Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

When I Feel Like My Dream is Selfish

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Offering whatever you have and whatever you are is enough – Jim Wallis

When I was in my senior year of college, my roommates and I were all a bit lost about what we would do when we graduated.  Laura had an early childhood education degree, so she had some inkling, I guess. Molly’s degree in sociology prepared her for, well, not much. Betsy’s degree in art honed her talent but didn’t get her ready for a profession. Melissa and I had English degrees that people kept assuring us “opened lots of doors” but those doors seemed down paths we couldn’t see.  None of us regretted (I don’t think) our liberal arts degrees (and for the record, I still don’t – best decision I ever made), but facing that time when we were supposed to go out “into the real world,” we were a bit lost.

So we started a list of what we didn’t want to do for work and hung it on the inside of our front door.  That seemed easier – to rule things out.

First on the list, stripper and prostitute. (At our Christian college, we felt so rogue writing those words for everyone to read.) We added doctor and nurse. Firefighter. Pastor.  Soon friends were coming by to add their unchosen professions.  It was very therapeutic and helpful. It kept the fear at bay.

Now, 15 years later, I know what I want to do for my profession, and I’m doing it. What’s harder now is to determine what I don’t want to be about. With so much need in the world, I find myself at a loss as to how to help.

See, I have this dream for my life and this farm. But I also have this deep desire to really help people, and some days, it’s hard for me to know how building a retreat space for writers and musicians will really make a difference to people living in poverty, to children being trafficked as slaves, to women forced into prostitution, to the homeless.  Sometimes, I feel like my dream is so selfish.  

When you enjoy doing something so much you almost lose yourself in it – that’s creativity and that’s what will fulfill you. It’s what you were made to be and do, and when you find it, nothing is more satisfying. It’s not just ego to find your best gift; it’s acting with creativity and integrity. Finally, it is acting in faith. – Jim Wallis

I read these words this morning, and I felt a burden lift. It’s like Jim Wallis was speaking to me, reminding me of what I already know – living into who we are and into the dreams we are given is a gift and a calling. It’s a use of our talents and our ways of being in the world to, somehow, through God’s miraculous grace and power, change the world.

So, here’s how I see my gifting working out in this dream.

  • I have a talent for words, so I am going to use that to make my living – writing books, editing manuscripts, teaching writers, and even drafting holiday newsletters.
  • I love music (just listened to the Carolina Chocolate Drops yesterday – holy moly!), and I know it heals, so I’m going to use this space to help musicians do their work and give all of us the gift of their talents.
  • I am skilled at motivating people to become invested in using their gifts and talents to help organizations that are serving people in need, so I will use this space and the activities here to educate people about places that can use their gifts.
  • I need deep community and real, true conversations that go beyond the casual, so this farm will be a place where people are encouraged to not be busy, where cell phones and television are not central, where chairs are grouped close so people can talk.
  • Finally, I feel a deep calling to make this place one where acceptance and compassion are paramount, so I will work to make this space safe – physically, intellectually, and emotionally – for anyone who comes.

When I write out these goals, I feel peace. They feel good and true, but more importantly, writing them out helps me see that, as much as this place is my dream, is the space that feeds and fills me, it is also part of that fulfillment that it serve and fill others as well.

God has helped me – by grace – avoid all of those jobs we didn’t want to have, and God has gifted me with the chance to do exactly what I dream of doing. When I remember it is all gift, well, then, I’m certain it’s not selfish to use it.

For the record, all my roommates have become even more awesome people than they were 15 years ago. They are strong, courageous women who have taken risks in their choices and found joy in the moment. Our paths are all very different, but by grace, not a one of us became a stripper. I’m sure our alma mater is happy to read that.
Do you ever feel like it’s selfish to pursue your dreams? How do you test that feeling?

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Author: Andi

I'm a writer, teacher, and editor who is currently working on a book about the slaves who lived and worked on the farm where I now live. I blog daily at http://www.andilit.com I have three cats - Oscar, Emily and Charlotte - who have taken to living on the farm quite well - bird-, frog-, and butterfly-hunters all.

4 Comments

  1. A dream is by definition selfish – it is what you want to do with your life, and as they writer of Proverbs pointed out ‘without a dream the people perish’. Your dream is what sustains you, gives you a reason to get up in the morning. The fact that you are living your dream is not selfish, it is the point and purpose of your life.

    I guess the trick though is making your dream work for other people as much as it works for you, and in providing a retreat for writers and musicians then you are using your dream to empower their dreams. While it might not be as ‘sexy’ as helping the destitute, victimised and downtrodden, it is still something which helps those in need, perhaps not material need, but a real need nonetheless – the need to find their voice.
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  2. As a former stripper and prostitute, I can tell you be glad you didn’t end up there. By God’s unfathomable grace I was rescued from that life over 20 years ago. I never had dreams. Only a desire to avoid pain. All these years later, I am living out my dreams and even have a few new ones. I’m a Christian counselor, photographer and most recently, a writer. I am amazed how God took my brokenness and turned it into something of eternal value!
    Thank you for sharing your heart.

  3. Great post, Andi. I think your dream is anything BUT selfish, as it is serving others at the heart of it. I have also loved the line that we are “stewards of the dreams God put in our hearts.” They are not ours, they are God’s, and He chooses us to live them out. That really changed my perspective. Keep up the awesome work!!

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