“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
-Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
If you are unfamiliar with the lore of Hogwarts, if your heart does not trill with the magic that dances within its stone walls, then perhaps you do not know the legends surrounding The Mirror of Erised. The mirror is magnificent, stretching up to the ceiling of a forgotten classroom buried within the stone walls of the school. It was held in an ornate gold frame with clawed feet and an inscription was carved along the top ‘Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.’ At first glance it seems like a beautifully imagined language, but much like its own name, when read backwards it begins to make sense: I show not your face but your heart’s desire.
The happiest man in the world could look into its glass and use it as a simple mirror. But for everyone else, they will see whatever they wish for their lives; no matter how grand or unattainable that dream may be. For Harry, who had never known his parents, he was surrounded by family. For Ron, who had always felt overshadowed by his many siblings, he stood above the rest. The story begs the question: what would you see?
It’s an odd occurance when you come close to reaching a long coveted goal and the idea of its impending conclusion consumes you. Whenever I get close to grasping one of the milestones I have laid out for myself I get a laser focus. Aliens could invade tomorrow and I wouldn’t notice a thing out of the ordinary, even if they stood right in front of me and introduced themselves before tap dancing to the nearest 7-11 for a slushy. I can see my future so clearly I can taste it. I’ve been spending far too much time staring into my figurative mirror, my desires burning me up from the inside. Perhaps it’s a good thing my acceptance letter got lost in the post (they must have had one lazy owl on duty that day), because I can’t help but wonder if I would be that student so consumed by thoughts of their future that I would never step away from that glass.
Patience is a virtue, as the saying goes. Sadly, I don’t really know- it’s not something I’ve ever been particularly good at. Don’t misunderstand- I know how to wait, in fact, you could say that I’ve mastered the artform itself. I tend to take long strategic steps in my life, moving one piece after the others are all in their proper place. But I am never even remotely patient about it. I get anxious and antsy, desperate to keep moving, even if I only manage to spin my wheels. It feels like I’m at least doing something, making an attempt, though I perhaps have no progress to show for my efforts.
I stand knocking on the doors of my own opportunity, seeking admittance to the wonders just beyond. Once that door dares to crack just a hair, leaving open an infinitesimal possibility, I try jumping right in. This is both a blessing and a curse- sometimes it’s all about the timing, and being the first to hop up gives you the best shot. Other times you aren’t fully aware of what you are careening into and find yourself treading water in the deep end of the pool without your water wings.
Most good things in life come with some amount of sacrifice. If you want to be the best in your career or have a happy and healthy relationship, there is hard work involved. If you want to be a writer then you invest your time, your heart and your soul. If you want to make it through school with as little debt as possible you must sacrifice a certain amount of independence and privacy- to live with other people and find a certain level of financial security. But there are things in life that are well worth the sacrifice it took to get them.
My hopes for my future are not particularly grandious in design; I want a house to call my own, a place where my dog can run amok without bothering any roommates or relatives we happen to be living with. I want a certain level of financial security, though I have never needed much. I want to cook dinner in my own kitchen while dancing to my favorite music. I want to sit on my back porch and write the stories that trill through my soul. I want to let the passion of the words consume me fully as I delve into a world of my own imaginings. This is what I see when I look into my figurative mirror. I see a girl who gave up a lot to secure a future that is still a bit precarious. I see a girl who finally made it to that place so many people take for granted. I see a house that I can make a home. I see happy creatures and the man I’ve build a life with cuddling up to watch an episode of our favorite show. I see words seared into a page, my name on the cover- even if no one ever reads it. I see someone who can run a 5K on a whim without feeling like her body is careening dangerously close to self-destruct mode. I see a woman where a girl once stood. I see sacrifices that were well worth the pain of their investment. I see the fruits of my labor finally coming to fruition.
The fact that I haven’t reached certain milestone by now has been a tough pill to swallow. Even though I know that these conscious decisions were made with my own best interests in mind. It still smarts a bit when I see where others are in their own lives. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself not to compare my life to theirs because our paths are very different. I think it’s human nature to stack up your accomplishments, deduct your failures and see where you stand amongst your peers. In some areas I am so proud of where I am and who I have become, and in others I know that there is more work to be done.
Suddenly and inexplicably, I have reached a point where a few of those visions I see in the mirror might actually become realities in the near future. Even though I’ve been worked towards it for so long, I was still caught off guard. The thing with unrealized dreams is that the moment you think there is an inkling of a possibility, you want to jump and snatch it before fate dangles it out of your reach again. This is where I have found myself. I am so giddy and entranced by this possibility that the thought of waiting another moment is excruciating. How is it that I could be so patient for years, and suddenly, now the thought of another few months tears at me?
The problem is that I’ve been too focused on the image I see in my own little Mirror of Erised. I have been sitting here watching that dream unfold on the other side of the glass, pressing my palms against it in the hopes that I can melt into this other world. I spent too much time looking in the mirror and forgetting that I needed to live it instead. I need to learn this thing they call patience and remember that there is still work to be done. The sacrifices that we make do not guarantee success. We make our decisions and cast the die, praying we weighted them enough to roll in our favor.
It is far too easy to lose perspective and stumble at the finish line. I may have a habit of taking the long way around, but sometimes the scenic route can be so beautiful if you slow down to enjoy it. Life will do whatever it wants with you- you have to learn to roll with every punch and leap at every viable opportunity. But don’t jump too soon, because you might land on some shaky ground.
I must always remember that on this road, in persuit of my dreams, I cannot forget to look around and appreciate where I am. Life will not always be like this; for better , worse or indifferent. This moment is just as important as the others. So turn from the mirror, blink your eyes and find the joy in this moment right now. It’ll all work out in the end. You must have faith that you will find the road that will lead you home. Perhaps someday I will look in the glass and it will be just another mirror. Until that day, I still have dreams to chase. And I can only do that right here in this moment.