top of page

Dreams Past; Goals Ahead

“A goal is a dream with its work boots on. A goal is a dream you’ve decided to make real.”

Rachel Hollis.

I turned 60 last month. Applying a sunny lens on my health and my genetics, I now stand in the final third of my life. I’m generally OK with that. Still, on a brisk walk with my dog Frankie, I found myself contemplating all the lives I did not lead in the past 60 years, all the dreams that I once had. Here is a partial list:

Pediatrician: Like many medically challenged children, I once imagined I would be a physician, helping other kids in need. It all made sense until high school when I encountered the academic towering brick walls named biology, chemistry, and calculus. The dream took another dive when I met Janine Slowinski, my dear friend who did become a physician. She worked far more diligently than I, becoming valedictorian of our class. I was more … relaxed (underachieving would be an alternate word). If Janine’s effort is what it took to be a physician, I was out.

Actress: To this day, people who knew me in high school occasionally kvell about my performance as Anne, in The Diary of Anne Frank. I could act, back in the day, and dreamed of pursuing this professionally. Somehow, I was blind to the fact that being disfigured would make acting extremely challenging, and no one discussed this problem with me. What eventually stopped me was an awareness that I was not sturdy enough to face the endless auditions and rejections of acting life.

Flutist: In junior high school, I was a good enough flutist to audition for the Julliard Pre-College program. I was not a good enough flutist to be admitted. I was also never interested in practicing an hour a day, let alone the five hours that most professional musicians endure.

Being a classical musician was more my mother’s dream than mine. My mother had been a brilliant concert pianist. She encouraged me, as I did have skill in interpretation and musicianship. But I was too social to spend hours alone practicing like my mother did when she was young. I really just wanted to have friends.

Someone who is admitted to Ivy League Colleges: When I was a senior in high school, my dream was to attend Yale. I knew it was a long-shot, being an A/B/even occasionally C student (hello pre-calculus!) and rather beguiled by alternate substances at the time. When I met with my guidance counselor, I planned to work up to confessing my Yale dream, so I warmed up with, “I would like to go to Tufts.”

“Tufts!” He exclaimed, “That would be a serious reach for you. Tufts?!”

At this point, it felt ludicrous to even mention that my real dream was Yale. I went home, compliantly applied to Tufts early decision, and was accepted. I loved Tufts, received a world-class education and made lifelong friends there. However, I have always wondered if I could have gotten into Yale if I had only tried.

Side note: Decades after high school, I spent an afternoon with the aforementioned valedictorian Janine Slowinski. We started talking about life regrets. I mentioned that I regretted not working harder in high school, because maybe I could have gone to Yale. Janine took a beat, smiled, and replied, “You had a good time though, didn’t you? And you accomplished everything you wanted to. So, I would say it all worked out.”

Perhaps she had a point.

A tap dancer: The first great love of my life was Gene Kelly. It didn’t matter that I never met him or that he was 60 years older. I knew every word to Singin in the Rain. I figured that I too could be a good tap dancer, if I could just take lessons. Gene made it look effortless.

Several years ago, I took those tap lessons. Despite my sunny confidence, I turned out to be barely mediocre in the beginner’s class. When the beginners class transitioned into fast-paced regular adult tap, I flailed, forgetting the few steps I had recently learned. I dropped out after three weeks.

Someone who owns a huge house on the water: I feel bad about this one. Our home is a perfectly lovely four-bedroom colonial and I have no need to ever want more. But on my walk today, I passed a stately four-story gray stone house high atop a hill, with banks of windows overlooking the verdant Delaware Canal and I sighed.

A Guest on Oprah: I truly think Oprah would love my book, Flashback Girl, if she could only hear of it. I have tried everything I can think of to get the attention of the Harpo people, but to no avail. I also am apparently destined to never be on The Today Show or be published in the New York Times. I will keep trying because I am just that stubborn, but folks, it’s tough out there.

I just told my husband the topic of this blog. “That’s a little bleak, huh?” he responded. But it is bleak? I’m 60. I’m here!

I think it is vital to both have dreams and to articulate them clearly. Putting words on what you want will help clarify your goals. Having clarified them, you are far more likely to make the steps toward making those goals happen. Achieving a long-term vision involves taking hundreds of little steps in the right direction. Being 60 may narrow down my options, but I still dream. Here are my current goals:

I will set my feet on every continent: I have traveled to five out of the seven continents, most spectacularly in Antarctica last year. I still need to visit Asia and Australia, and then I will have accomplished one of my biggest dreams.

I will set my feet in all 50 states: Thanks mainly to three Deguire family cross-country trips, I have visited 44 states. My brother Marc made it to 42. My father got to 48, and my mother made it to 50. I’m looking to see all 50 too. This will entail travel to Hawaii (not a sacrifice!), North and South Dakota, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

I will give a TEDx talk: And I will! I applied for a number of TEDx talks and was rejected each time. So this was a tough goal to meet. However, I was recently accepted to deliver a TEDx talk at Widener University on September 28, 2023, and I am thrilled.

I will work to achieve the highest possible readership for Flashback Girl: My book was published 30 months ago, and I still speak about it regularly, around the country and even recently in New Zealand. I love sharing the book’s messages of hope, resilience, love and helping each other through challenges. Readers have told me that the book carried them through crises, sometimes even crediting it with keeping them alive. I believe the book has power to help many more people, and I do my best to support its readership, one talk and one article at a time.

I want to improve representation of disfigurement: The entertainment industry often uses disfigurement in characters to symbolize evil (Darth Vader) or lovelessness (Hunchback of Notre Dame). These negative representations are prejudicial and do harm to those of us who look different. Together with colleagues, I have been writing, speaking, and working on this issue. I think we can change Hollywood's stories of disfigurement, and I think we can increase the public’s demand for fair representation. Here is a position paper I had the honor in helping to create, along with Face Equality International, The Phoenix Society, and Facing Forward. And here is an interview I just did with Jay Ruderman, on The Ruderman Foundation podcast, All About Change.

I might write another book: I’m not sure. Many readers have asked me when my next book will come out. For years I have been too busy speaking and presenting about Flashback Girl to have time to write. Also, what do I want to write about? I have many ideas, but no clear direction. Do I even want to go through all this again? We shall see.

I want to speak on NPR again: And I just did! Here I am on Growing Bolder (my interview starts around minute 20).

I want to meet my grandchildren: I can’t even imagine the joy of my beautiful daughters having their own beautiful babies.

I want to attend a writers’ retreat: I dream of staying in a cabin in the woods on a lake, focusing on writing for a month, surrounded by other authors who are doing the same. I have no idea where I would do this, but surely there is such a thing.

I want to sing with my friends: I spent many joyful hours in high school singing with my best friends, Joe, and Sue. Recently, Joe started writing songs, and we have resumed singing regularly again, which is the happiest thing on earth. I love the sound of our voice together. I also love the simple pleasure of being with Joe and Sue, whose dear faces flood my heart with joy. Every rehearsal contains a moment when we laugh so hard and so long that we clutch our bellies, giggling and chortling like kids again.

So those are my goals: traveling, speaking, writing, presenting, singing, and being with friends and family. At 60, many doors have closed, but there are more miles in the road ahead.

What are your goals and dreams? How much time do you have left? Are you working to make your dreams a reality? No matter how old you are, you can be active and involved. Every day you are alive is an opportunity to achieve, accomplish, assist, or give back. Join me.

Lise Deguire's multiple award-winning memoir, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor, is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Newtown Book Shop and The Commonplace Reader.


Mike Wadley
Mike Wadley
Apr 14, 2023

This blog post resonated with me. Although I'm not disfigured physically I feel disfigured mentally. I am 74 years old, was raised by alcholics and have suffered from clinical depression as long as I can remember. What I related to was your list of regrets. I have a long list and many are the result of not putting in the effort that was required. I say to myself almost every day that it is hard knowing that the best I can achieve today is mediocrity. I discovered you through Growing Bolder. You are an inspiration to me.


Michael Wadley


Mar 26, 2023

Lise your comment: No matter how old you are, you can be active and involved. Every day you are alive is an opportunity to achieve, accomplish, assist, or give back. Join me! Really rings true to me especially after you go back to listing your dreams and your attempt to reach for them. Me: After evolving to a new older reality of what I am now equipped to accomplish and the new opportunities that come presented to me. This allows me to help other burn survivors reach across the abyss to find a new firm footing foundation. This allows them where they can stand and go forth in their life to be fulfilling in their future. Thank you for shar…

bottom of page