I don’t know if this is just a cultural thing within my religion, or if it is more common, but I have noticed that a lot of people seem to use the word content as if to say they are settling with how things are, rather than how they’ve dreamed. I’m sure that it is not intentional, but that is definitely the connotation that the word has taken on.
Typing the word into Google, the first definition that pops up is “Adj. : in a state of peaceful happiness. Verb: satisfy. Noun: a state of satisfaction.” When my husband and I did this while we discussed the usage of the word content, I was intrigued. Even though I’ve always known what it means, usually when I hear people say that they are content, I hear that they have settled. This prompted my husband to share a quote he has heard several times by Benjamin Franklin that says:
Many people die at age twenty-five and aren’t buried until they are seventy-five.
Isn’t that an interesting thought? Isn’t it kind of true? Thinking about that quote, and also taking into consideration the strange connotation content has for me, I’ve been pondering why people tend to stop living, and merely exist and settle. I wish I understood this, but I haven’t come up with any real explanation for this. It seems to me that more often than not, people stop dreaming when they are in their mid 20’s to mid 30’s and just start to be complacent with their lives. How many people have accomplished their dreams?
Now, I will be the first to say that I believe that dreams can evolve and change almost completely. I know some girls my age that want to “travel the world and live” before they are married. Personally, I think that when they find someone they want to spend their life with, they will want to travel with him, and later travel with her children. I believe that as people start to find other things in their lives that become very important to them, that their dreams begin to involve what they now find important.
But how many people stop to really dream when they begin to find those important things in their lives? I believe that the purpose of life is to find happiness, to learn and to grow. When we die, the only things we can take with us are our memories and knowledge. Shouldn’t we take advantage of that and work to be the best that we can- before we die?
Since being married, I’ve been doing a lot of “soul searching”. I married a man that dreams bigger than anyone else I’ve ever met. Not only does he dream, but he has planned out exactly how to accomplish those dreams. He reads these dreams out loud every morning and night. I know that those dreams will become a reality and that he will keep on dreaming. So, being married to a man like that, I felt that I needed to try and figure out what my dreams are. But this was very hard for me…
As I tried to think of dreams my younger self had, I had a hard time figuring out what they were. It seemed I was only living for the next day, and occasionally I had exciting opportunities come up- like going to Australia when I was in sixth grade as an ambassador, or going on Senior Trip- that I really wanted to do and be a part of, but mostly, I didn’t know what I “dreamed” about.
Once I got into college I thought things might change and I would have an idea about what I wanted to become, what career I wanted to pursue, or what talents I wanted to develop, but still, I couldn’t think of anything. I began working towards a Business degree because I knew that was a well rounded degree employers would like, but I had no real focus. I wasn’t interested in Accounting, I thought about possibly going into Marketing since I like to create, but decided I didn’t want to do that as a career, either. Finally, I mentioned to my adviser that I was dating someone that was in finance and it kind of was interesting, so she stuck me in the Business Finance program…
I had a bucket list that included things like, a candle-light dinner, riding in a hot air balloon, sitting on an elephant, but those didn’t exactly say “dream” to me. They were more of something that I would like to do, but if they never happened, I wouldn’t care.
As my husband and I discussed this increasingly frustrating topic, he asked what I wanted in life. What did I see myself doing when we had kids, where did I see myself living, what would I want to be doing on my free time? Those were much easier to answer. I’ve actually always know the answer to those. I wanted to be a “soccer mom”. I wanted to be available to take my kids to their activities, to be involved with their school on the PTA, I wanted to be able to chaperon for their field trips. I wanted to have a house that the neighborhood kids liked to be at and felt comfortable playing at. I wanted to live in my dream home cooking dinner for my family in my dream kitchen. I didn’t want to have a mini van, but an SUV. I wanted to have a place to create artwork. I wanted to be able to go on trips with my friends. But was that really a dream?
I think I always imagined a dream being more of “I want to be a nurse when I grow up”, or “I want to live in South Carolina and own a bakery.” I’ll be honest, there were several years that I dreamed of having my own restaurant. I love cooking and especially sharing my cooking with other people and seeing how their faced would light up when they taste my food. But I had many people tell me how hard it would be and how I would have to work nights and weekends. That was the original deterrent for me. I valued my nights and weekends, so of course I wouldn’t want that… No matter how much I loved to cook. So that dream was dropped.
Needless to say, I’ve cried a lot of tears in the last few months as I tried to recognize what my dreams are. As I would listen to my husband vocalize his dreams everyday, I felt somewhat stuck and inadequate. I didn’t want to be the one that at 40, said “I wish…” At that point, as I begged with my Father in Heaven for help and for my eyes to be opened to the things I really wanted, I remembered my thoughts as I was in Junior High and High School when people would ask me “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I recognized quickly that I had always wanted to be a mom. Even though I didn’t feel like that was “dream worthy”, it was my dream. I recognized that my dream to cook for people, could be a reality! I love having friends over and spending time playing games… why not combine that with a home cooked meal? It would be cheaper than going out to eat anyways, as we tend to do with friends.
As I began to realize this, I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt like I had something to dream and imagine for my life. I think I always knew this, but I didn’t think that it really seemed like a dream. It seems like a lot of people who have that, seem to have an “I wish…” tied to their lovely life. I didn’t want to be one to “settle”.
So here it is. Being content is truly being satisfied with your life. It is being happy with everything that you have and not really caring to have more. Isn’t that the real dream? I know people have dreams that are completely different than mine, but feel like they can’t do them once they have my dream life. With kids, and having to pay the bills, and everything else that comes into your life that you love (and hate, like bills), the dream that you dreamed up is still something you can accomplish. You don’t ever need to settle for not having your dreams come true. This life is meant for you to find happiness and to have your joy full. If your dream is to learn to dance, that is not out of the question. If you dream to fly an airplane, why would you settle for letting that slip by. There are plenty of opportunities out there.
Why do you think Disney Princess movies are so popular? I would argue that it is because most of the princesses have their dreams come true. We almost envy the characters. Might I suggest that we take a hint from these dreamers and fight through the hard times? Don’t Eeyore around (yes I used that as a verb) and simply exist through our lives. It is possible to live far past twenty-five 🙂
Being content with your life doesn’t mean you can’t still dream. Being content is loving where you are at but still striving to be better. You can always improve and change. Sometimes I feel like people say they are content and then are stagnant. As I said before, we are only able to bring with us the things we learn in this life. I think that if we change our idea of what content means, we can accomplish a lot. If content means happiness, doesn’t happiness change and evolve? You were happy as a child with a bottle of bubbles or a cookie, right? But now your happiness involves a lot more. As your life changes and evolves, so should your happiness, and therefore, what you are content with will be different that 5 years earlier.
I believe Dreaming brings people to contentment. Never stop. Keep improving, keep learning. You may be surprised with how exciting your life gets.