Our Capacity to Dream

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by | April 29, 2020

This morning I had a hard time getting out of bed. When my alarm went off, I was deep in a dream and wasn’t certain if the alarm was real or part of my strange dream. I know that we all dream as humans, but I am not one to typically remember my dreams. Usually, I only do when they are particularly bizarre or scary. Over the past 6 weeks, I have been able to remember more of my dreams and most of them are unusually real and frightening. My husband told me two weeks ago that he heard me crying out in my sleep, the first time that had happened in 25 years of marriage. 

As I prepared to write the blog today, I thought about how powerful our dreams are. Dreaming is something we share in common. As Jack Kerouac beautifully said, “All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all [hu]mankind together.” Despite the fact that we all dream, it is interesting that we still know so little about our dreams, what they mean, and why we have them. Still, scientists do widely agree that dreams are likely to help us solve problems, process emotions, and make lasting memories. Right now, researchers across the globe are studying dreams and trying to understand their purposes, especially during this unprecedented time. When I did a quick Google search this morning of “articles on dreams during COVID,” I received 115,000,000 results! I found articles available from almost every news outlet and went to find a few from The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, The New York Times, and Psychology Today. In general, all of the articles I looked at seemed to agree that the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent quarantine are causing lots of people to have more vivid and unusual dreams and to remember them with greater clarity. It makes sense that we would need to find ways to process this troubling and traumatic time. It has been about 100 years since we experienced anything like this quarantine/shelter-in-place in the US, and we are dealing with the stress of an unseen and unknown enemy, as well as an uncertain future. 

All of this talk and reading about dreams and their possible relationship to post-traumatic stress made me think of our students and families at GVP. I thought about how they have had to deal with drastic and difficult changes to their lives, very real losses, and the constant fatigue and stress of taking up new ways of living in resettlement. I started thinking about the dreams they may have had for years as they waited to leave refugee camps and be resettled. I thought, too,  about how those post-traumatic dreams may continue here as they try to learn a new language, culture, job, community, and more. 

While I found myself thinking about these kinds of nighttime dreams, I also started thinking about the hopeful dreams for the future that our families formed in their strength and resilience and through their imagination. I thought about Lewis Carroll’s quote, “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” I find myself feeling incredibly grateful, especially in times like these, for our human ability to dream and to imagine something greater than our current reality. I am grateful for our students’ abilities to dream futures for themselves and their communities beyond what they have seen and known. I am inspired by their parents’ abilities to dream futures for their daughters beyond what they have known and their willingness to take risks to make those dreams come true. In general, most of the parents at GVP have had limited access to formal schooling. Like their daughters, many of the mothers in our community had some schooling but were forced to leave school for different reasons related to conflict, poverty, isolation and distance, gender norms, etc. Nevertheless, these mothers imagine futures for their daughters that include access to education and different options and opportunities for their lives. Most of the time when parents share with me why they were willing to seek out resettlement in a new country, they tell me that they did it for their children–so that they could go to school and make a good life for themselves and so that they could have a better life.

Mae Jemison–American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut–became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. She said, “Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.” Our parents at GVP embody this, and we embrace this in our educational model. We don’t see our students or ourselves as limited, deficient, or incapable. We believe in the power of education to create possibilities, hope, and new futures. At GVP, we dream a world, one girl at a time. We believe that in each and every girl, there exists the possibility of a whole new world and a whole new way.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” And at GVP, we believe in the beauty of our students’ dreams, our parents’ dreams, and our collective dreams for a world that is better and more beautiful. 

I hear many people on TV talking about what the “new normal” will be like for us after the coronavirus pandemic has ended. I hope that the new normal we imagine and create will be better and more beautiful for all of us and not just for some of us. As Brené Brown argues, “We can pretend that we have nothing to learn, or we can take this opportunity to own the truth and make a better future for ourselves and others.” As we continue to dream, I hope we remember that dreaming is something we all do together. As humans, we are tied and woven together, entwined and connected, even in our separation and social distancing. As Dr. King said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” 

In my last blog, I wrote about our Women’s Wisdom Projects at GVP. Today, I share with you the song, “Follow Your Dream,” that was created from our women’s wisdom interview with Dr. Gulshan Harjee. I am grateful Dr. Harjee followed her dream of becoming a doctor and helping those in need and that her life encourages our GVP students to follow their own dreams.  I invite you to read the words and listen to the song sung by our Form 3 students.

Follow Your Dream

Inspired by Dr. Gushan “Garden” Harjee
by Global Village Project – Form 3, Spring 2017

Nothing’s gonna come easy
If you have a dream,
Don’t let anything stop you!
You’ll have hiccups and hurdles along the way
If you have a dream
Just follow it!

Born in Dar Es Salaam, grew up in Moshi Tanzania
Every morning we saluted Mount Kilimanjaro
No Asians in Africa, said Idi Amin
So I was flying for the first time at age 16
For High School I had to move to Pakistan
Goodbye to my family, to do what I can

When I was 6 years old, my grandma almost died
We lived far from the city, and so we tried
To reach the hospital, it was so far away
We made it just in time to save the day

I chose to be a doctor from that day on
Thanks to the Queen, I went to Med School in Iran
But then Iran had a revolution
So I fled to America for my education ‘Cause you know that –

I speak 6 languages, my first was Kutchi
In Tanzania, everybody speaks Swahili
English was the language we learned in school
In Pakistan you had to speak Urdu to be cool
In Iran in just 6 months, I learned Farsi
From my husband’s family, I learned Gujarati

Would you like to try a Tanzanian food?
Matoke, made with plantains, it’s a stew
You peel them, and boil them like you do potatoes
With garlic, onions, salt, pepper, and tomatoes

My dad’s dream was to be a doctor
He never realized his dream
But now my sister is a nurse and my brother and I are doctors
We made our dad so proud

When I saw so many people come to Clarkston from war
I helped start a Free Clinic, where all workers volunteer
When you’re sick, you want a doctor to know what’s happening
I understand sickness in 6 languages! Well you know that –

Nothing’s gonna come easy
If you have a dream, don’t let anything stop you!
You’ll have hiccups and hurdles along the way
If you have a dream, just follow it!

I’m so grateful I came to this country
And thankful I was given this great opportunity
You ask me why I love medicine?
‘Cause I care for others and use my education

I help the old, the sick, people in pain
Anyone who needs me, anyone suffering
I’m having such a good time taking care of patients
I’m just loving it, I’m so fortunate
I’m so lucky, I’m just having a ball! But you know that – 

Nothing’s gonna come easy
If you have a dream, don’t let anything stop you!
You’ll have hiccups and hurdles along the way
If you have a dream, just follow it!
Follow it!
Follow your dream!