Layaway Dreams: Life is Short (but you have plenty of time)

When seeking happiness, developing a life plan, laying out dreams–it’s easy to get mired in a conundrum.

On the one hand, life is short (i.e. you could die).

An illness, tragedy, act of God, act of terror, freak accident, piano falling from the sky, banana peel on the sidewalk, toddler getting a hold of and running amok with a butcher knife–any of these could end your days at any moment. Really. (Even that last one seems more and more possible to me every day…)

With our imminent end in mind, Robin Williams:

Make the most of your time, because you might not have much left. Don’t procrastinate your dreams.

But on the other hand, you can’t have it all, all at once.

It’s a common criticism of us Millennials that we feel entitled to “have it all.” I think the reality is that we feel pressured to do it all. We’ve been convinced of an American Dream, we or our parents spend a lot of money to educate us, and now we need to go out and live up to all of the hype and potential. The expectations are high.

You should have many goals in your lifetime. But sometimes one goal will simply not allow time or energy for another goal. As my mom told me, this is really ok. If you live to be 80 years old, at 30 you’re not even halfway there. There is plenty of time to realize your dreams.



Despite the logical discord, these ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. As a first step, I think we need to take the carpe diem mentality one step further. It’s not just recognizing that you’re going to die. It’s recognizing that mortality washes out the hang-ups endemic to our doubting, wimpy little selves. Get over yourself. Don’t let a fear of failing keep you from trying. In the face of death, there’s much greater value in going for it than in holding back.

With that in mind…

Put some dreams on layaway and keep making payments.

Putting some dreams aside for the future doesn’t mean you’re giving up on them.

Do things today that support your dreams for the future. You might not be able to take on one of your big goals right now, while you achieve other things. But there are probably small steps you can take towards those dreams. Recognize and cultivate those opportunities.

I have writing ambitions that surpass this blog. But the reality? There is simply not enough time in my present life to make those goals a priority if I also want to be a stay-at-home-mom and not totally suck at it (surprisingly, my 18 month old doesn’t respond to appeals such as “Mommy needs to finish these edits” or even, “Shut it, kid. I’m busy!”). So I write this blog. Some weeks it only gets my 3 hours on Tuesday night. Some weeks, I work it into another evening or a nap time. But the important thing is that the activity still gets enough attention to keep it alive, simmering in the background until it can come to the fore.

Photo by J E Theriot on Flickr

Photo by J E Theriot on Flickr

Recognize that you’re becoming the person who will do *Big Future Thing.* We are in a constant state of growing into the person we will become. Imagine the dreams you’ve set aside as inevitable in that future version of yourself and therefore don’t feel guilty about not achieving these goals today.

It’s possible that I’m just not yet the person who is going to write Amazing Book X. That’s fine. I will be her at some point in my life. My successes as a mom will help give me the confidence she needs. My experiences as a mom will contribute to what she is one day going to write.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, happiness is a long-term, holistic process. You can’t hinge your happiness on the successes or failures of each day — that’s crazy-making. Big success takes vision. Consider how your today is helping to build your tomorrow and make the most of what you can do today.

Do you think this is an effective way to manage conflicting ambitions? What dreams have you had to put aside in your life?

10 responses to “Layaway Dreams: Life is Short (but you have plenty of time)

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  6. I could not agree more!!! So my long term vision has been to be a successful professional singer…aka getting paid in money, not food and drinks :). Like Jean, I am a stay at home mama who devotes snippets of what is left of my creative and emotional energy to my craft. Most of the time I feel like it’s a drop in the bucket, why am I even doing this? Well, it’s to keep the dream alive!!! I have to keep the pilot light burning so that when a famous producer calls, I can be ready! Ha! As you can see, I think a healthy amount of fantasy is helpful too…keeps me motivated when I’m roaming my house in sweatpants.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! Well you definitely have the talent, so keeping the vision alive (and then one day having the time)–it sounds like a sure recipe for success!

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