One of my favorite poets is Langston Hughes. I always loved the way I could use his poetry in class to help to attempt to convey the feeling of African Americans during the post-WWII era. "Harlem" is one of my personal favorites, and though its meaning is rooted in the frustrations of the African American population as society was continuing to force them to delay their dreams and aspirations, I think it can resonate with everyone in a sense (hence, why I LOVE Langston Hughes).
BY LANGSTON HUGHES
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
The poem itself is pretty straightforward: what happens when we can't fulfill something we desperately long to do? But, without getting too nerdy, his use of similes really help the reader visualize what exactly a deferred dream could look like.
This Friday, I'm being inducted into my high school's Girls Basketball Hall of Fame. In 40 seasons, only 20 women have earned this honor. At first, like I always do, I tried to downplay it because I'm really bad at being proud of myself. However, as I've been processing this, I realize it's quite an honor. However, for me, it's a double-edged sword. Beside my high school accomplishments, my statistics from my single season in college are displayed, and they are some pretty stellar statistics and honors. When I was playing basketball at Bluffton, I was on pace to break career records and potentially lead the team to conference championships...if I could have continued playing.
As I haven't been shy in sharing before, I struggled with debilitating depression in college. That depression manifested in extreme disordered eating and weight loss. I got to the point where I literally couldn't play because other girls could push me on to the floor. Quitting basketball was one of the most traumatic moments of my life. It was my identity. It was what I'd worked for my whole life. I was so good (I really was, and it's hard for me to say that). My coaches begged me to stay. My teammates begged me to stay. And, I couldn't. I still tear up typing that.
I had a dream, an achievable dream, of setting records and playing on an awesome team for 4 years. The definition of "defer" means "to postpone." The only problem with deference is that if you postpone something too long, your time passes. To the average person, it might seem silly that a decade later, after I've accomplished so many other things, I still feel the "heavy load" of that deferred dream. But, in order to respect ourselves, our work, and our dreams, we have to acknowledge that the expiration of time to complete a dream is something we have to mourn.
I believe my induction into the hall of fame is a way of the universe completing a circle for me. I've been carrying this "heavy load" and nursing this festering sore for 10 years. I had expectations for myself. People had expectations for me. And, I didn't fulfill them. And, that hurts. This week, I have been working hard to make peace with that deferred dream, so I can put down the load I've been carrying.
Here's how what I'm saying can apply to you: When you lose a chance, miss a promotion, quit something you love, leave a career, take time to mourn. You had a vision. You had a dream. You worked for that dream, and it didn't manifest itself into what you expected. Respect yourself and your efforts enough to grieve, so it doesn't fester for decades, and you spend valuable time in your life regretting how things didn't turn out.