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Tracie Fellers: Dream like your life depends on it

August 16, 2013 

Tracie Fellers


During graduation season, while tuning in to ABC’s “World News” on a Friday evening, I heard something that has stayed with me from twin sisters Kristie and Kirstie Bonner, then about to graduate from Atlanta’s Spelman College as co-valedictorians.

As the piece that celebrated their accomplishments and their family’s legacy at the historically black women’s college wound down, one of the twins said, “The secret to our success is working like it’s all up to us and praying like it’s all up to God.”

Hearing that philosophy got my attention, since I’ve long embraced the first half and am still growing into the second: Work like it’s all up to you and pray like it’s all up to God.

But I have one addition to make: Dream like your life depends on it. Because I’m a firm believer that it does.

In this amped-up, teched-up and often messed-up world, sometimes it seems there’s little room for dreams among all too many hard realities. That surviving from day to day is the best we can do, maybe even all we should hope for.

My last couple of trips to the grocery store verified that prices continue to go up while many of us haven’t seen our incomes go anywhere but down.

I’ve sometimes done a double-take at the calendar, wondering if we’ve gone back in time from 2013 to 1963, or even 1953, after hearing citizens who lawfully protested against legislative actions in Raleigh this spring and summer called “outside agitators” and anything but moral.

On the other side of the time line, as someone who’s still trying to find full employment in this “new” economy, I sometimes wonder if I’m trapped in an alternate universe where skills, experience, endorsements and graduate degrees somehow don’t compute once they’ve spun into the vortex of job websites and online applications.

And then there’s the mayhem that a significant number of us seem to crave: a voyeuristic impulse to immerse ourselves in the so-called “real” lives of people who’ve become (in)famous through a boom industry called reality TV.

But maybe that too is evidence of the vacuum that exists where our dreams should be. And I’ll speak for myself.

Reality TV (with a few foodie exceptions) and worshiping at the shrine of celebrity culture aren’t my choice of distractions, but I’ll admit to slipping into nostalgia for the past, especially when the present confounds or pains me.

That’s when I’m most likely to get lost in reminiscing about times when the day-to-day seemed lighter and brighter; setbacks seemed easier to get beyond, and most importantly, the future held every possibility of turning dreams into realities.

So, I can’t fault anyone for sometimes feeling that it’s easier to settle, to set your sights on getting by instead of going after the life you really want. Easier to pay more attention to limitations, self-imposed or otherwise, than what you dare to think you deserve – whether it’s a better job, more pay for the work you’re already doing, or the right to be treated fairly and with dignity under the law.

The right to freely pursue, and even fight for, your version of the American dream.

No, the fault is with staying in that place where you’re stuck, and in giving up on dreams when they bump up against those harsh realities.

Over time, you might reevaluate them. Change them as you change. Simplify them. But we shouldn't dismiss even our most outsized dreams in the name of “toughening up,” protecting ourselves from the very progress we want.

I know that I need my dreams just as much as work and my prayers in my quest to live a fully engaged life, not just exist.

So the fight is to keep our dreams, big or small, from getting buried by the barriers that life inevitably brings. The times when work, rewarding or not, wears us out and we wonder if our prayers are even heard.

One could argue, after all, that the tens of thousands who gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago this month were just a band of dreamers with some audacious ideas about equal opportunity, and about holding the country accountable for its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Their active pursuit of their dreams, along with their work and prayers, are reflected in the success of young achievers like the Bonner twins. Poised and prepared, this talented pair has choices and possibilities that participants in so many civil rights marches stood, sat, bled and died for. And, as they remind me, so do I.

Contact Tracie Fellers at

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