I read a quote the other day that said, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough.”

Say what? My dream isn’t big enough? Big enough for who exactly?

I found that statement more than a little bit condescending because some dreams just aren’t that scary. Take my not-so-big big dream for example:

I want to make my living as a writer. I’ve wanted that for as long as I can remember. I want to write novels and nonfiction books. For magazines and newspapers. For stupid dope websites. For the most badass women on the internet. I want to write words. I want to write funny words, clever words, smart words, thought-provoking words, have them printed and see my name underneath them.

It’s a dream that probably won’t yield fortune, or fame, or my own island in the Maldives but that’s totally okay. Because if I really wanted any of that stuff I would have chosen to make myself into something else — anything else. But I am a writer and I want to put words on the page one after the other. Nothing more, nothing less and I am perfectly happy with that.

That is until the Dream Police come for me, sirens blaring.

“You know, you should try to develop your own television show!” my well-meaning, big-dreaming friends say. “I could totally see you having a series on HBO! Or why don’t you write a screenplay and try to sell it to Hollywood? You could win an Oscar! An Os-car!” And their eyes dart around inside their head, coaxing their brain to style me for the award show. I’d look phenomenal in an Eli Saab, but a gown from an unknown designer would be much more appropriate.

And what is my response to the thought of me winning an Academy Award? Meh.



This is where I do my dreaming and what not.

“That sounds interesting, but I’m not really into TV or movie production. I just want to write.”

Then the Dream Police’s eyes grow dull with disappointment. The image of me sucking in my stomach as I shuffle across the red carpet goes up in a puff of smoke. I’m back at my laptop with my oversized Penn State hoodie and thermos full of lukewarm green tea.

The Dream Police are horrified. “Write? That’s all?”

Yup. That’s all.

I mean, of course, winning an Oscar would be an extraordinary accomplishment and I’d be stoked if that opportunity were to arise. But that isn’t my goal. It’s not what I strive for and it’s not what pulls me to my computer every single day.

And I don’t think that means that I’m not ambitious, or important or special, or that I’m somehow settling for mediocrity. It just means that my personal criteria for a big dream doesn’t require that I have money, power, or fame. And just because my goal isn’t to be a trillionaire or emperor of the world or whatever constitutes a “big dream” for the average person doesn’t mean that it won’t make me unimaginably fulfilled.

Like what about people whose ultimate dream is to be “just” a teacher? Or a stay-at-home parent? Or to marry the love of their life? Or to just be able to eat whatever the fuck they want without getting fat? None of those dreams are very scary, but if it makes someone as happy as they could possibly be, than I don’t think they can get any bigger.

So don’t dream shame me, bro. Because my dreams are the perfect fit for me, even if they aren’t big enough for you.

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Shayla on XOJane! 

  • Fancypants

    Thank you for this. I recently made the decision not to go to law school, much to the utter shock and disappointment of pretty much everyone I know. Even when I wanted to be an attorney, being a corporate attorney wasn’t good enough. “Why don’t you want your own firm?” The fact of the matter is these people on the outside looking in have no idea what it takes to be these things they want you to be. They want to live vicariously through you but send you out to suffer the blood, sweat, sleepness nights and exhorbitant student loan debt. I thank God he gave me the strength to say no and choose my own path.

  • jill

    I really liked this article! Everyones dreams are different. there is nothing wrong with dreaming big or dreaming in your comfort zone.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    dear XOJANE : please use a better camera……

  • Mimi

    This article tickled me, because it sounds like a million remarks that I’ve heard throughout my entire writing/editing life. “Why don’t you work for Vogue?” “You should work for the Wall Street Journal!” “Why don’t you write a movie!” “You should write a novel…are you writing a novel…when are you writing a novel…WHY AREN’T YOU WRITING A NOVEL?!?!” Now at no point in time have I ever, ever said that I planned to write for a fashion magazine, a financial newspaper or Hollywood. And I’ve never wanted to be a novelist. People can be really silly.

  • Jessi Jess

    I hope your comment was made in jest…

  • EST. 1986

    Some people are just comfortable with doing things on a small scale.

    This is why I don’t like the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question at job interviews. Anything could happen in five years, and you may just be comfortable being in a job that you know you can do well.

  • Kim

    I’m a corporate lawyer–that was the best decision you have made for yourself.. Kudos. i wish I was as smart as you were.

  • Rosey

    I’m currently in law school and graduating in May. All I want in life is to move back to my small hometown and work as a Prosecutor. People had the nerve to tell me I wasn’t dreaming big enough because I should work in a large firm or in a bigger city. **blank stare**

    We are the only ones who have to live with our decisions. I can’t believe people would put their two cents in like that!

  • Big Dreamer

    From the article: “None of those dreams are very scary, but if it makes someone as happy as they could possibly be, than I don’t think they can get any bigger.”

    How about: “None of those dreams are very scary, but if it makes someone as happy as they could possibly be, THEN I don’t think they can get any bigger.”

    Better yet: “None of those dreams are very scary, but if THEY MAKE someone as happy as HE OR SHE could possibly be, THEN I don’t think they can get any bigger.”

  • EST. 1986

    Where is my comment?

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    Great post, Shayla!

  • justanotheropinion

    Great post & wisdom. Your dreams are YOUR dreams – no one else’s. If you look close enough, most of the folks egging you on to do and be more are attracted to the money train. You should do what works for you. What satisfies you won’t satisfy me and the converse. I admire you for trying to stay true to who and what you are. I hope that you can maintain on that same path.

  • Kristi

    Thank you for this article. I love it. I have also been assaulted by the Dream Police regarding my decision not to get a PhD following my Master’s program. All I want is a Master’s in Counseling. That’s all I want to do. That’s what I want my life’s work to be. However, there are certain people in my family and friends that somehow think I’m selling myself short and that I should get a Doctorate degree and “make some more money”. Simply put, I don’t want to. I want to do what makes me happy, and not live up to anyone else’s dream for me.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    i am a photographer. clutch generally has very good quality images. XOJANE pictures look like they were taken with a ten year old cell phone camera. the quality is terrible. not up to the standards of clutch at all.

    now please explain to me what is wrong with calling attention to the abysmal lack of quality?

  • http://gravatar.com/libpatriot GeekMommaRants

    Excellent post, everyone should have their own dreams. IMO everyone should reach their absolute optimum. This is not a single standard, everyone has their own. It’s wonderful to see what everyone’s optimum self can achieve.

    My dream is a life of significance for my family, self and community. How I can contribute in a meaningful way? By being a good example, a loving and devoted family member, friend and associate. It is important that contribute to the accomplishment of my community, as I think this is a responsibility everyone in the community has. This is happiness and a dream at the same time.

  • mEE

    I know what you mean. my family is still in mourning over my decision to go into teaching instead of law. it’s been FIVE YEARS.

  • Mademoiselle

    I love this article! This is something that has been irking me since high school. It’s especially irritating when you happen to be good at something that you aren’t the LEAST bit interested in doing, let alone becoming someone’s employee so you could be told how to do it. Dream-shaming starts early, too: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” God-forbid you say you want to “work as little as possible because grown-ups don’t make working look fun (not even the ones who say they’re doing what they love so it’s not really work — looks like work to me).”

    I apply the same principal universally: why look to other people to embody the qualities you value so much? If you’re so money-struck/title-struck/location-struck/education-struck/celebrity-struck/status-struck/beauty-struck/possessions-struck, you should strive to get YOURSELF that money/title/location/education/celebrity-hood/status/beauty/possessions and just be impressed with yourself so everyone else can get back to doing what they want.

  • Nikki

    Love, love, love this post lady!

  • PJ

    That’s because it probably is a cell phone camera. The writer wanted to feature her own self for the article’s photo lol

    Besides that, I somewhat agree with her premise. Maybe having $$ a big house and car isn’t everybody’s dream. Maybe you just want to live crunchy in the woods and ride a bike everywhere. People find happiness and fulfillment in different things

  • And….

    So James, it is their “thing” to have crude cellphone/ laptop self portraits to accompany an author’s writing. Just FYI.

    I actually dig it.

  • Anthony

    I think Xojane looks adorable in all of her pictures! I wish I were single and young enough to hit on her! Relax, I’m not going to internet stalk anyone!

    On a serious note, I think Xojane does have a really big dream, and she is making it happen. A whole lot of people with talent never get past the talking stage of anything!

  • EST. 1986

    That is Yesha. XOJane is a website.

  • Anthony

    Ooops! Yesha is awfully cute and i admire her ambition!

  • http://www.clutchmagazine.com Clutch

    It’s Shayla :)

Latest Stories

Over 100 Abducted Nigerian Girls Freed, 8 Still Missing


Community Game: Olivia Pope, Mary Jane or Mahogany


Pharrell Seemingly Forgets That Racism Still Exists Because He’s ‘New Black’


Sexism Causes Inequality, Not A Woman’s Lack Of Confidence

More in career, XOJane
I’ve Hated The Stretchmarks on My Arms for 30 Years

An Ode to the Fabulous Aunt