The Privilege of Dreams and Reality Colliding

By: Shelma  Jun in partnership with Subaru
All Photos by Jules Davies

Last month, I had the opportunity to spend three days in Marfa, TX with a group of twelve incredibly accomplished women – artists, athletes, mediamakers, activists, authors, builders and more. We converged on this small art town in West Texas to share, listen and learn from each other’s experiences and stories. 

One of the main topics that we discussed was dreams and how they relate to reality. One exercise had us listing out dreams on once piece of paper and reality on another. What many of us found is that our dreams and realities were very close to one another – or the same in certain instances. I admitted that right at this moment, I am quite lucky to work on the exact projects that I want to work on with the people that I want to work with – as dreams/goals emerge, I’ve been able to bring many of them to fruition over the past several years. Another shared a similar experience. Someone spoke of “going for what we want” and “not letting traditional ideas of success hold us back.” Several people nodded in agreement. 

However, I felt a bit uncomfortable with where the conversation was heading. I fully acknowledge and understand how privileged I am to live the life that I lead. After starting Flash Foxy and the Women’s Climbing Festival, I’ve been able to choose to work on my own projects that I am passionate about. While I work hard and bring 15+ years of work experience with me, I also know that THIS IS NOT THE ONLY REASON that I can CHOOSE to live this way. While I am an immigrant women of color and I don’t have any long term financial security, I do have the following 

  • I am educated with a Masters and a Bachelors degree for which I was able to get student loans. During that time, I only had to work to support myself and no others. 
  • While I am an immigrant, I do not speak with an accent 
  • I am an asian cis woman and do not face many of the discriminations that brown, black and trans women face. 
  • My past experiences and networks give me a strong chance of being hired for a living wage job should I need one to make money. 
  • I currently do not have to support any parents, children or relatives through my income. 

While I am a strong proponent of taking risks and working towards your goals/dreams, I fear that by emphasizing that idea too strongly, we are implying that if you’re not happy with the life that you’re living or the job that you’re working – it is due to your own choices and I just don’t think it’s as simple as that. Many folks have real barriers to choosing – financial means, family obligations, lack of a support network and safety net,  social and cultural barriers and more.

That is to say, CHOOSING to “go for what we want” and “working on something you love” is not a privilege that everyone, many folks, have. 

While we do not control how much privilege we are given, we can control how we handle that privilege. It was refreshing to see our cohort (predominantly white cis women) acknowledge the various privileges (in conjunction with hardwork, drive and a little bit of luck) that had brought us all to this discussion in the desert of West Texas.

I am thankful to have left Marfa with so many new friends and future collaborators whose drive and vision inspires me on the regular and to have been given the opportunity to participate in this space. I hope that conversations like this will continue to bring to light the complex nuances to “self care” and “living a life you love” and perhaps the next step will be to have a conversation on how action items to make these options more availably widely to anyone to seeks them. 

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