Follow Your Dreams

Where would we be without our dreams?


As the father of a 13-year-old, I hear my daughter talk about her dreams of playing goalkeeper on the Olympic soccer team, owning a horse, becoming a biologist, and studying African wildlife. I wonder which of her dreams will come true, which will fall by the wayside, and which will motivate to achieve great things or take her on paths unimaginable today.


Regardless, I see her dreams affecting the choices she makes regarding the electives she’s taking (French vs. Spanish, for example, because there’s not much of the latter spoken in Africa) and how she spends her free time (working on her soccer ball juggling instead of reading books 24/7).


When I was a boy growing up in suburban Chicago, I dreamed of curing cancer and playing professional baseball. I dreamed of traveling to exotic places and owning a soft-serve ice cream machine.


I never became a cancer researcher, or the starting catcher for the White Sox, but pursing my dreams took me to the University of Illinois, where I planned to major in some type of science. There, I took first-year organic chemistry from Douglas Applequist, now an emeritus professor of physical organic chemistry, who opened my eyes to the beauty, logic, and excitement of The Central Science. That led to a new dream, of becoming the first in my family to go to graduate school, which I did at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. A serendipitous discussion during a softball game there led to a new path, one away from bench science to a career as a science writer.


Too often, we dismiss our dreams as just that, dreams.Too many of us, burdened by the pressures of school or career, start thinking that “follow your dreams” is advice for children or for someone nearing retirement, not for the rest of us responsible adults. Who has time, after all, to chase after dreams?


You do. It just takes careful planning. And action.


Do you dream of moving into management but think that your chemistry degree isn’t going to get you there?


Do you dream of switching research fields but believe that you’ve been pigeonholed?


Do you dream of teaching chemistry at a small liberal arts college but can’t imagine how you’d handle the pay cut?


In reality, identifying your dream job is half the battle to achieving it. Next, you’ll have to do your homework. Spend some time every day defining your dream, perhaps while you’re coming home from work or instead of playing a couple of rounds of Minesweeper on your computer.


Search the Web for stories of others who have had a similar dream. Read their stories and learn from their experiences. From those tidbits of information, map out a plan to achieve your goal, with milestones you can hit along the way. Develop a budget for your plan. Then, establish a start date for pursuing your plan.


And remember, people make their dreams come true all the time. So can you.  Love to hear from you on what your doing to make your dream come true. 


This article was written by Joe Alper, a freelance writer in Louisville, CO, who writes frequently for the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry and was the editor of Chemistry Magazine when it succumbed to old age.


One Response to Follow Your Dreams

  1. Sarah Totzke says:

    What a great article, for those that still have the dream of curing cancer, Rush University Medical center is a great place to work, check out our website at

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