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They told me to dream big... But, no one ever told me dreams are expensive

They Told Me To Dream Big: Person looking up to a colorful sky.
Photo by Greg Razoky on Unsplash

We are rushed inside the Sheldonian Theater, in our matching black and white attires. The porter gives me a severe look and kindly asks I take off my mortar board--which cannot be worn indoors. My newly made friends and I glance at each other and giggle, before our eyes are drawn to the breathtaking ceiling fresco.

I have to remind myself to take another breath as I stare at "Truth descending upon the Arts and Sciences to expel ignorance from the University". I haven’t elucidated the mystery about what happens to ignorance next, when silence walks in, accompanied by the Vice Chancellor.

I try really hard to make memories of my middle school Latin classes resurface--so I can decipher the incantations formulated in Latin, in vain. But eventually, I get it.

I am now, officially, a student at the University of Oxford.

So, is this what a dream come true looks like?


This could have been a motivational speech about how it always pay off when you work hard and follow your dreams.

It could have been one of those quotes that end with "sky is the limit".

It could have been an illusion of consecration. The impression that this is the end itself.

But, it is not any of those things.

No, this is not another story about a young African woman, who against all odds, climbed her way up to Oxford.

Sure, the path taken was not that of least resistance.

But in truth, this is simply another step as part of a long journey itself.

They always told me to dream big...

Unfortunately, for too many of us dreams are just too expensive.

How do you keep dreaming without going bankrupt when they tirelessly snatch your dream from you every single time?

How do you afford dreams when you are trying to save up to purchase the right to be heard,

When they have been asking you for overdue rent for staying on this Planet?

How do you dream if dreams don’t even chase hunger from your stomach,

Or give you a place to sleep?

Why do we expect a young girl to relentlessly lug her dreams around when she is terrified of falling asleep,

When the sound of detonations blew all her dreams into nightmares?

They told me to dream big, but forgot to mention dreams are expensive.

This is not one of those inspirational stories about making a way wherever there is a will.

This is the recognition that I am tremendously fortunate and extremely privileged.

It’s an expression of gratitude for an incredible support system.

It’s simply a battle against the Imposter Syndrome.

It’s the reassurance that being privileged doesn’t make you a bad person; it just gives you a chance to do something meaningful--for others--with your privilege.

It’s the uncomfortable truth that we are part of the very system we are trying to dismantle.

This is the understanding that it is far too simplistic to merely press people to dream without creating alternatives.

Yet, it’s a contradiction. It’s an exhortation to dream.

A supplication not to let anyone--not even yourself--tell you you cannot afford to dream.

They told me to dream big. My dream was as big as “Oxford!” Now, I have another dream.

I dream of a world where all of us can afford to dream big.

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