There’s a lot of pressure today on what young people should do with their lives. Finish high school, go to a four-year college, get a degree, make a lot of money at your prestigious job and get married. It’s straight-forward. It’s what everyone does. But what if you wanted to take a different path? Do you want to take a year off and pursue something other than education and money? Switch majors? Or you could begin following a dream you’ve had for a long time.
The Dream Share Project is a movement that is encouraging people to do just that. Chip Hiden and Alexis Irvin, lost and unsatisfied with their post-college office jobs, set off on a cross-country road trip in August 2010 to learn about themselves and meet successful people who have spent their lives following their dreams. Along the way they learned about finding life-long passion, committing to a dream and redefining what ‘success’ means.
“It started out as just talking to a few friends who were also recent graduates and were frustrated with their new jobs,” said Irvin.
“Neither of us had traveled much before,” said Hiden, “so we decided to go on a road trip. And then that idea evolved into so much more. We wanted to go and figure out what the ingredients were for success.”
The decision to document the journey was made. The couple went out to purchase Flip Video cameras, a new tent, plenty of food and then started out on their trip. Beginning in Maryland they traveled west, stopping in major cities along the way to find and interview people who have been successful in achieving their goals.
“We would pick which city we were going to stay in and then get right down to research,” said Irvin.
Throughout their trip, they met a lot of interesting and inspirational people including an Olympic skier, a member of the Original Latin Kings of Comedy, a slam poet, a Project Runway fashion designer and the CEO of a sustainable flip flop company.
After three months of traveling and driving over 15,000 miles, the couple returned home with over 50 hours of raw footage to work with. Neither had any experience in video editing or media studies, so creating a documentary was quite a task. Funded primarily by an account on Kickstarter, an online platform that helps fund creative projects, they were able to pay to put the film together and manage music royalties. The film is also sponsored by the Creative Visions Foundations, a group that supports creative leaders.
Now they are touring the country, showing their film and encouraging students to take their dreams seriously.
“A lot of the time we have these dreams, these goals that we keep to ourselves,” said Hiden. “It’s scary to put yourself out there sometimes, but once you share it, your dream starts to become reality.”
“Saying what you want to do out loud, especially to your friends and family is really important, “ said Irvin. “Once you tell everyone you want to write a book they’re going to be asking you, ‘Hey, how’s that book coming?’ And you’re going to want to be able to say you’re on top of it. It creates a support group.”
The video addressed what is referred to as “paralysis by analysis,” a state in which people think too much about a problem and do not take any action out of fear. According to various professors of sociology and career counselors interviewed in the documentary, one of the biggest reasons people don’t attempt to accomplish their goals is simply fear of failure.
“We’re talking about post-college goals here, which is a really serious subject. Even terrifying for some people,” said Irvin. “I think this is a very light way of getting people to start talking about it together.”
It’s common that, as the school-year begins to unfold, students are bombarded with the questions, “So, what are your plans for this year?” and “What do you want to do with your major.” Sometimes, students just don’t know yet.
After each screening of the documentary, Hiden and Irvin take their audience through a simple workshop to help them focus on their own dreams. The workshop asked audiences to openly discuss their dreams, list challenges they may face and ask for possible solutions from their peers. Discussion really got serious on both the Portland and Gorham campuses when the documentary was screened on Thursday.
“It was just really reassuring to talk with people who value childhood dreams,” said senior music major, Leigh Charest. “It was really encouraging. Sometimes I feel like I’m one of the only people focusing on serious goals, but now I see that everyone has their own dreams that they’re working toward and are willing to share their experiences.”
“This documentary helped me see that I’m on the right track and showed me some easy ways to stay there,” said sophomore Jennifer Joldersma, a digital art and media student. “I’m so inspired to just keep on going and become as successful as I can be in everything I do.”
For people interested in the project that are unable to attend a screening, there is an open-enrollment class offered on The Dream Share Project website. The class, which can be finished at your own pace, contains a series of podcasts and reading to help users break through mental roadblocks and discover their passion.
This documentary has inspired college students across the country to live for themselves and follow their dreams. Hiden and irvin are still connected to a few students that they have inspired in different corners of the country. There is a section of their website where people are allowed to post their dreams for the world to see. Participants are often helped and encouraged by other users. Remember, the first step is to say what you want to do outloud, so go tell someone your dream today.