I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. Not the analysis of them, or the symbolic nature of them, or even what they may tell us about our mind’s propensity for fits of insanity. Instead, I’ve been thinking about the advice many of us are given as kids. We are told to chase after our dreams, to reach for them and to never give up. This is great advice, and it’s what I tell my two daughters all the time. However, we are rarely told what to do, if and when those dreams come true, and that is what I’ve been thinking about lately.

For most of the world, what to do when their dreams come true is not an issue, they are hardly able to conceptualize dreams, much less work toward their fruition. Instead, most of the world is working everyday to survive, to live, and if they’re lucky to succeed. Don’t get me wrong, as children we all dream about what our lives will be like when we grow up. Some dream of being a doctor, some of being leader of their country, while others dream of being a singer, or a farmer, or simply a mom or dad. For most of the world, though, those dreams wane as they grow up and face the realities of life. For many, just being a mom or dad will be the only dream they achieve.

For a lucky few of us, dreams can become reality. I am one of the lucky ones. I have a gorgeous family filled with love and am a professor and field primatologist who spends his days in the forest following chimpanzees, and then writes and lectures about it to college students. Now, on the verge of moving into the house we’ve been looking for and a new venture in my professional life, I stop to wonder: what’s next? I’ve been working my whole life to achieve my dreams. Not once while I was on this journey did I think that it couldn’t be done [thanks Mom and Dad], but it wasn’t easy, and I didn’t mind the hard work. Now, however, I stop to wonder what my next dream is.

Don’t get me wrong, my journey is nowhere near its conclusion. I still have to get tenure, publish my two books and become full professor, but these dreams are secondary to those with my family and my research. Those that are becoming realities. It is that “success” that I’m trying to understand how to cope with. How do we as goal driven, hard-working individuals enjoy success when it comes to us? How do we revel in our successes while continuing to respect our dreams? I’ve watched this past week as a fellow child of 1972, Corey Haim, reaped the results of not handling success. He spiraled into drug addiction early on in life and never found his way out. While he wasn’t the biggest star [though he was for a while] or the most talented actor, he was a child of the 80’s and starred in a few iconical hits of my youth. I felt bad for him, and thought about how his dreams came true and he couldn’t handle it. I wondered if anyone who was telling Corey how he would become famous, and why, ever stopped to tell him what to do when his dreams materialized? I’m willing to bet that conversation never occurred.

I don’t claim to have the answers, and don’t have to worry about stardom and celebrity, though I have some thoughts on handling both. What I’d really like to know is what everyone thinks about why we’re not told what to do when we achieve our dreams, and how we should handle it when our dreams come true.