When you wish upon a star, what do you wish for?
It’s been a few weeks since the last time I posted here, but my hands haven’t been idle. Sitting here on my Quarterdeck, looking at what I have achieved since I started this project, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
Yes, my progress is frustratingly slow, but I’ve reached a point where I can see, actually see, the progress I make from week to week. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I’ve spent so much time thinking about dreams, and about having the guts to live your dream, lately.
Since I first painted and decorated the Quarterdeck, I’ve only popped in here when I’ve had something new to add to the ship’s log. I like having a log where I can keep track of things like milestones reached, special events, news to be announced etc. And while I’m here, I like to take the opportunity to have a nice cuppa tea and a chinwag with my guests and visitors.
So far, most of my log entries have been about my New Year’s resolutions and a few hints about what’s going on in different areas of The Resilience. The secret project I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. Well, almost secret. I’ve told you some of what I’m working on, but by and large it’s still pretty much my secret.
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I haven’t made a secret of the fact that both Brexit and the pandemic have messed with my head and slowed me down, but I’ve never stopped working. I keep doing as much as my condition allows (very little). I’ve managed to set up a few more cabins, I’ve raised some more walls, and managed to paint and decorate a few more areas. I’ve also spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out what I like and what I don’t like.
It’s so hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I’m finally doing something for myself that I’ve done for hundreds of people and companies before. For the first time, I understand why it was so damn hard for so many of them to make up their minds about what they wanted. If you’re one of those people, please accept my belated sympathies. =)
Every day, I wake up and marvel at the fact that I’m still here and still doing this. After two years of daily “invisible work” I’m struggling to describe what it feels like to finally be able to see and measure my progress. I wasn’t joking when I said I have to pinch myself to check that it’s not just a dream.
Just a dream…
Isn’t it funny how we use that word? Dream. A dream. To dream. My wildest dreams. Most of the time we think of a dream as something that’s way better than just good. Something you can strive for and hope to achieve one day. In your dreams.
THERE ARE DREAMS AND THEN THERE ARE DREAMS
For me, Dreams are first and foremost my Grandmother’s gorgeous home made biscuits (that’s a cookie for you non-Brits) tasting of vanilla, love and Swedish summer.
The best Dreams were always the ones my Grandmother so lovingly made.
The heavenly, sweet scent of baked goodies mingled with the more earthy, savoury aromas of slow-cooked and roasted peasant’s food , and the somewhat fruity, bitter smell of freshly brewed coffee always on offer at my Grandparents’ house. To me, their cosy kitchen was a bona fide watering hole; a place of physical and spiritual nourishment where even the loftiest of my dreams felt perfectly achievable.
Alas, inasmuch as my Grandma’s Dreams were the tastiest, by far, there are more dreams than those you can fish out of a biscuit tin in this world. Many runners, for instance, dream of doing a Bannister and run the dream mile. Something only the fleet of foot can hope to achieve, as it involves running a mile in less than four minutes. Sir Roger Bannister, a 25-year-old neurology student, was the first one to see this dream come true, when he ran the distance in 3 minutes and 59 seconds. Fittingly, the naturally talented runner set the first dream mile record in the city of dreaming spires. On the Oxford University tracks on Iffley Road in May 1954 to be precise.
Later that year, at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Bannister shaved another second off his dream time when he beat his rival John Landy in what was billed the miracle mile. The new sub-four-minute mile records set a new standard for middle-distance athletes all over the world; but although some 2000 (ish) runners have managed to do a Bannister by now, we still call it a dream mile.
We’re not done with the dream words though. Did you know that we have hundreds of words, phrases, phrasal verbs, idioms and expressions in the English language that contain some variant of the word dream? And have you ever considered that almost all of them are used to denote something we like, or something we think is really good? People look for their dream house, they want to marry (or date) the person of their dreams and they daydream of living the dream.
Nevertheless, there are times when that same word is used to signpost that something is (really) bad or inappropriate. To be a dreamer, to be chasing a pipe dream, or to be living in a dream world, for instance, are all examples of things most people wouldn’t dream of doing. Unless they’re a dreamer dreaming of the right things that is. But then again, no one calls you a dreamer if you’re dreaming of the right things. Then you’re considered a visionary person, and that, my friend, is a very good thing.
OUR WORDS REVEAL OUR VALUES
Like most white people of my generation, I grew up with the Disney dream as the factory default setting in my mainframe. It doesn’t matter who you are, Jimini Cricket sang. When you wish upon a star anything your heart desires may very well come true.
But it wasn’t just Disney. The whole dream factory was constructed and designed to be a giant dream machine. With clever PR and packaging, it has been regurgitating that same message that says no dream is too extreme as long as we believe it may come true.
As long as…
Unfortunately, outside of Hollywood/Bollywood the notion that anyone can get anything they dream of is not exactly rooted in reality. Regardless of how fervently you believe, the truth is that very few people ever get to see their dreams come into fruition.
As a society, we tend to limit people’s dreams and tell them just how much they are allowed to dream of based on a complicated algorithm based on a set of arbitrary rules and norms we have agreed upon. In music, for instance, it’s considered a positive thing if kids learn how to play a decent instrument and, perhaps, even hold their own in a dinner table conversation about well-known musicians and (classical) composers. For the right kind of kid, this kind of extra-curricular schooling is seen as a testament of good upbringing. And it looks neat on a CV or an Uxbridge application form.
But what if the kid is dreaming of a future as a pop star?
Hell to the no! If them kids are want to dream of a music career, they’d better be born with an old soul and a natural talent. And they’d better be dreaming of the kind of instruments you’d expect to find in a philharmonic orchestra, not some dang electric guitar. But even a budding little virtuoso with natural talent will most likely be told they need to get a different qualification. Something to fall back on when their music fails to pay the bills.
Children with other creative talents, like art, dancing or gaming, face even worse odds. There are often very few ways for them to hone their skills unless their parents can, and will, pay for private tuition. But dancers are subjected to the same evaluation that places classical before contemporary, and makes one posh and accepted and the other a waste of time. For artists, it’s even worse. It’s very posh indeed to own a fine piece of art, but to be the artist? Nuh-uh! Everybody knows artists are smelly bohemian lefties in charity shop outfits. A bunch of hopeless dreamers living in a dream world. As for the gamers and digital content creators? Let’s not even go there.
I wonder what happens to kids who dream of becoming hedge fund managers, stockbrokers or entrepreneurs, rather than some kind of creative person? I wonder whether there are types of finance or riches that are considered bad or not good enough to dream of?
Some people dream of cloud surfing their way towards massive Success and Riches.
And no, I don’t mean in an old money/new money kinda way.
I’ve come across, befriended and worked with quite a few number crunchers and money makers in my days, and one thing that I’ve found interesting about them is that no one ever seemed to piss on their dreams. No one rubbished their ambitions or told them their dreams were too big. or too wild. Funny that.
None of them were told they’d need an extra qualification as a backup plan. Something to fall back on should the stock market crash or their business go into liquidation. They were never told that rich is not a profession or that they were chasing a pipe dream. Because people cloud surfing their way towards Success and Riches are considered visionaries. Provided they were born to money, of course. Poor people dreaming of Success and Riches are just common dreamers who ought to know better.
And here we are.
Outside of the dream factory, dreams can be considered good and proper or bad and inappropriate. Our words reveal what kind of values we hold, and our values reveal what kind of society we live in. It is almost impossible to find any clear cut example of something all people can dream of as they see fit without interference from the normie police.
– But, Evalena! We can’t very well have a world where everybody’s dreaming of becoming pop stars and YouTubers!
No, we can’t. But we can’t very well have a world full of bankers and lawyers either. We need all sorts of people in all sorts of professions and positions for our society to flourish. And to be honest, I don’t think we need to fear a situation where everybody all of a sudden want to be, and have, exactly the same as everybody else. We’re all human after all.
Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if we could just scrap all these ideas about what is better? Stop trying to decide which life is more precious? More worthy of acceptance? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could let our grandchildren inherit a world where their lives aren’t constantly weighed and measured in terms of money or dated ideals that serve no good purpose?
I don’t know about you, but I wish I could give my grandchildren a world where they not only are allowed, but actively encouraged, to dream.  A world where their dreams won’t need to pass any external verification or quality assurance validation. Wouldn’t that be something?
WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR
Two little dreamers side by side in the grass.
A real dream for a wheeling, mainly bedridden, storyteller such as myself, would be a world where our individual differences were seen as our strengths. A world where you are free to dream; and where you can keep growing, try your wings and find your place in life. And all of this without having to negotiate a slew of rotten values that try to sift us all into suffocating pigeon holes.
That’s a real dream vision in my books.
Which brings me back to my (almost) secret project and this old ship’s dock where we keep running into each other. I’ve already mentioned that this domain is a small cog in what I’m hoping to turn into a pirate ship of sorts. Did I say cog? I suppose it’s safer to say it’s the main mast I’m building the rest of The Resilience around.
I’ve bought a number of domains over the years, but this one was my first. I was still living in Sweden back then, and moving countries was very much my happy dream. I used to envision a future in which I could take my five little chooks out of the suffocating pigeon hole we were in and find us a new cote in England. For a cash strapped single mother-of-five drowning in debt, it was a dream so wild and crazy I had to surround myself with vision boards and paraphernalia that could help me keep my eyes on the proverbial ball. This domain was part and parcel of that strategy.
Here I got my first professional email address and it came with a .co.uk tag that pointed towards my destination. Here I could blog about my dreams, plans and preparations. Here I could hide my deepest desires and biggest fears. All my insecurities and all the thoughts and feelings I desperately wanted to share with someone. I had been blogging for years, but I would never have published anything as private as the kind of posts I wrote here on my own domain. It became my digital vault. The space where I could write whatever I wanted without publishing a single post. There wasn’t a single soul I could share my dreams with, but this domain kept them all safe for me. In here there were alive. Real.
I had finally found a journal that I alone could access. No one could take it away from me, read it or as much as look at it without my consent. It was the first thing I owned that was 100% my own. The first thing I could deny other people access to.
Nearly 30 years have passed since I bought this domain, and in truth, I suppose I’ve treated it more like a harvester than the elegant vault it should have been. I’ve moved it between different Internet Service Providers in Sweden and Britain, and I’ve hosted it on a number of different web hotels. For years, it served me like a piece of machinery and it was instrumental in a number of processes like my:
- planning and organising the move from Sundsvall, in Sweden, via Gothenburg to London;
- managing all private communication and the calendars for my family;
- applying for jobs and courses, and accepting or rejecting offers;
- resigning from positions that no longer served a purpose;
- launching a company that grew into something I am still very proud of, even though my health forced me to pull out;
- actually setting up a school that was quality approved, listed on the DfEd registry and accredited to deliver Post -16 programmes up to Level 7 (Master’s Degree);
- delivering an accredited teacher training programme;
- starting an education management consultancy where we delivered management, quality assurance and internal verification services to private colleges;
- offering small business startup and marketing services;
- assist spoonies with fundraising activities to help fund accessibility equipment; and
- launching a mentoring project focussing on tailor-made, holistic education for young people excluded from mainstream education.
Right, I’d better stop there before the list starts to look exhausting. What I wanted you to see was not so much a list of examples of things I’ve done, as how instrumental this domain turned out to be in my personal journey. It’s been a catalyst. Somehow, buying this domain set me off on a journey that far surpassed even my wildest dreams. I think it helped me establish a sense of a professional self that I had never had before, and that, in turn, gave me the strength to finally take my kids on the dream adventure I wanted them to have.
This proto domain of mine has had to work hard and do whatever was needed for us to get where I wanted us to go. I saw her (she’s always been a her) as my harvester. My working horse. Sometimes she was my tool. My instrument. In many ways, we were one, this domain and I; and like me, she had a function to fill. A job to do. That was all. I don’t think I ever considered doing something fancy with her. It never dawned on me that she could shine if I gave her a good seeing to, and put a fresh coat of paint on her. That maybe she had actually deserved that chance.
Truth be told, when I started my (almost) secret project, I didn’t see her as anything other than the mother domain that would carry, feed and raise all the child domains. Just like when I started Project Out Of Granloholm (the pigeon hole), I began this, my last great adventure with a lot of planning. I made blueprints, diagrams and flow charts trying to visualise the project and the Big Picture. I needed to take a huge number of texts and pictures and turn them into one cohesive body. A collage made up of many different building blocks that were not really meant to fit together.
It wasn’t until I realised I already had the solution in my stable that I saw what I had to build. My trusty old steed would become a pirate ship!
It took a complete change of plans and a major box shuffling operation to make it work. And I realised I’d have to make a completely different type of collage than the one I had pictured for this to work. But as I was lying here in my bed, comparing the two blueprints I had drawn up, I realised that I liked this new version better. A lot better actually. I looked at the new concept and felt, somewhere deep down, that this was a dream that could come true. Just like the one that took me out of Granloholm.
Only this time, it’s only me and the dog who will be going anywhere.
And this is why I’m going to love you and leave you now. In true dream factory style, I reach out to you and ask: What do you dream of when you wish upon a star? Morning dreams come true, they say, so come along and let’s make it happen. Together.
Much love and many blessings,
© Evalena Styf, 2022
- Peasant’s food is #3’s name for heartily home-cooked food. His favourite fare.
- I do believe we should all be allowed to dream the wildest and craziest dreams we can as long as we don’t hurt anyone in the process. And by hurt, I don’t mean ruffled feathers.
- On this page, I have purposefully managed to squeeze in the word dream 94 times! This is a part of my dream campaign where I dare you to dream bigger. If you too want to start working on your dreams, whether you know what they are or need to start by working that out for yourself, I suggest you hop onboard this old ship with me. You never know, it may be one of those once in a lifetime dream opportunities we only ever hear about in the stories… 😉
After 25 years of anonymous blogging on a number of free platforms, I decided to go pro and put all of my writings on a private wall. In my personal blogs, I primarily write about personal and professional development; about living the dream; and how to keep on living and loving when everything around you seems to be falling apart.
My ambition is for The Resilience to become a source of inspiration, motivation, joy and love; but I would also like to see this old imaginary ship of mine become a space where we can talk, teach each other, and learn together. Using my knack for storytelling, I’ll dive into my pool of personal and professional experiences to bring a wide range of difficult and diverse topics to the surface.
In addition to the professional stuff, you can expect to find posts where I talk about matters close to my heart. This may include funkophobia, social exclusion, chafing societal norms, mental & physical health issues, racism, poverty, identity, creativity, nerdiness, a lust for life and longing for death.
FINISHED READING? WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO NEXT?
QUESTION OF THE DAY:
What is your favourite kind of dream?
The question of the day is (surprise, surprise) related to dreams. I’ve already told you about my favourite kind of Dreams: the sweet biscuits my Grandma used to bake. Would you mind telling me about yours? Please, let me know in the comment section below. If you don’t want your response to show up on the site, just start your message with the word ANONYMOUS and it will be our secret.
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