Earlier this month, Michelle Williams made the very blatant suggestion that her access to abortion allowed her to pursue her dreams during her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards. It was a provocative statement, made even more so by the fact that she was visibly pregnant as she made it. My first thought was of pity for the unborn child she was carrying, who happened to be luckier than her sibling that her conception occurred at a time that was considered favorable in light of her mother’s dreams. Plenty of people have already objected to Williams’ suggestion that abortion is necessary if women are going to pursue their dreams unencumbered by facts such as femininity, pregnancy, and life itself, and I think they’re right in suggesting that there’s something very anti-feminist about claiming that women can only achieve their dreams by forcing their bodies to exist in a decidedly un-feminine manner. But I think there is another issue with Williams’ statement, and it has to do with dreams.
I’ve entertained a lot of dreams in my life. As a child, I dreamed of being an astronomer, a figure skater, and a teacher at one point or another. As a young adult, I dreamed of being a youth minister, a wife, and a mother. Some of those dreams fared better than others. The closest I got to my dream of being an astronomer was acing Astronomy as a junior in high school. I never became a figure skater, and I’ve technically never been a teacher. I have been a youth minister, and I am blessed to call myself a wife and mother today. Dreams are clearly unpredictable, malleable, and never guaranteed. Some of our dreams will be fully realized, others will not, and still others will be reached, but won’t look the way we imagined. Dreams are fickle, and sometimes they’re really nightmares in disguise. We don’t always get we want, and we don’t always want what we get, even when we previously wanted it.
Some dreams are meant to be left behind in favor of bigger, better things. I dreamed of being an astronomer, but I changed my career plans after I began taking my faith seriously in high school. I might have made a good astronomer, but I think I made a better youth minister. Some dreams are never meant to come true. If they did, we would never be able to discover our true purpose, our deepest passions. I wanted to be a figure skater until an accident set me back two years in training. By the time I could lace up my skates again, I was a teenager, and I’d had two years to rethink my plans. Sometimes we give up our dreams and sometimes they are taken from us, but I do believe that it is always to give us something better.
Some dreams are bestowed on us exactly as we envisioned they would be. I served as a youth minister for four years, and it was everything I imagined it would be. I loved my job, my students, the seasonal retreats and conferences. That job was everything I could have hoped for, but in the end, I chose to give it up. Again, for something better.
Some dreams surprise us in that they are not what we expected, but are so much better. And harder. And more beautiful. And more complicated. And more fulfilling. And more emptying. Like marriage and family life. I dreamed of being a wife and mother for years, and it has not always been as I imagined. It has been better in some ways, but also harder. I’ve created beautiful memories with my husband and children, as well as some not-so-ideal ones. Even our biggest dreams are not always as we imagined, but that doesn’t make them any less than everything we hoped they would be. They’re just different.
And that’s really what it comes down to. Our dreams are often different from what we imagined. Life happens; dreams transform and change. Sometimes dreams are abandoned, whether by choice or circumstance. Sometimes dreams are attained, but they don’t look the way we thought they would. Dreams change, but we must believe it’s because something greater is coming. Michelle Williams might have killed her something greater when she chose to pursue her career even when it meant killing her unborn child. She might have killed a bigger, better dream. At the very least, she killed her child, and she killed that child’s undreamt dreams. She chose to preserve her own dreams even when it meant killing her unborn baby. Yes, her life would have looked different if she had chosen to give that first baby life, but she still could have worked towards her dreams. In the weeks following her comment, countless women have shown that the birth of a mother does not mean the death of the woman. I know countless mothers working to achieve their dreams, myself included. The path might look different now- I work as a writer during naps and after bedtime, for instance, and not as a regular 9-5er, but I think the dream I have made a reality- my life as a wife, mother, and writer- is so much more beautiful because I have my husband and children in it.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!