You Have Dreams — What Will It Take For You To Make The Leap?
“Everyone has dreams, fewer people have intentions, less have plans, and then there’s the very last few who actually leap” — Brianna Wiest
It was on the side of the tarmac — buildings to our right, the busy Douala air rife with humid winds and hawkers’ shouts.
Douala is always full of two things: color, heat, and people. Don’t count the heat, it’s part of Douala.
The year was 2008. My father had just found out I’d barely made it to class the past academic year. I had no idea what my second-semester results looked like; I did not take half of my courses.
He calmed his tone — probably because we were in the street, walking to his bus stop. He was going to travel back miles to our hometown. After our conversation, I was going to head back to Buea, to think about what I had done, pack my stuff and get home.
“Then you’ll tell us what you want to do with your life because this — I don’t know what you want. I don’t know what you want out of life, and it really hurts me to think that all this time, you’d been lying to us. Kamga, why are you doing this to yourself — to us?”
I don’t remember remorse.
All the lies I had been telling, all the fake classes I had shared over the phone to get my allowance, all the times I said “School was taking my time”, I wasn’t really going to school.
I wasn’t running a business, or playing a sport, or getting good at something.
I just hated Biochemistry so much — so much that I could not find the words to say it to anyone. Not even to myself.
In a way, I allowed myself to fail so that I will have no choice but be forced to make a decision.
That never worked.
For the next few years, I would still take a degree program I didn’t believe in.
I was — and in some ways still am — a wimp. I could never rebel. I could never openly say:
“I don’t want to do this. I may not know what I want, but this…this isn’t”.
Anyone who loves self-improvement is lookin — in books — for what they don’t have the courage to tell themselves.
If you find yourself indulged in the self-help craze — more than one should consider healthy reading — then you have an itch that cannot be cured by reading.
You know this. I know this.
Yet, when faced with taking a stand and doing all the things that the articles and books tell us, we bail.
For me, I stopped going to school. Failed and had nothing to say to defend my actions.
In 2011, when I finally grew up a little — and mostly with the help of my only friend at the time (who I ended up marrying), I faced my parents.
They were still disappointed. Very. This time, however, it wasn’t just me silently taking it and having nothing to say.
I had a plan.
I was going to drop Medical Laboratory Science degree altogether with the plan to pursue a Master of Public Health.
“ I have checked the requirements. I meet them all. I even called a friend who is in the Journalism Department and the information checks out. I applied yesterday.”
“Why Journalism? What are you going to do with it?”
“I don’t know Mum. But it feels right”
“It feels right”
When I close my eyes, I still feel the scoffs.
It was a dark time at home — I had taken the leap towards a dream to become a writer by choosing the next best alternative: Journalism.
In a country that didn’t see potential in the creative field, I smiled my way through my father’s fears and my mother’s sadness.
After 4 years a coward, I took a stand. And it felt good.
I would never have made the switch without my wife’s quiet reminder of how terrible I felt each time we talked on the phone. I was programmed to believe the small cuts of my personal disappointment were more bearable than the large bang of my parents' reaction.
I wish I could say, at this point, that was the last time I ever waited to take a leap.
I can say that I was right about Journalism: I had fun and enjoyed not just the experience but grew as a person, a blogger, and even a boyfriend.
2015. I graduate; I’m was back to the wheel of listening to everyone’s opinion. I take the internship I don’t want. I move to a town I hate.
2016. I force my way out again — quit the internship, go back to the University town, and start working at the first job that showed me the power of poetry and showmanship.
Then, just when I started getting a hang of how to go with my heart, I move — to a different continent.
About Those First Few Months As An Immigrant
If you don’t understand how it is, it’s just because you can’t. And that’s okay too.
I revert to that place again — seeking validation and approval from my wife. Watching everyone to see what was safe.
Clouding my own judgment with fears and doubt.
Wherever you go, there you’ll be.
Almost two years since I got to this country — the place where my dreams of becoming a full-time creative are more likely to come to life than not.
Where my intentions, if followed with the proper action, can lead to traction.
Where making a plan is what’s left to go forward with my ideas.
Where the leap is only a few keyboard keys away.
Why do I see myself on that bridge again?
Why do I hold myself back?
Why do I feel like so many who, when given the chance to follow their hearts, find the safe path and complain … for the rest of their lives?
“There’s nothing virtuous about folding under the weight of your doubt. You can try to explain it away and tell yourself you’re avoiding your dreams for safety and security reasons. You’re not. You’re lying” — Ayodeji Awosika
I’ve lived with this doubt my entire life.
It’s not even imposter syndrome anymore. It’s just a default state to what everyone else will think about something I will do.
As though the world is watching my every move. *scoff*
For the past two years, I have watched that “world” read less and less of my writing because it’s steeped in such self-doubt and deprecation that it not only feels sappy, but outrightly unskilled.
I have failed at being consistent because I don’t hold myself to the standard I know I can.
Like you, it’s not that life is full, it’s that I fill it with all the fluff that’s not needed so I can swim in my excuse and feel better — even just for a few seconds. Like you, there’s a point when I have to face myself and be real.
“This stops now”.
The price of not taking the leap isn’t only not achieving your goals or taking away from the people who could benefit from it ( or disappointing those who love you) — it’s living each day, reminded by every action, that you didn’t do what you knew in your heart, you could.
Whenever I tell the stories of quitting college or starting over, it seems I enjoy the events. In some ways, I enjoy those moments when I was honest with myself.
I enjoy standing up to my parents and saying how I really felt. We have a beautiful relationship now and I’m grateful for their love and support from the day I was born till this second.
But, the biggest takeaway from these is how much convincing I needed to be myself and how much time I wasted afraid of a pain that never came.
Hours on the phone with my wife. Semesters of my teenage years wasted. Sleepless nights. Pathetic self talk. Playing scenes with my parents in my mind instead of talking to them.
When you don’t take the leap, it’s death by a thousand cuts.
You may think you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing: making your parents proud, living the way that is expected in your family or country.
It’s all temporary.
Each time you stare in the mirror, you will catch it. Each time you talk about what you do, you will find yourself justifying it — to the listener and to yourself.
“You will know even if you try to do everything in your power to avoid knowing. You will know because you will spend a lot of time trying to convince yourself that you’re doing your absolute best. You will know because you will find yourself rationalizing, listing facts and figures to prove you’ve made it”. — Brianna Wiest
Every time I took the leap, I felt enormous joy — way more joy — than all the pain I had painted in my mind.
Each day I struggled with my Journalism assignments felt like a trophy.
Every harsh feedback built my character.
Even more, I was one of the oldest in my graduating class because my highschool mates had already graduated 5 years earlier.
There is something special about doing the thing I set my mind to that makes me feel alive.
That’s the pay off of taking the leap, doing the hard things and going against the grain.
As I write this, I am about to do that — that same fear I had, I can feel it. It never goes away.
Here’s what I know now.
“When you wash yourself in life’s rich pageant (shout-out to REM) — when you speak only of what sparks you — when you believe in the beauty of your own alchemy — you can conjure up the type of magic that can’t be charted in a PowerPoint and presented to your VP at the quarterly all-hands” — John Gorman
This magic is not found in books, in hiding from your truth or in dreaming about a life you want to have.
It’s found in biting the bullet. Putting pen to paper. Making a plan and sticking through the frost of it all.
It’s not going to be easy — the people who don’t want you to go that path know this, that’s why they protect you. They love you too much to see you suffer.
Because you will. I have. And now, I’m looking forward to doing it till death.
I’m no David Goggins, but there’s a high that comes with working hard on stuff you care about — stuff you can feel in your bones you were sent on earth to do.
No degree can beat that. No validation from parents or spouses.
Nothing beats doing the thing you were meant to do.
It will take time. It will take work. It will take having hard conversations. It will take everything you have, and even more.
It will require you to become someone else — someone who can make dreams a reality.
Words have power. As you make your plans, fight through and do the work, I urge you to feed your soul with words that keep you going. Words that remind you of what matters — words that remind you you’re not alone.
If others did it, you can too.
You have it in you to be one of the few who actually take the leap. Don’t do it for your parents. Don’t do it for your wife.
Do it for you.
“Life is not linear. It is not a list. It’s a blank sheet. An ellipsis. A trail to be blazed. A route to be charted. Explore. Jump. Draw. Write. Sing. Play. Laugh. Move. Seek.
Death is so imminent — so inevitable — that to breathe merely in the interest of breathing again is to waste a breath, when we should focus our being on being left breathless.
Never let the dying of the light extinguish the flame that burns within you”. — John Gorman
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