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Rule #8 Make no small dreams, always test the limits of who you are - Rules for Embracing Life in the 21st Century
Ivan reconstructed the lots of Columbus in 1821. A dream job for a young man.

Rudbeckia Maxima is a coneflower with big dreams. Seeing it in all its outstretched glory is an invitation to smile. The unimpressive cabbagelike leaves force their way out of the ground in spring. Rudbeckia Maxima grows and it grows and it grows until it tops seven feet tall. Slender stalks sway in the smallest breeze. The yellow flower with the brown center comes out the top like an afterthought. The dream is to get REALLY BIG. A dream it lives out every summer.

"All men dream. But not equally.

Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity.

But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes and make it possible."

The archeologist turned military tactician didn't see his dream come true. He died from a motorcycle crash in 1935. He wanted free and independent Arab states. The great powers that won World War I divided up the region like pieces of birthday cake. British control in the Middle East between the two world wars stretched from the Suez Canal to the Persian Gulf. France got Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria and Lebanon.

A common question adults ask small children is "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

A child's answer may be astronaut, president, pop star or some unattainable sounding goal to an adult. Not all childish ambitions come true. But that doesn't make the dreaming less valuable.

Dreaming is the first step. Testing limits is the next.

If the dream is to become reality, it must move the dreamer looking at their dream with open eyes. Then acting on the dream to make it come true.

Geography was Ivan's dream by day doorway. Everything was based on geography. The world and the people are shaped by the rivers and oceans and land around them. His first and enduring love was for geography.

One of his earliest jobs was recreating the lots of the City of Columbus Kentucky for 1821. The Mississippi River had already devoured much of the lower town. As bluffs calve off and sand deposits and detritus add land mass, the Mississippi continues to change the geography of its banks. He never forgot the joy in drawing the shape of a town equipped with only pencils and a ruler. It was his daydream come true. At right, the Mississippi River at Columbus 1821.

I dreamed of becoming a librarian. That dream was dashed when my college library science advisor told me she didn't think I had the right major. Like so many young people, I deemed her wiser than I. I changed to elementary education.

Our dream stories, Ivan's and mine, are illustrations of young people and their dreams. Some are helped. Others are not.

Ivan found mentors. Or mentors found him. His professors challenged him. They offered him opportunities. In government, he often said his one and only job was to make the governor look good. He created policies for programs from sewer systems to national rural development.

I had mentors too. In my senior year of college, my student teaching professor, Dr. Simmons, was strict, strong, terrifying. His observations were brutally honest. A history professor remembered me to an elementary supervisor friend. She interviewed and hired me for a teaching position in Frankfort. Together, they changed my life in more ways than one. I met Ivan because I needed to borrow computers for a school-related event. (another story for another day)

The first woman attorney I ever met wore a red dress with matching cape when we went to court together. Unforgettable!

One day she said to me "you can do this."

"Do what?" I asked.

"Be a lawyer."

It was a dream I would have abandoned in the first months without the encouragement of the mentor I married. Too many days I felt that the whole venture was beyond my physical, mental and geographic abilities. He was always there to say, "you can do this."

Children dream by day. It is for adults to cheer them on when they test their limits. Sometimes they will fail. Failure is a teacher. Our society deems losses as failures. But what lessons are learning in winning?

Like T. E. Lawrence, the dream may outlive us. Nations rose and empires fell as he foresaw.

Be Rudabeckia Maxima, day dreams should be big, big, big. Even if we look like a cabbage getting there. There is no shame in reaching up high.

Dream by day. Be dangerous.

Addendum: We found Ivan's Rules for Embracing Life in the 21st Century while going through the many pieces of paper he left behind. I was his editor, correcting his grammar, his creatively spelled words and his bureaucratic run on sentences. He didn't share these twelve rules with me so I am not sure when he wrote them or even what prompted him to write them. The rules have made me stop and think. They have pushed me to write again and to share thoughts on each rule and what I think it meant to him. And what it means to me.


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