Hmm, the thread’s title confused me at first. I thought that you were asking about dreams physiological/neurological sense. I was already gathering my biology and evolutionary psychology textbooks when I read what you’d written
Anyway, let me talk about my personal dreams for a while. When I was a kid, from about 6 to 10, I wanted to be a biologist. I was enchanted with everything from biology, specially evolutionary theory, and I read as much as could on the subject.
From 10 to 14 years, I wanted to be a geneticist. I’d this cheesy dream of being a biomedical researcher and helping to find the cure to diseases like AIDS, or fighting cancer. Until then I was mostly unaware of the economical realities of my country (economics didn’t interest me back then).
When I was 15 and went to high school, I developed an interest in physics (it all began after I read “The Physics of Star Trek”). I read as much as I could on the subject, but by this time I was well aware of the socioeconomic state of my country. It was by this time that I abandoned the dream of being a scientist (yes, you can call it weak will on my part). I though that I’d never have what it takes to go abroad and become a scientist somewhere else, and working in my own country was an unattainable dream, since the funding here is so low (biologists, physicist and the like invariably end up as professors in universities, which wasn’t my dream at all).
Besides, I needed a job, and I needed it fast. My allowance was ridiculous (I could barely buy a book a month with the money that I got from my parents). Finding a job in an office was the quickest route. I first started as an intern in an insurance company, then assistant accountant in an industry.
Graduating in Accounting was a logical choice, then. I enjoyed the hard math of economics more, but I degree in economics would leave me in no better position to find a job, so I chose Accounting. Now I’m 23 years old, work as a full-blown accountant in a financial company, and have a quite good salary (for my country’s standards, that is).
Am I happy with it? Definitely not. Do I have the guts to make a U-turn in my life now? Certainly not.
I’m currently looking forward to a better job, preferentially in the stock market (more precisely: the Brazilian Securities and Exchanges Comission). If this doesn’t work out, then I’ll probably take something in public finances, or finally take the Auditor route as a desperate measure (being a professional Auditor usually pays well, but I find it too boring). My boss once told me that I’ve the qualities of a leader, and that I’ve a lot of potential in management… I don’t know how much of this is true.
Anyway, I often wonder where I’d be now if I were bolder in when I was younger… or if I were bolder now. But a big part of me is too risk-averse to take big chances (this is a strength sometimes, but mostly a weakness).
Anyway Mike, whatever you do, do it before you get a family. Once you get a family you’ll be unable to make radical changes in your life (or at the very least it’ll be a lot harder). And engineering, in a broad sense, is not a bad career choice. There’re many innovative engineers out there. Look at the profiles of Steve Mann, Kevin Warwick or Hans Moravec. They’re highly unconventional persons, who like to step outside the accepted boundaries and yet are respected in their fields. It’s always up to you to make a difference.