‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ Mary Oliver
It was one of those old roll-top desks, circa 1970, squat and beige and ugly, set on two pairs of spindly legs. I’d been sat at it for three hours, trying to write an essay on the early novelists. Trying and failing miserably.
There was a tightness in my throat – it had been there for weeks – as if someone had placed an invisible cord around my neck and every so often, at tense moments like these, they’d give it a pull. The only way I could swallow was to hold on to something solid to ground me. I clutched the edge of the desk and took a sip of water. Who was I to write about the likes of Samuel Richardson and Daniel Defoe? Literary fiction was as alien to me as life on Mars. I was an imposter. A council estate kid who’d got lucky and somehow ended up at university.
From the house next door came the sound of builders hammering and drilling to the music of Pink Floyd.
‘We don’t need no education.’
These builders, with their thick scouse accents and gallows humour were my people. The kind of guys I’d grown up amongst.
Most of my friends on my course at uni, with their cars and their credit cards and their well-connected parents? Not so much. To them, living in squalor in the middle of Toxteth was an adventure – a brief toe-dip into how the other half live, which they could escape from any weekend and every holiday. For me, the drafty rooms and peeling paintwork and mismatched furniture made it a home from home.
But our run-down student house was where the familiarity began and ended.
In the lecture halls and tutorials and student union bar I felt increasingly alone.
What was I doing there?
I stopped pretending to write and stared out the window.
I’d worked my butt off to get to uni to study English because my goal throughout my childhood had been to be a writer. To turn my love of writing into a career. To learn from the masters and hone my craft. But all I’d really learned since getting to uni was that I didn’t belong in this middle class world. My overdraft was growing out of control, I was having to bounce cheques to feed myself from the £1 bargain basket in Iceland Frozen Foods.
The invisible cord around my neck tightened.
I couldn’t face another year there, not being able to swallow for anxiety. Drowning in self-doubt and debt.
When I went home that summer, I’d never go back.
I’d abandon my writing dream and go and work for the complaints department of the cheapo frozen food company I’d shopped at with the proceeds of my bounced cheques.
At first, I’d feel overwhelmed with relief. I’d make new friends from a similar background to mine, I’d give my brain a break from all the writing and the cramming. I’d be able to pay off my overdraft. I’d be able to eat something other than economy crispy pancakes and beans on toast.
My only #LifeGoals would be to fit in and have fun.
I wouldn’t read a book for almost two years.
I’d seek my thrills on the dance floor.
I’d pretend not to care about anything else.
I’d dumb myself down and I’d numb myself out.
I’d also learn a really important lesson:
A life without dreams is like crawling through a dark tunnel with no light at the end.
Fast-forward twenty years. I’m standing at the front of a huge lecture theatre in Dubai, about to give a talk to hundreds of international students on the importance of daring to dream.
I’ve been invited to speak there by the Sharjah Reading Festival, as the award-winning author of eleven books.
The talk I’m giving – about the importance of pursuing your dreams – is a talk I’ve given all over the world to tens of thousands of young people.
I’ve turned what happened to me into a cautionary tale with a twist. The twist being that it all worked out fine in the end.
Yes, I lost my faith in myself and my dreams … but I went on to overcome my fears and achieve way beyond my wildest dreams.
It took a long time and a few bumps in the road but I now live a life filled with freedom and adventure.
All because I learned to believe in myself and have faith in my dreams.
And now I feel really passionately about helping others achieve their dreams and not live a life dulled down by fear.
This was the inspiration behind my next book, The Moonlight Dreamers (out in July).
And it’s the inspiration behind a new project I’m planning on the soon-to-be-launched Moonlight Dreamers website.
I want to create an online hub where people can talk about their dreams, seek advice about their dreams and inspire each other to achieve their dreams.
So I’m looking for contributors to write guest posts on any of the following:
- An account of how you achieved a dream … and the obstacles you overcame along the way
- A piece about a dream you have … and how you plan to achieve it
- An appeal for help regarding a dream. For example: it might be a dream of yours to become an actor or a writer or a politician but you’re unsure how best to go about achieving it. Simply write me a note outlining your dream and I’ll write a response crammed with tips and advice.
- A post (or poem) about your dream for the world. Do you dream of world peace or an end to human trafficking? Do you dream of a healthier planet or a solution to the refugee crisis? Do you dream of a world free from terror and bullying and prejudice? Write a post or a poem about your vision.
On my recent trip to the UAE I spoke to hundreds of students about their dreams for themselves and for the world and I was overwhelmed by their passion and vision. My dream for the Moonlight Dreamers website is to carry on that conversation and broaden it to include young adults all over the world.
If you would like to be featured on the site simply send your submission to:
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions too.
Let’s help each other dare to dream of a brighter future – for ourselves and for the world.