I gave up on fairy tales a long time ago, for a list of cynical and feminist reasons. The plain fact that most heroines had absentee parents, talked to animals and wore foo foo dresses all the time was not something for which I would suspend my disbelief.
Also, the prince doesn’t always arrive, and when he does, he doesn’t always make things better. The crystal ball or the magic lamp cannot cure our human hearts of grief and despair, of longing and loneliness. Sweet and plump fairies will not whip us into some semblance of functioning personhood. Perhaps, too, I dream of more than being swept off my flat feet and whisked away to a castle over which I will preside with sparkling teeth and kindness.
Dreams, the real dreams of real people, are worth pursuing. And, it takes work—hard work—to pursue a dream, to make it more than a wish upon some distant star. Enduring and then writing about my recurring and sometimes crushing conflict with depression was part of the work in publishing my first book. Cresting a hill in Pittsburgh stifling a sob and kicking back the doubt demons made crossing the finish line of my first marathon sweeter.
And this is the difference. Wishes and dreams are different. Wishes are like the fluff of growing dandelions; they scatter with a breath and are forgotten. Dreams are those things that wake us in the night, the itch we can’t reach, the thing that makes us fight.
My friend Andi is on the cusp of realizing her dream. She’s literally bought the farm and is making it her reality. She writes, in the Preface to The God’s Whisper Manifesto:
For 15 years, I have dreamed of having a place with home and land where I could invite people who needed respite from life. Where artists could be taken seriously. Where food is treasured but not worshiped. Where animals are amazing but not treated like humans. I have dreamed of this place—with barns and mountain trails and quiet and culture. I have dreamed hard.
In her book, Andi explains the genesis of her dream, and the way that life will be lived at her farm, which is called God’s Whisper. Because I know Andi, I have watched as she and her dad have cleared the woods surrounding the farmhouse, and primed, and painted, and tore down to build up. I have heard how her mother, who has passed, held Andi’s hand with this dream between their two palms, like an ember.
When our dreams are realized, and we understood for what we have fought, I think we begin to work harder: to protect what we made and to encourage the same kind of audacity in others. Because dreams are not fairy tales. This is Andi. She will do this for her people. She does it for me.