Of all the memories I had with my aunt in Florida, the strongest ones are when I was younger, when memories were few and far in between. You must have dreams, she would say. Her emphasis was always on the “must” as if it outweighed the word “dreams.” She instilled it in me quite often, so much so that I could predict what time of day she would wax poetic (4 p.m., around tea time, or late at night when philosophy has no limits.)

My life was built on a dream — an American dream. The daughter of an immigrant and American school teacher, my parents bought a small home and grew their family, filling all three bedrooms with goofy kids and memories.

So I don’t know why having dreams seems out of the ordinary now. If it happened for my parents, it could happen to me. The initial “happy dream” part. The gooey “striving for something and eventually your hard work ethic paid off” part. The “being able to own your own house” part.

Sometimes I wonder, as I look up at the stars or read a really great sentence or just stare at a painting and let the color seep into my eyes, what the purpose of dreaming is. I wonder what we are doing with our time, the one thing we kind of own.

Like I can condense it all into events — a succession of day-to-day activities — and then conclusively I know what I’m doing: breakfast, work, class, lunch, class, dinner, sleep. Those are tasks on a list. Besides the monotonous routine, our days add up to fairly insignificant passages of time, and time has a way of escaping us.

For dreams to be attainable, and less fleeting than time, they need to be built on more than gaining money and prestige, because those are just means to an end. There’s more to life than watching your bank account grow. What I find alluring is this glowing potential revolving around dreams. Even the word itself has this magical, enigmatic quality. Ask anyone, regardless of age or generation, they know exactly what the word entails without knowing the personal distinction of it. The connotation of the word has a youthful quality to it because it feels as if the youth have a chance to make their dreams a reality.

And some of my friends are that — free and fresh-faced and young. But some of them aren’t. In college we’re taught to be skeptical, to question everything. Do your research, get the right source, really dig deep and find the true meaning or solution of a problem. The skepticism that results, though highly thought provoking and necessary for growth, can lead to questioning yourself. There’s the “who am I” question that all individuals face at one time or another and there’s the “what do I want” question with an answer that is dependent on a life stage.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that as college students, we feel like we know a lot. For four years we run head first into a mystical realm of studying, reading books and writing papers, conducting experiments, taking exams. I’m grateful for the opportunities and the knowledge I’ve received from higher education. I really am. But honestly, I’m slightly terrified by what reality means for my dreams because most dreams don’t hold up to reality. They fall flat on their face without the confines of a utopian university setting.

You have to have dreams. You have to have goals. You have to work towards something. Because, I think ultimately, you have to have something that matters to you, that you think is important, that you can devote some of yourself or time to. Maybe this is obvious. But I forget the obvious quite often and instead focus on the routine. As I come closer to graduation, I realize that I want something even though I’m not sure what that something is.