If a dream doesn’t provide you value, it’s probably time to leave it in the past.
Is there a difference between quitting and letting go? I’ve pondered this question for the past few days, as I reached my boiling point from not making progress with my artist education platform, The DIY Artist.
I thought taking a vacation from my day job at the end of 2020 would energize me to work harder on building this platform. I hoped to continue making strides toward 100 email subscribers by the end of 2021. Every time I sat down after work and attempted to write, it became a slog. It didn’t feel like I had the same passion and work ethic for this platform like when I previously wrote blog posts about indie hip-hop.
Is The Passion Still There?
Earlier this year, Google’s Analytics platform posted an article that I wrote last summer on their social media accounts. The article was dedicated to teaching beginners of Google Analytics how to use their platform and what metrics were important to understand.
That brought me a big spark, allowing the dopamine to flow like I wanted it to for months. Counter that with posting about previous newsletters and upcoming newsletters not gaining traction, it had become frustrating. I began putting pressure on myself, like in the past, to keep growing; that growth needed to happen right now and not a minute later.
This started affecting my work as well. It felt like I was half-assing my days, just dreaming of what could be and how I could build this platform and quit my day job one day. I had started living in the fantasy world I was building in my head, yet none of the bricks had even been purchased to build the world.
I felt drained after work and then I didn’t even want to work toward the idea that I had been dreaming about all day long. It was the opposite of burning the candle at both ends. I had burnt out to the point where you couldn’t even light the candle at either end.
Was I quitting on my dream? Was I going to lay down and not put forth any work to obtain it ever again?
Quitting vs Letting Go
It’s taken me longer than I care to admit to realize what’s really going on with this dream that I’ve had since I left college. I wasn’t quitting on my dream. I was letting go of a dream that didn’t make sense for me anymore. Let’s be honest with ourselves here for a minute. While there’s still money to be made in journalism and the music industry, it’s a long shot for anyone to make it and become “established” to the point where that’s your only (or main) source of income. It’s like this with any industry.
When I first started blogging about music in 2010, it was easier and exciting. Maybe that’s because it was a side passion and something that I loved working on every single day (I was also single and had fewer responsibilities.) The further I went with that dream, the faster the window began closing.
Just like my radio broadcasting career, many bloggers and writers were wearing multiple hats and getting paid pennies for their work. Some had to write for multiple outlets as a freelancer just to make ends meet; many writers that I crossed paths with still do this to keep the lights on. Let’s also remember that the minute you turn a passion or hobby into a side hustle it becomes work and much less fun.
It’s taken me a few years to understand that the dream I had at 23 doesn’t bring me the same joy as I approach my 34th year on Earth. I don’t want to keep putting time and effort into something that doesn’t bring me even a fraction of joy. Life is entirely too short; realistically I might be one-third of the way through my life, but with my current dieting and exercise habits I might have another 40ish years. I don’t want to work all day and then do the same thing at night.
That’s not to say doing the things you love won’t require you to put forth some form of work (especially if you hope to turn it into a career.) But you should feel joy and excitement once you finish those tasks, not anxiety leading up to it followed by relief that it’s over and you can be done with it until the next week.
There’s a monumental difference between quitting and letting go. I’m letting go of a dream that no longer provides me value. I’m letting go of my past so I can evolve and focus on building hobbies I’m interested in and spark joy and excitement for me when I spend time with them. And even if I try to monetize them down the road, I want to build a healthy relationship with them so I don’t dread them on a daily basis.
The Canadian poet Aubrey Drake Graham has a quote regarding this in his underrated song, “Too Much”: “Moment I stop having fun with it I’ll be done with it.”
Now that I’ve let go of that dream what does all of this mean? I can stop half-assing my work and actually get better at what I do for a living. I can relax in the evening, spend time with my wife and son. I can help my wife grow her businesses, which I enjoy. I can catch up on my extensive backlog of books and video games and movies. Have you ever been so focused on making a dream become reality that you forgot what it’s like to do something for fun? That has been the last 13 years of my life.
Coming to terms and letting go of a past dream will be difficult for most people. I’ve had my struggles with it since I deleted my first platform in 2018; it’s why I thought I wanted to create another platform in the same field last year, only to realize the passion and hunger and energy are no longer there.
Only now, after another attempt at a comeback, have I realized that I’ve grown. 23-year-old me thought this was the ticket to becoming rich and famous while 33-year-old me knows that I’ll probably never be rich. Through maturity I learned that it’s more important to have hobbies that bring you happiness and allow you to spend time with your family rather than worrying about gaining 5 more followers for the brand you’re building.
We attempt to hold onto these past versions of ourselves and these past dreams as a form of not “selling out” as we get older. For some people, they’ll turn those same dreams into reality. For the rest of us, we have to move on from them at some point. And yes, we can mourn them from time to time, but you have to keep living. You have to keep growing as a person and find that next dream that excites you and makes you happy when you’re working on it.
Dreamers will never stop dreaming. It’s not in our blood. We’ll always dream big; it’s the only size of dream we know.
Once a dreamer learns to manage their expectations, that’s when the true journey to pursue a dream really begins.