Dreams go beyond the surface of desire



Column by Scott Allen

Some dreams are meant to be chased, but never caught. My ideal profession is such a dream.

I would be a sailor, spending my life sailing the world, meeting new people and becoming intimately familiar with as many of their stories as they would share.

My senses would take in every feeling, taste, sight, and sound. I would take everything life gave me, and give back as much as I could.

Life would privy me to the smells of the most remote meadows and the flavors of the poorest man’s cuisine. Rather than measuring my success in wealth or fame, my ruler would mark inner peace and happiness. But I shall not catch this dream.

A series of three conversations would set the stage for my dream deviating decision: a homeless man inspiring an epiphany, an academic providing direction and a conversation with my father providing enough wind in my sails to reach a new destination.

No longer aspiring to be a footloose man of the sea, I have decided on an academic profession. This will allow opportunities similar to that of said sailor and allow me to contribute something to society. My life’s work will now have a chance at life outside the sea of pages within my journal.

Phoenix Park, just before bars close, I place another cigarette into the well-weathered hand of a man sitting next to me. Jerry is his name and all his earthly possessions are either in or attached to the backpack at his side.

“People don’t take you seriously, they just don’t listen.” Jerry’s words echo in my mind as I sit, watching smoke from our cigarettes fill the space between us.

He didn’t complain about missing a meal or not knowing where he would sleep at night, but about an unseen barrier limiting his interactions with others.

This is when I realized the knowledge I’ve accumulated during my undergraduate study of human geography would be a waste if not used for a purpose larger than guiding me in a romanticized journey across the globe.

This epiphany led to a conversation with Michael Crutcher, a professor of geography on UK’s campus.

Our previous conversations made me aware of opportunities and duties of a professor, which would offer mobility and opportunities to study places I might otherwise not have enough resources to visit.

These things considered, being a geography professor didn’t sound much different from my original dream. Now I just needed to know what, other than teaching, an aspiring professor should expect to accomplish.

“Any professor should balance teaching and mentoring students by using their own personal research interests,” Crutcher said.

Teaching, mentoring, and research seem to be a better use of my mind than devoting it to the solitude found at sea.

Finally I spoke with my mentor. My father was 40 years old when I was born, and as soon as I outgrew teenage angst I became acutely aware of the wisdom he could offer.

Often when he speaks of my life, or his own, he quotes Thoreau, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.”

On this night, he spoke differently, “Sometimes you have to be willing to sacrifice something you want in order to achieve something greater.” By allowing my free spirit to become more disciplined, I could not only live a life similar to the one in my dreams, but allow myself an opportunity to contribute something to the world I adore.

Reflecting on Thoreau’s words, perhaps the drummer is actually a passionate heart beating a rhythm loud enough for one to follow. In short, perhaps we should make sure we are following our heart while chasing a dream.