Sunday, May 10, 2009

What to do with Dreams when life wakes you up

Growing up, the game of basketball was a big a part of my life. It was the vehicle I used to make friends and was a part of who I was. I was a "Baller". Not in the sense that I was extra-ordinarily good, but it was the label that categorized those who after school ran straight to the park and played until sun down, the group who had to have the newest and most expensive Nike's, and the players who laid in bed unable to sleep, constantly replaying layups missed or passes that resulted in turnovers. I loved the game and my dream was to one day play basketball professionally. One day in middle school, a friend told me, "Leo you're going to be the first Filipino in the NBA." Me being five foot nothing, I knew it would be a stretch, so I settled with the hope of playing overseas professionally in the Philippines. This was my goal, and after graduating from UCLA, I was going to fly out to the Philippines, and try and obtain my dream.

However, during my senior year life stepped in and my priorities changed. Three months before I was set to graduate, Charisse and I found out that little Bishop was on the way. I was suddenly a husband and a father which caused my dreams to take a back seat and for my family’s needs to be prioritized.

I’m left to ponder how we move forward and cope with goals unreached? How do we store unfulfilled dreams and allow them to be productive versus destructive?

Unattained dreams become nightmares for many people. Regret and constantly looking back eat away at people’s spirits. A common way for many parents to cope with the regret is by living vicariously through their children. In my case, the day after Bishop was born, I was at the mall getting him his first pair of Jordan’s (nothing more ridiculous than buying a forty dollar pair of sneakers for a one day old infant). One year later, his first birthday present was his own basketball hoop. I don’t know what I’m going to get him this year (probably a Kobe jersey), but what I don’t want is to be that parent, years from now, who snaps and jumps out of the stands to tackle a referee or trigger a riot in the gym during Junior High tryouts. I can see my pattern of behavior potentially ending there and I don’t want it to happen.

Another common way parents deal with their past failures is projecting it upon their kids. Because we have failed, we see it more as a likely outcome and we try to protect our kids from it. My dad would tell me not to get my hopes too high if I wanted something because if and when it doesn’t happen, I would be that much more disappointed. This to me doesn’t really make much sense because failure hurts whether you’re prepared for it or not. Preparation for failure and bringing up the possibility of it only implants doubt and ultimately decreases a child’s ability to achieve their goals.

Many of us try to cover up our failures by lying to ourselves. We try and validate our present and devalue the unaccomplished goal. We tell ourselves that we’re better off not getting what we wanted and that whatever we were going for wasn’t that great anyway. In the end our true thoughts and emotions are still present and we become filled with bitterness and skepticism which ultimately affect our future aspirations and hurt our relationships.

I usually don’t try and come up with a “happily ever after” conclusion with these posts, but I feel one coming on so bear with me. We need to not lie to ourselves. We need to cope by acknowledging that we just didn’t reach a goal. As I take a deep breath and wipe away the tears I can say “I’m probably not going to be an NBA or PBA superstar”. But is it really about the dream and me playing professional basketball? Maybe what it’s about is not the disappointments, but the ability to create as many dreams as we want all throughout life. I’m reminded of reporters who ask successful individuals the question, “What can you tell people about following their dreams?” The common answer is, if you believe in it and if you work hard, you will achieve it. But I believed in being an NBA player and worked hard in trying to be one, but it didn’t happen. Does that mean that I didn’t believe it enough and didn’t work hard enough? I think the better answer is that if we have a dream, work hard in trying to achieve it. If we don’t get the result we are looking for, take a nap and come up with ten new ones… sooner or later we'll get one.

More questions and what I think are some pretty good guesses, what do you think?

Until next time…


  1. Life takes us down an unmapped road and we never know where the twists and turns will take us. You may never fulfill the dream of playing professionally, but are achieving an even better dream. Every time your kids cheer when you enter the front door, know that they are your biggest fans and you are a larger than life superstar in their eyes.

  2. I miss you singing me to sleep. Muhahahaha. I was in your hood last week but I lost all my numbers. Damn iPhones. Let's have a old roomies night out.


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