporary Christian music (this is a whole other story for another time).
This was dream ever since I was 16, when I was starting to take my Catholic faith more seriously, and I believed God had called me to bring people to Him through music.
Finally in 2008, when I turned 25, I had the opportunity to pursue a BA in Songwriting and Music Business in Nashville, Tennessee, the music capital of the U.S., and home to numerous record labels in the contemporary Christian music (CCM) scene.
It was a huge step outside of my comfort zone — flying all by myself halfway around the world to a foreign city where I knew no one — but I was also ecstatic because this one huge step would take me closer to my dream.
But things started to change during my time in Nashville.
Firstly, I learnt a lot about how the music industry works, through my classes and internships with music publishing companies. The more I learnt and experienced about this industry, the more I felt I didn’t belong there.
Secondly, I was in a liberal arts college where nearly everyone was musically talented, and I felt inferior and insignificant compared to other aspiring singers and songwriters who were more outgoing and had more talent. While this has more to do with my low self-esteem than anything else, there was also a part of me which began to question if I was really cut out for a career as a singer-songwriter.
My final reality check came during my fourth semester, when one of my teachers told me that the life of a commercial songwriter is to show up at a studio or a room for eight hours a day, Mondays to Fridays, working with one or two other songwriters at trying to churn out a hit song, because that’s how songwriters make their living.
In that moment I had an epiphany that this wasn’t at all the life that I envisioned for myself. I already knew from my internships that I could barely make it through even just four hours in an office environment, let alone five days a week. And compared to my songwriting peers, I wasn’t as obsessed as they were about songs and music, and definitely not obsessed enough to commit eight hours a day, Mondays to Fridays, to this craft. I like writing songs when inspiration strikes and I like singing to express how I feel, but I already knew from how I struggled with my songwriting assignments for class that churning out hit-songs-for-hire would be a struggle that isn’t worthwhile for me.
It may seem like I had wasted all this time and resources, but when I look back years later, I know I would’t have learnt any of this if I had remained in Singapore and continued dreaming about someday becoming a famous CCM singer-songwriter.
It was because I went to Nashville that I had a taste of what a career as a singer-songwriter could be like, and my experiences and learnings there helped me to discover how songwriting is a personal activity for me, and I wasn’t cut out for a profession built on churning out hit songs to make money.
So… what was I supposed to do now?
While I completed my degree program anyway, I embarked on a journey of figuring out what I really wanted to do with my life, what was my path, and — because I was still religious then — what God might have in His plans for me.
I took up various classes outside of my major that seemed interesting to me, which included “Introduction to Drawing” in my final semester.
In the middle of our second drawing assignment, I suddenly had a flashback to when I was 8, and I really loved to draw and wanted to be an artist, but I was told that artists don’t make money and I should do something else instead. In that pivotal moment, I completely stopped drawing, and I forgot all about my artist dream.
This flashback brought back my forgotten childhood dream, and with that a new door had opened for me.
If I hadn’t dreamt for many years to be a CCM singer-songwriter, and if I hadn’t gone to Nashville to pursue this dream, I wouldn’t have learnt that it wasn’t right for me, and I wouldn’t have ended up in that drawing class which led to my rediscovery of my lost childhood dream.
Life is an unpredictable journey, and sometimes the only way for us to know where to go next, is to just follow that inkling or inspiration we’ve got right now, and pursue what we’re passionate about, what resonates with us, and what we feel is meaningful and worthwhile.
Whatever that is for you, I encourage you to just go for it, just try it out, just take some action and pursue it, because it’s only when you do that then you can discover whether it’s really right for you, and whether it’s really what you want.
And even if it turns out not to be what you expected, and not at all what you want, it only means there’s another dream waiting to be discovered, another door waiting to be opened, another possibility waiting for you as you embark on this wonderful, crazy, exciting adventure of living the best life that only you can live.