You can make all your dreams come true – or can you?

Beginning of January. Time for promises, resolutions and goals. Time to look at the year that has gone by and to plan the one that has just started. And, alas, time for inspirational quotes.

You know the likes. They fill your social media feeds and stare at you from the self-help sections of bookstores.

Your life is what you make of it. You can make your dreams come true. Every man is the architect of his own fortune.

It is a lovely idea, isn’t it? That your choices, your actions guide your life – that you get what you deserve, and that, consequently, you deserve all the good that has happened to you and all the nice things that you have.

It’s a bit like believing in Santa Claus. Nice presents for nice children, nothing for the naughty ones.

Before Christmas, I visited a community shop that provides discounted food for people on benefits. Customers told me of their struggle to feed their children and the difficult choices they have to make each day. Afterwards, I drove past a public school, one of the most prestigious in Britain.

I don’t think there’s the need for me to type this out, but – can we really say that the children whose parents have to visit the community shop to be able to feed them have as great of a chance of making their dreams come true as those whose parents can afford to spend thousands and thousands of pounds each year just on their education?

Of course, it’s not just about money. Privilege comes in many forms and shades. And of course, it’s not to say that people from less privileged backgrounds can’t achieve greater things than their more fortunate peers – as history has shown, they often do.

Neither is it to say that the choices we make have no effect whatsoever (although that may be true at times). It is to say, however, that we don’t all have the same choices to begin with.

It reminds me of a conference where a slavery and sexual abuse survivor recounted her ordeal and the choices she had: either continue “working” for her abusers or go to the police – and risk deportation. Your life is what you make of it, eh?

So, as it is the season for motivational quotes, here’s a couple to add to the list:

If you can make your life what you want it to be, good for you, but don’t assume it’s the same for everyone. If you are faced with choices that are good or better, remember the ones who only have bad or worse. And if you think that there is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs – be thankful that you hold the key to the staircase.

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