Have you ever had a dream that really made you think? One that you woke up from and it resonated with you? Maybe you didn't think too hard about it in that moment because you were preparing for the day at hand. But maybe after it had time to settle and marinate, it got your juices flowing.
I had just that kind of dream a couple of nights ago. I was enjoying it so much, I didn't want to wake up. And when the alarm went off, I was cursing it prior to trying to fall back asleep.
The dream went like this:
I was the first woman player in the NFL (no, not that football where the women wear sparkly underwear and bras and beat the crap out of each other for the joy of men everywhere - the real NFL). To nobody's surprise, I was greeted to the NFL with mixed emotions. Many people thought it was insane. Others were excited and intrigued. And still others, many others, thought a woman playing a man's game was ridiculous and that I would get killed or worse.
The feelings of my teammates were no different. I had both supporters and haters. But even most of those who supported me still doubted me. There were only a handful of people who believed in my mental and physical strength, and truly thought I could succeed. I was one of those.
Fastforward (in the hazy way dreams do) to my first start.
We're backed up on our own goal line. I'm in the lineup, surrounded by men twice my size. The stadium is going crazy, but all I can hear is muffled chaos. Something happens. The ball is airborne. I haven't moved but it's hurtling in my direction. I don't know if it's meant for me because it's toppling in a wobbly side-ways motion, but I don't hesitate - I reach out and grab the ball in full confidence and begin to run.
I run straight through the first line of defenders. Then the second. Then the third. I don't see the looks on any of the opposing players' faces as a blast past them, but I can feel their shock and awe. They weren't going easy on me. They were coming like steam rollers, but somehow I managed to blast right past them.
Straight to the endzone. For my first NFL touchdown. The fans went insane. The defense looked dazed. A few of my fellow players celebrated with me. Others shared a sense of bewilderment. And those who didn't want me there and didn't believe I could do it, grudgingly celebrated the score on the board, and then chalked it up to a fluke. A one-time thing that wouldn't happen again.
Needless to say, I was filled with a mix of emotions. Excitement for doing what I had just done. Dismay for the lack of support. I thought, "I did it guys! Why can't you give me credit? I overcame the odds. Not only that, but I returned the ball 99 yards for a touchdown!"
Apparently, I still needed to prove myself. One success did not equal successful. Not in this game. Not in this world where women were inferior and lacked the strength, speed and agility required to beat a man.
Dream hop to the next scene. It's the next game, but it's not being played like traditional football. We have the ball, the QB, all the players. There's an offense and a defense, but we aren't on a field. We are in a long, narrow and windy cement corridor.
The players around me don't speak, but I know what they're thinking. Ha! Let's see her get through this. Fat chance. She's going to get crushed.
The next thing I know, the ball is in my hands and I'm confidently running full steam ahead. I'm not scared because I know I've got this. I know I'm going to prove all of them wrong. I can't see the end zone and don't even know there's an end in sight. All I can see are obstacles in front of me. But they don't pierce my confidence. They make me stronger. They fuel my intentions and will to succeed.
So I run. As hard and fast as I can, protecting the ball as I go. I side step the first defender. Stutter and spin around the second. Hurdle over the third.
By this time, a few of my more supportive teammates are taking notice, and they start helping me out by blocking. They push several defenders to the side to make way for me. I continue to run.
I hit a dark part of the corridor, not quite sure what lies ahead, but push on. A twist, a turn, a sharp curve. I move through them all.
I re-emerge into the light, and, as I do, see two large defenders side-by-side coming straight for me. Together, they span the width of the corridor. This should spell my end. Moving past this obstacle seems impossible - but not to me. I've worked too hard and come too far to let this be the end. I don't slow. I keep running as hard and fast as I can, looking for a way to break through and finish my journey.
As I approach the human roadblock they raise their arms to tackle me in unison. And that's when I see it, an opening. Right in the middle. I jump, feet first, and plow through the middle of the defenders, landing with a stumble, but still on my feet, then recover and keep on running.
It gets easier from there. There are a lot of twists and turns, and an occasional defender that emerges from the shadows; but as I continue to run, my confidence grows and I push harder, faster.
Finally, I emerge from the tunnel onto a bright green field. The field is surrounded by a stadium filled with awe-struck onlookers. I know exactly what to do. Keep running. I can feel the defenders who I hurdled and plowed past now coming on my heels, so I push forward.
I can see the end zone just 100 yards away and know that is my destination. Time seems to stand still. Although I'm surrounded by thousands of cheering people, I am encompassed by complete silence and am all alone. It's just me and my goal - make it to the end zone.
And I do.
All of a sudden, the silence bursts and my surroundings re-emerge. The crowd is louder than I've ever heard. The naysayers are astonished. I've been put to the ultimate test, one that I should not have passed, and I passed it with flying colors.
That's where I woke up. I desperately wanted to go back to sleep. To see the looks on all the faces of those who told me I couldn't do it. To receive my pats on the back. To stand tall and glorious knowing that I proved everyone wrong. But sleep never came, and neither did my dream-world accolades.
I feel like this dream is my subconscious aligning with my conscious mind. It very much parallels my current journey in life and the struggles I go through on a daily basis.
About a year and a half ago I quit my job, my six-figure job, to spend my life savings following my dreams. Many people told me I was crazy. Why leave the safety and security of a regular paycheck and benefits to write a book and start a health & life coaching business? How could I possibly leave all that money behind?
For me, it was simple. It's what God had called me to do. I've always felt throughout my life that I was put on this earth to help people. It's what I'm happiest doing - making other people happy. While I enjoyed my career, something was always missing. I wasn't wholly fulfilled.
And I've always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, an itch to get out there and do my own thing. Be my own boss. Do things on my terms. So I did.
It has NOT been easy. Just like that second test, running through the corridor in my dream, my journey has been long and windy. There have been tons of obstacles in my way. Some have been relatively easy to overcome, and others have been seemingly insurmountable. But I've managed to break through them every time.
What has kept me going is knowing that I am finally following God's plan for me; and that, with Him, all things are possible. My positive outlook and unwillingness to give up. My ability to look at obstacles not as barriers to my success, but opportunities to think outside of the box and develop creative solutions for moving past them. My unrelenting perseverance and inability to quit. My knowing that if I can dream it and believe it, I can do it.
And guess what, I am doing it.
I want you to do know that you can do it too. No matter what you're experiencing or trying to accomplish in life, you can emerge from the tunnel, cross the field and score that touchdown. It all starts with a belief in yourself.
There is plenty of adversity along this road we call life, and the road isn't always straight. I can guarantee there will be people lined up to "boo" and kick you when you're down. There will be more "you can't do it" than "you can."
But once you tap into the strength and power you hold within yourself, you'll be unstoppable. And you do have that strength and power. We all do - every single one of us.
Stand confident. Believe in yourself. Dream it. Do it.