Ines Vuckovic/Dose

Don’t Give Up On Your Dream?—?Change It

That white picket fence? It’s a trap.

Millennials get a bad rep.

I am a late 20-something, which places me squarely in that generation— “The Worst Generation,” as the New York Post dubbed us. Baby Boomers call us selfish, lazy, entitled and technology-obsessed. The ongoing divide between the two generations was evidenced yet again by the recent #HowToConfuseAMillennial Twitter hashtag, which Baby Boomers started to share such eye-rolling gems as “Hand them a job application form” and “Put a trigger warning on a safe space.” But soon, millennials fired back with some real mic drops.

The hashtag got me thinking about dreams and how much this concept has evolved. For Baby Boomers, the American Dream meant a nuclear family, a house, and a 401k. In a nutshell, a Baby Boomer’s dream was low-risk, comfortable and stable. The idea was that if you worked hard, you would be successful by society’s terms.

But that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Hard work now gets you student loans in a field that’s not hiring anyone with fewer than 5–10 years of experience. Stability is a concept I’ve never known. And while Baby Boomers are busy calling us lazy for not having 9–5 jobs, they fail to see that with less opportunities available to us, we are creating our own.

Because I stopped listening to what anyone else had to say about my dream and just did it, I was able to outgrow my dream.

Recently I went on a date with a person who created his own schedule at his day job; at home, he works on his many side projects. Even with a later start time and weeknights dedicated to his growing business, he said he wasn’t satisfied. When I asked him why, his response really struck me: He said what he was striving for in his career was freedom, but he was still a slave to his employer. For him, true success wasn’t about job security; it was about creative control. That’s likely the reason why my generation is increasingly likely to actually heed the advice “follow your passion.”

When I left my last 9–5 job nearly three years ago, I was one of four employees in my department to leave that same month.

One moved to China to teach English, another spent a year riding his bike across North and South America, another moved to San Diego to be a writer and I moved to Atlanta to be a full-time fashion designer. It would prove to be one of the most challenging years of my life, but I have no regrets. A year after leaving my corporate job, I designed a T-shirt that read “Passion Over Everything,” and I still believe that.

But I didn’t always see success this way.

Growing up, I wanted to be an artist. As I got older, that dream became more narrowly defined as “fashion designer.” I dreamed in outfits and looks. I created my own paper dolls. My mom signed me up for painting and sewing lessons. I was never told I couldn’t be a fashion designer, but while I was placed in gifted programs for math and writing, I was never praised for being artistic. By the time I reached high school, I started thinking practically about what I would study in college. Art and fashion seemed too risky, so I settled on studying journalism. My plan was to write about fashion and one day, when I retired from writing, open up my own brick-and-mortar vintage store. I would have my stable career and once I succeeded at that, my fashion business would be the reward.

This was supposed to be my safe plan. But something always brought me back to fashion, and before I even completed college, I was running a pop-up vintage clothing store with two of my friends.

Two years later, at 24, I was putting together a business plan for my own accessory line, Ready to Stare. Five years later, I still run it. I never really believed I could design and run my own fashion label—but I did it.

Along the way, as my dream became a reality, it changed.

Finding my own voice as a plus-size designer helped me learn to love my body and inspired me to start writing again. But this time, instead of writing about other people’s journeys, I was sharing my own. I started doing speaking engagements about entrepreneurship and panel discussions about self-love through fashion. And when presented with the opportunity to open a brick-and-mortar store for my business, I turned it down. I knew deep down that a physical location for my shop would limit me. And when the opportunity to appear on “Good Morning America” came only a few months later, I was able to drop everything, travel across the country, and do it?—?something I’m not sure I could have done if I was tied down to a retail store.

Alysse Dalessandro/Dose

Because I stopped listening to what anyone else had to say about my dream and just did it, I was able to outgrow my dream.

Sounds weird and kind of backwards, right? I know. But hear me out:

In high school and college, I didn’t believe I could be a designer. But if I hadn’t tried it, I never would have known I could be a designer, writer, blogger and speaker. If I would’ve stayed completely focused on my dream of opening a retail store, I would have missed the opportunity to do so much more than that.

As a single, almost 30-year-old woman with eight different income streams and no 401k in sight, I am living a Baby Boomer’s worst nightmare. I know that because my dad still asks me once a week when I’m going to get a “real” job. I don’t think I will ever feel content or stable. I don’t know that explaining to someone what I do will ever be easy, but yet, I am successful. That white-picket-fence American Dream, well, that was someone else’s vision for my life; not mine.

Living MY dream. | Alysse Dalessandro/Dose

I realized it’s OK to give up on a dream that wasn’t really yours to begin with.

It’s OK for you to give up on a dream that doesn’t align with your current vision for yourself. It’s OK for your dreams to change; in fact, they should. If you’re not constantly reevaluating your dreams and what success means to you, you’ll end up failing to live up to someone else’s standards and never truly discovering your own.

If you spend your energy focused on what success means for you, then you’re not waiting on someone else to make your dreams come true; you’re actually putting it in your hands to make it happen.