Living the dream, or dreaming of living?

I love to ask people this question: “If you could DO or BE anything, what would it be?” (A very important query in trying to create a self-styled life)

And then I follow-up with, “Why aren’t you doing it?”

(Rarely do I find that people are living their dream, so I admit, it’s usually mean of me to ask, though I do so nicely.)

Occasionally, the dreams are led by a specific place they would want to live, or something they want access to–like the ocean. But rarely do people describe a life of absolute leisure. We humans are an industrious species—we want to DO THINGS! So most of these fantasies revolve around some type of work.

Of course, the follow-up question—the “why aren’t you” question—is met with many practical explanations. “You can’t make any money doing X.” “I can’t afford to go to back to school for Y.” “I’m actually not very good at Z, even though I am the happiest when I do it.”

The XYZ’s of why we can’t live our dreams, so easy to come up with… It’s so sad!


When I answer my own question (the first, happier one), I might give a different answer depending on the day. This is a roadblock to finding the will to make any one of these options happen. Indecision! It is hard to be honest with yourself about what your dreams really are. It takes a lot of self-reflection. It’s much easier to dismiss your dreaming and instead get to back to work.

Another roadblock: self-doubt, fear of failure. I think if you are really passionate about something, it is more likely you will be afraid to do it (at least, for me). We think things like, “what if someone else is better than me?” Getting over this, I am beginning to realize, comes with a bit of maturity. After a while we begin to just not care what others think, and finally accept that it is highly likely that someone else will be better. I’m not accepting mediocrity here. It’s just not always possible to judge ourselves against others, despite how heavily conditioned we’ve been to always see ourselves in a competition. Maybe this is why I was never the best athlete on the team, or why I’m not at all interested in pursuing a Wall Street-type career. I’m more interested in this: Can we think of success as finding joy in the effort, instead? (as my elementary school gym teacher tacked on the wall: “if you had fun, you won!”)

Sometimes I think it takes a jolt to the system to shock us into action. My jolt came with Kirby’s death. It is no coincidence that I have started writing this blog about a year and a half after that event. I am ready to start moving forward, to stop beating myself up for being what I thought was inherently lazy (I realize now I was just immobile with grief, and even that served a purpose). But now I need to get going, moving, creating.

And what are my dreams? Travel writer, or really any type of freelance writer (the likeliest, and scariest). Or interior designer/decorator (slightly more fanciful, but still possible). Or on days when I’m really delusional, famous singer (though I have brought more reality to that by settling on jingle singer. I think this could actually be possible—I do sing a mean “State Farm is there”).

Not quitting my day job (but it does make me happy)

So, let’s hear it. If YOU could do Anything, what would you do?

And… why aren’t you?

11 responses to “Living the dream, or dreaming of living?

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  6. Hey Jean! This is fantastic -congrats on putting your wonderfully articulate and insightful thoughts out there, into the internet aether! Chris led me to your blog; oddly, your posts never popped up on my fb home feed. Regardless, I’ve read a couple posts and I love it!

    If you don’t already know of it, I think you would really enjoy this blog I follow, The Art of Non-Conformity at×5/ . The sub-title is ”unconventional strategies for life, work and travel”, and fits squarely into the ‘life-design’ movement. Let me know if you like it… And, please, keep on writing! 🙂

    • Hi Julie! Thank you so much for your encouragement. Thanks for sharing that blog–it looks awesome! I have to explore it a bit more, but I definitely appreciate the inspiration!

  7. 1. If I could be doing anything, I would be living in a house near the tulip garden near Loyola and working there as a history professor, teaching classes about the cold war, and spies, and American awesomeness. When I wasn’t teaching I would read books and relax and sleep in in the middle of the week if I wanted, and if I got tired of Baltimore I’d move to williamsburg into an old colonial house, and teach at William and Mary. And while I was there I would take classes about archaeology/anthropology, because they have an awesome program there. Then, I’d write a book about the anthropology of espionage.

    2. Why not? Credit card debt and resulting negative net worth, lack of phd, anxiety about how long this would take and my potential baby having timeline… and back to having no money.

    • Ooooh can I have a permanent guest bedroom in your tulip garden house? I want to live there, too! I think your dream is a totally reasonable one. Do it!

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