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February 7, 2006

Carmel Valley Idol

Actual, unscripted dialogue between my 4-year-old daughter and the rest of our family on an otherwise normal weeknight several days ago. The game was her suggestion.

My wife, son, and I are sitting on the living room couch. 4-year-old enters stage left.

Me: Come on in, dog.

Wife: What’s your name, sweetie?

Daughter: I’m June (not her real name - it's her favorite Little Einsteins character). I’m 16 years old (not her real age).

Me: Where are you from?

Daughter: I live in New York City (not her real city), near the Statue of Liberty. I have two daughters (SO not real).

Me: Very interesting. Why do you want to be a Carmel Valley Idol?

Daughter: I like to sing.

Wife: What are you going to sing for us?

Daughter: “Hawaii Rainbow.” I learned it in preschool.

Me: OK, take it away.

(Daughter sings the entire song, then stands with her hands at her sides, smiling at her mother and me.)

Me: Thank you. Mommy, what do you think?

Wife: Hmmm…overall very good. A little pitchy in parts, but I liked it.

Me: I like it, dog. I like your look. You’re what this competition needs. Mommy – yes or no?

Wife: Definitely, yes.

Me (to my son): Yes or no?

Son (finally looking up from his comic book): What? I don’t know.

Me: It’s a yes for me. You’re on to the next round.

Wife: Welcome to Hollywood!

Daughter (raising both fists in the air, smiling broadly): Yes! (exits room stage left, skipping).

When are dreams like this outgrown? Clearly it’s normal for a 4-year-old girl to dream of being a music star, but somewhere along the line most of us give up on such notions and resign ourselves to the lives we have settled into instead of aspiring to the lives we desire.

Thankfully, running (or triathlon, for you tri-bloggers) makes many of us the exceptions to this unfortunate aspect of human development.

Nearly every runner out there is striving for some sort of goal. Whether it’s to lose weight, lower their blood pressure, break 20 minutes in a 5K, or run a sub-3-hour marathon, they all have some image of a faster, skinnier, or healthier body they want to attain.

To varying degrees, all of us recreational joggers, marathon racers, ultrarunners, and Ironman dreamers have more in common with my young daughter than we first realize.

We have an idealization of ourselves that we’re chasing each day. Sometimes the odds against the dream seem overwhelming, but with the right dedication we continue to audition, testing ourselves every time we lace up our shoes or jump in the pool.

Fortunately, unlike Hollywood, success in our sport doesn’t depend on impressing the right judges or getting the ideal break. It’s based more on determination and passion, and the self-discipline to ensure frequent practice.

So maybe the proper question isn't "When are these dreams outgrown?" but rather, "Why do dreams like this have to be outgrown?" I like the idea of having wondrous, childlike aspirations that are within my power to make a reality.

To put it another way - if chasing yet another 3-hour marathon doesn't keep me young, I'm not sure what will.

My recommendations to everyone out there who is chasing a goal are the same things I would tell my daughter for whatever pursuit she chooses: Don't worry about the length of the road ahead. Don't worry about what any judges have to say. Don't lose sight of the person you aspire to be.

And most importantly - never, NEVER stop dreaming.


Jon in Michigan 2/7/06, 10:55 AM  

Somewhere I read an article about something like this. It said (paraphrasing) if you ask a room full of Kindergardeners "Who can sing?", nearly every hand in the room goes up. And "Who can dance?", about the same.

But when you take a room full of adults and ask those some questions, you get one or two brave souls.

Somewhere in between those two ages, we lose that fearless appreciation of what we can do.

Thanks for the reminder. :)

stronger 2/7/06, 12:37 PM  

That's a good one for the Herald

olga 2/7/06, 4:26 PM  

It's nice to be able to dream. And if we grow up only for a reason to give life to another dreaming kid - I guess, it's not a bad reason.

jeff 2/7/06, 4:33 PM  

i love this, donald. i've been toying with the idea for a book for a long time. something along the lines of re-introducting the epic into our lives. reclaiming dreams. it doesn't have to be a physical acheivement, either, but it has to be something that puts you outside your comfort zone, something that truly challenges you.

there are lots of inspiring stories about guys and gals who do amazing things in their lives, but i wanted to put together something for the average joe, something that gives them hope that they, too, have that same potential inside them.

if only they'd get off the couch and act on those dreams.

robtherunner 2/7/06, 5:41 PM  

Great post Donald! I am not sure I can add much to it, but to say that running makes me feel like I am still in the game as well. I can look my daughters and son in the eye and tell them that they can be whatever they put their mind to and they will know that I mean it.

angie's pink fuzzy 2/8/06, 11:54 AM  

I like it! You summed up why I love running so much - I have the power to make my dreams reality (like running an ultra, woo hoo!!)

Downhillnut 2/8/06, 12:05 PM  

It's always so cool to have a goal, and then once we've achieved it to say "Now what?", and go set another one.

It doesn't happen without dreaming. Sometimes the dreams have to change a little along the way as we discover disappointing limitations (like judges, or short, slow legs), but "hope that springs eternal" is priceless.

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