Unmet Dreams

A Poem

Lindsey Kawela Kim

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I wrote this poem in 2022. This is a meditation on loss and change.

Chronic pain changed my life. Before my injury, I was ambitious and had many goals and dreams. I was fired up and ready to grind my way to partner at a Big Four firm. I admired my childhood gymnastics coach who could do elegant, powerful tumbling passes well into her forties. I always thought if I stayed in shape and kept my skills up, I could be like her. Growing up in Hawaiʻi, I loved surfing and hiking and planned on being one of those aunties who catches a dawn patrol sesh before going to work. These dreams are mostly unfeasible now, and I’ve been forced to modify them or give them up.

It’s all felt somewhat like a break-up. A break-up with who I once was and who I was on my way to becoming. The Lindsey I always imagined and planned for myself. We all must alter our plans, that’s just life. I had some room for flexibility within that plan, but I don’t think most people envision themselves tied down by chronic pain in their twenties. I always imagined that one day I’d be a working mom, picking up her kids after a full day of work and doing errands with a baby strapped to my back. Because of my injury, I no longer have the energy capacity to sustain a full-time work schedule. And carrying a child for more than 15 minutes will require years of physical therapy to get there. I’ve had to break-up with the idea that the plans I once had will be easily attainable let alone attainable at all.

That break-up, however, has allowed for new life. My former dreams didn’t simply shrivel up and die, they experienced a rebirth. I’ve always felt an affinity with Tūtū Pele and the moʻolelo I grew up hearing of her perseverance and power through cycles of destruction and rebirth. Just as from the ashes of a lava flow comes fertile soil that nurtures new life, so too have my dreams found new life. Yes, my former dreams may be left empty, but the grief experienced from that loss is now ingrained in me and pushes me toward new spaces and new dreams.

Image description: A rain-soaked orange skirt is held by a hand whose wrist is adorned with a deep green jade bracelet. Bare feet show from under the skirt. One foot is in a shallow muddy pool. There is a leaf stuck on the other foot. A red anthurium rests on the muddy ground nearby. The forest floor is covered in rocks, roots, and muddy pools. The poem reads:

“we all have unmet dreams
moons we would’ve shot to
worlds not explored
those holes
shape who we are
and we
fill new spaces
with these
unmet dreams”

mahalo nui for reading ❤

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Lindsey Kawela Kim

A mixed Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) with a Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) for chronic pain. No Oʻahu mai au. Noho au ma Duwamish Land.