What Happens To A Dream Deferred?

The following is a staff writer post from Libby Balke. She’s an amazing writer, work-at-home mother of two, and has been married almost 8 years. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Libby or Crystal.

Maybe it’s because National Poetry Month (April) just wrapped up, but lately, I’ve been silently repeating the old Langston Hughes poem – the one that gave rise to the title of Lorraine Hansberry’s quintessential mid-20th century play, “A Raisin in the Sun,” – over and over and over again. In case you’re not familiar, I’ll refresh your memory:

What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
      Or does it explode?
Or maybe it’s because this poem kind of symbolizes my family’s life – and, in particular, my husband’s life – these days. You see, yesterday, we packed up all our things and moved out of our first house, the place we called home for the past almost-seven years.

Our Dream Deferred

Tomorrow, my husband begins his first day of work at his new job. But, in order to get to this new job, he had to leave behind his old one… and therein lies that deferred dream Hughes spoke so eloquently (and ominously) about. You see, my husband’s worked in law enforcement for the past seven years. Not only does he like the field, he’s damn good at it. But as we plotted our move back to my hometown, we soon realized something: a direct transfer from his current department to a new one in our new town was all but impossible. Even getting hired on as a rookie with a new department proved a series of civil service hoops to jump through. He became discouraged, bordering on depressed. Ultimately, my dad offered him a position as a shipping clerk at his business, giving my husband a job while he hunted for a career.
In today’s economy, so many Americans have had to settle for jobs that pay the bills, as opposed to careers that give them true fulfillment and satisfaction. Watching my husband over the past several weeks – as he prepared to leave a career he’d worked so hard to attain for a job that veers on nepotism – has been a wake up call. In many ways, America’s Great Recession left my family virtually untouched; sure, our house lost value, but from a personal finance perspective, 2008-2012 were excellent years for us in many ways. We were lucky.
Right now, my husband’s professional dreams have definitely been deferred. He put aside his own aspirations so he could focus on what’s best for our family, and for that I am truly grateful. I just wonder what’s going to happen down the road if he can’t get his career back on track. What will the repercussions of his decision three months down the road? A year? Five years? Will those dreams dry up? Fester? Explode?
I hope we never have to find out.
Have you ever had to defer a dream? How did you deal with it? Any advice you’d pass on to my husband?
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5 thoughts on “What Happens To A Dream Deferred?

  1. I truly sympathize with your families struggles! A few years ago my husband graduated law school and we made our living choice based on the best graduate school I was accepted to. Although he had offers in other cities, he was unable to find a job in the city we moved to. He sent out over three hundred applications in six months. Watching him get beaten down, and knowing that he made the move for us as a family was incredibly hard.
    The only advice I have is to network as much as possible. My husband volunteered for a firm for six months before they offered him a job as a contract attorney and then kept volunteering at law clinics to enhance his network. This eventually led him to the career he has now (most of the applications didn’t even lead to an interview). Does the police force offer any volunteer positions? Or could he volunteer with the state at all? I know it seems impossible but there is always someone who can bend the rules it’s just a matter of finding the person and pleading your case. The other thing I can suggest is to try and keep a positive attitude (easier said than done), it worked out for us, I know it will work out for you guys too! Sending you positive thoughts!

  2. I know of which you speak. The greatest testimony about this is my late father-in-law. All his life he wanted to be a civil engineer. However, he had to take over the family wine farm. Although he figured out to make it succeed, it was never his passion, and he was never totally happy in it. Whenever a new bridge, tunnel or dam was being built within a few hundred miles, he’d visit the site every week. The whole family used to joke how his watchful eye was needed to see any project to completion.

    He died without ever reaching his dream. But he provided and set a terrific example for three great kids (I’m married to one of them). The legacy he left by his ultimate deferral, denial more accurately, will outlive him by several generations.

    Not everything in life is about our own gratification…
    William @ Bite the Bullet recently posted..Retirement: Do You Know This?My Profile

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