Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Cost of Chasing a Dream

The Cost of Chasing a Dream

I can still remember the conversation as if it were yesterday… and even though it seems like two decades ago, it was less than two years ago, sometime in late November of 2008.

I was sitting in my beautiful sports car, outside the beautiful townhome I lived in with
family in Virginia Beach, the place I’d escaped to in order to forget about all the hopelessness that had consumed me in my old Kingsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, New York in the early 90’s.

There I was speaking on the phone with my very good friend – my sister – Lynx Garcia, telling her about my plan to move back to New York City to chase all of my dreams. These dreams of mine, which seemed to be right in front of me, daring me to reach out a little bit further to meet them all up close and personal.

My marriage, according to me, had failed… and my daughters, the honor roll, competition cheerleading all-stars that they were, would be fine without me in the household. I’d help raise them to be intelligent, compassionate human beings capable of acquiring their own dreams when they found the time just right… I rationalized that even my two-year old wouldn’t miss me much, as she didn’t really know me well enough to miss me.

So my time to start chasing my dreams became right then and there. But not before Lynx spoke her peace into the phone. And although I can’t speak verbatim as to what she said that winter evening, it was something to the affect of, “Be careful my brother… you know sometimes when we find that ultimate happiness in one facet of our lives, other things in our lives begin to go wrong. We can’t have it all; the world just doesn’t work that way. There is a certain balance to life…”

Damn, she couldn’t have been more right had she been cheating by staring directly into a crystal ball.

To put it blunt… I now believe that my sister was trying to share with me a wisdom she’d learned throughout her own journey in life. And I now believe it to be true… you can’t have it all… all the time. It’s just not the true
balance of life. There is a cost that must be paid in every measure of life.

Of course, I do wish that Lynx’s words wouldn’t have been so prophetic, so quickly. It would’ve been nice to have seen things collapse around me just a little bit slower than what they actually did once I touched down in the city that never sleeps in December 2008.

Because almost immediately after arriving in New York City, one day after Christmas, I saw projects failing for no apparent reason, I saw once opened doors – closing in a seemingly, “Oh shit, he really moved back to New York,” kind of fashion… I had partners tell me they no longer wanted to collaborate… But even worse, I lost close friends for reasons that I still don’t really understand to this day.

It was as if the ancestors and the universe were simultaneously trying to say, “Ivan, you done fucked up now kid…”

People I respecte
d told me to never look back and others I respected equally told me to dig deep into my past to find the answers to my future. Confusion began to set in and I fell into a deep depression; you know the kind that Latinos don’t ever like to speak about…

The kind of depression we’re not allowed to speak about… because it weakens our position in life, or at the very least weakens the perceptions others have of us.

I stopped answering my phone for weeks and even months at a time…

I stopped communicating with the outside world and at times it even became next to impossible to pick up the phone to say goodnight to my daughters – the only reason I was even trying to hold on at that point.

For all intensive purposes I no longer existed in the real world… I was a walking shell of my former self who had given up on life as he believed it to be. I questioned if I’d come back to New York to become another statistic while Frank Sinatra’s, “If I can make it there… I’ll make it anywhe
re… New York,” verse played on heavy rotation in my head.

Did I really come back here to fail… to give up on life… or even worse to swan dive off the Brooklyn Bridge and die here?

Shit with my luck, I would’ve survived the dive and become a paraplegic. The thought was enough to prevent me from such a cruel fate – well that along with the vision of my little three angels.

I had to answer no to all of those negative questions burning inside of me… I had to find the will and the strength to fight my way through another day of nothingness, knowing in my heart that I’d come back to New York in search of a dream – even if it was now clouded in a nightmare I never saw coming – even if the cost had become the weight of the United States deficit to China…

Little by little I had to dig myself out of what at times was a self-imposed coffin now burying me and my dream alive.

I began working with the youth in a writing workshop, lecturing, freelance writing more often and using the radio show on Urban Latino Radio to find my voice again… my confidence, my dream.

The inspiration that so many said I was providing to them, began to find its own way back to me in return and my darkest days began to lighten up a bit. The sun was finally shining again and my focus came back to me a little bit at a time… freeing me to finally see my dreams again.

There was a great deal of people around me who were never wise to the silent pain I was enduring. We’re not allowed to speak about such a taboo as depression. I recall people even telling me how good I looked and how much I looked like I was living it up in New York… They simply had no idea what chasing my dreams had done to my insides.

That’s the thing about life – sometimes we have to take the time to take a closer look at our friends and family members. Sometimes we have to ask questions about what’s really going on in their lives, if we’re ever to know how they truly are deep down inside.

Let’s stop pretending that all of the issues going on in society are normal. Let’s stop pretending that war, poverty, violence, hunger and an economy that allows the richest people in the world to get richer by placing bets around us losing our homes is normal… Let’s stop pretending that, “It is what it is…”

Because I’m here to tell you that it really shouldn’t be…

What happened to supporting one another as we chase our dreams? What happened to taking on some of your brothers or sisters burden to help push them along?

What happened to the love? Did it simply become too costly? Have we all just given up on each other?

Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.


  1. Amazing. There are so many people in this world that think about chasing their dreams, but never make it real. You have taken steps that others can't even fathom. Truth be told, dream chasing is an idealistic way of life, and can pan out as it had for you. I like to think that in the end it all works out. Destiny, fate, and faith in ones self is truly a powerful tool.

  2. Oh so very heavy. It is sad that not too many people speak of such things. Sad to think it would weaken your position. If anything this makes you stronger!!

    As far as the questions you asked.... "What happened to supporting one another as we chase our dreams? What happened to taking on some of your brothers or sisters burden to help push them along?
    What happened to the love? Did it simply become too costly? Have we all just given up on each other?"

    We live in a world where we are all too worried and consumed with our own problems... and chasing our own dreams that it blinds us of our other brothers and sisters.

    I believe love is still here amongst us all. At times it may not seem like it because it isn't being given to us the way we would like it to be given, but it is there.

    Chasing a dream is never gonna be easy. Thank God it isn't because then we wouldn't appreciate it when we finally attain it or the few that extended their hands out to us . We must not let the hardships or others distract us or weaken us. Stay the course. Sometimes when we think it is farther away is when it is actually closer.

    Just my two cents and then some ;)
    Love and Light, oxoxo

    Liza Marie

  3. Ivan, my brother, don't ever stop chasing your dreams. I hope you are sharing this story with the young people you work with and come across every day. Too often, they give up on things because it gets tough. Rarely does success come without failures or risks. You can take a chance and make it happen or wonder what could have been. Another way to look at why the projects collapsed...they were creating space for something bigger. We are nothing without our dreams.


  4. Thanks Ivan this was a profound blog for fathers who continue to dream...(and if were good friends... they would have still been there.)

    I read this again this morning... This time at a much more relaxed early morning pace with a cup of fresh brewed Costa Rican Coffee (Lynx ;-) knows the deal)... As a father who made similar choices to pursue my dreams, I think most of them were fueled by the very essence of the little ones who paid the highest premiums on my dreams. I think what drove me to pursue my dreams were my children. Everyday my struggle as a young educated and creative Latino brown-skinned father wasn't easy and I convinced my stuff mentally that if I didn't pursue my dreams my son and daughter would have the same fight in this world where it seems that things only go right for the Steinbergs, Greensteins, Feinsteins and Epsteins. Unlike our fathers, we play a more dynamic role in the workforce. We're no longer broom pushers and hammer swingers. We now dress up and play the STEIN roles, but at lesser pay and lesser living conditions. I remember always wondering why after 96 Street, heading uptown, all the young business professionals got off the train, while I still needed to head to the BX and be constantly reminded that I must dream if I wanted to get away from here...That was my dream before I even had children. So when I was about 19 years old, I headed South to Florida, way before it became and extension of the Bronx. I have always been ahead of my time... In fact, people ask me today, "Hey Mark you still live in Florida?" and I think wow where have these guys been...I used that to serve as a measurement against those who stopped dreaming their dreams. I think the human mind has a way of convincing itself that when you stop chasing dreams, one must stop living. I say this because I notice people who stopped chasing their dreams live like they're not living at all. Is it that they are now day-dreamers? Dreaming without action. Each day I awake with a new dream that is part of the bigger dream and that dream is to make it easier for my children to dream less and live more, just like the guy who gets off the train below 96st Street.

  5. I've heard that moutain climbers often get bruised,cut,suffer fractures or even broken bones on their way up a mountian and that somehow desoite the pain they tend to their wounds and continue to climb,I suppose they feel that the trek will be worth the pain so that they could experience the magnificence of the view and savor the sweet taste of accomplishment and inspire others to do the same... it could be my brother that the best is yet to come,as I reminded you in the past,just be AWARE of the dangers and TEND to your wounds so that you can continue onward,upward as you heal..and just maybe Ivan my brother,my friend..those dreams will come to fruition and you will find that you may not have it all but you will have what you need and right on time,hopefully with minimal scars :)Rise great King!