by Caroline Cannon

To say it was a rough day would be an understatement. The missed alarm clock, the pop quiz I was not prepared for, and the gross fish sticks at lunch made school almost unbearable for me as a sixth-grader. And then, when I got home and logged onto my iPad, I found out that all of my crops had died in the game “Hay Day”, where I had worked for two years to grow the best farm in my grade.

I threw down my iPad on my bed in disgust. “This day sucks,” I said as I flopped on my bed and smushed my collection of stuffed animals. I looked down beneath me and recognized the ears of my pastel pink bunny—creatively named “Pink Bunny”—, my favorite stuffed animal. I sighed as I picked her up and hugged her tight across my chest. As I started to cry, my mind wandered to my Uncle Tom, who gave me Pink Bunny when I was born.

As a trucker, my Uncle Tom doesn’t have a lot of vacation days built into his schedule. But even though I only see him once or twice a year, he’s still my favorite uncle. With me being the youngest cousin in my family, I was often left out of the activities my older cousins did at family gatherings. But, Uncle Tom never forgot about me. He was always there to tell a funny story, ask me about school, take me out for milkshakes and fries, and send me the best birthday presents. Each time I look at a gift I received from him, I think of those good memories, and how much he loves me. Even if he’s driving a truck a thousand miles away, I know he’s always thinking of me.

On my 11th birthday, my Uncle Tom gave me a dream box. The wooden box was made out of cedarwood and had the words “Write down your dreams and lock them tight. Think of them every morning and night. If these things you faithfully do, your box of dreams will all come true,” and I, being the cool sixth grader I thought I was, laughed at how cliché it seemed.

“I’ll never use it!” I laughed to myself. “Who actually thinks that writing down dreams for the future will help them be accomplished?”

But only a few months later on the worst afternoon of my sixth grade year, I opened it for the first time.

I slid the box off of the shelf where it had sat for months and wiped off the layer of dust that had collected on top of it. Then, I tried to decide what dream to put into the box. Perhaps it could be traveling to France, or maybe getting all A’s on my report card. No, those were some of my goals, but I wouldn’t classify them as dreams. Dreams are something that seem unreachable and almost impossible, unlike goals that are challenging, yet seem accomplishable. “Yes, I can see myself traveling to France, and I am close to getting all A’s on my report card…I need something bigger than those,” I thought to myself. Then, I struck gold: meeting my three favorite actors from the TV show Supernatural would definitely be a dream.

I took out a sharpie marker, found a green post-it note, and wrote “How to meet Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins” in bold letters on the top. And then I made a list of the necessary steps to accomplish my dream; ranging from “research where and when I could be able to go to a convention” to “find the perfect outfit, not too cool, not too nerdy”.

Once my steps were all written out, I placed the note in the box and locked it tight, and thought of it every morning and night. And three years later, on June 10th, 2018, my dream came true.

My dream box has become a tradition that I greatly value. When I open my dream box, my fears float away. I don’t care about failing a pop quiz. I don’t care about the stress of school or extracurricular activities. I let my worries escape my head, and I focus on my dreams and goals. Sometimes, the goals are little, like getting more than eight hours of sleep each night. Other times, my dreams are bigger, like becoming a teacher one day. No matter the size of my goals or dreams, the box is always there to remind me to keep working. It reminds me to keep learning, to keep growing, and to have faith in myself. And it reminds me that I have a support system beneath me. I don’t see my Uncle Tom every day, but I know that he supports me no matter where he is. I feel blessed to have so many adults around me that support me and my dreams, and my dream box is a constant reminder of that.

A dream box doesn’t have to be a box. It can be a journal, an Instagram account, a bulletin board, or even a list in your head. The object doesn’t matter; it’s the purpose and the idea behind the dream box that matters. Finding time in our lives to escape the high-stress culture of society is a necessity to survive the 21st century, and dream boxes—or rooms or accounts or boards—provide that escape. So now, find your dream box. Write a note, lock it tight, and think of it every morning and night.