My wish about my dreams

I’m gonna fly in the face of the wives’ tale and tell you the wish I wished yesterday as Jo and I blew out my birthday candles together. It was this: for my dreams to come back.

Is it motherhood or just good, old fashioned adulthood that clamped a lid down on the dream-spinning version of myself? That 20-something gal who would hatch a plan like working on organic farms in New Zealand and then incubate it till the shell broke open and she found herself standing, dazed, on a South Island beach with a backpack and some mix tapes.

At this very minute, sitting at my dining room table while Cal naps, these are my dreams:

  • To save some money when Jo starts going to public school in the fall
  • That Calvin will start sleeping well enough that we can move him out of our room and into Jo’s
  • A flexible career that will pay me well for my emotional intelligence, creativity and people skills
  • To be at peace with my squishy belly

Ok, so I’ve got some dreams. But I miss the sexy ones. The ones that feel more like an adventure and less like a project.

Growing older feels like a steady process of pruning my dreams back to reality. Consolidating the fruit to where I can reach it–a weekend in the city with AJ, a flexible, part time job, extra money in the bank.

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And if I tug on that thread just a little bit more, I arrive at this: It’s seeming like my life is going to be a little less grand and important and special than I originally thought.

In my adolescence, I genuinely believed I had a strong shot at becoming President of the United States. In high school, I had high-powered business woman fantasies (with images heavily stocked from the movie Baby Boom (!) which greatly impacted my life in other ways). College was all activism–ending hunger and homelessness, liberating sweatshop workers, reforming corporations. I felt reasonably sure I could save the world in a very high-profile way.

At the ripe old age of 36, I’ve scaled back. I don’t expect that greatness and achievement anymore. There’s relief in letting it go. And also defeat.

I try to invest my time, energy and dreaming in smaller, daily things that make me happy: sitting in the sun watching the chickens preen, climbing trees with Jo, a really good strawberry.

But I can’t help but wonder if I’ve pruned back too far.

In the name of realism, have I cut back parts of myself that would have grown into something inspiring and brilliant?

Is it having kids, or risk of failure, pessimism, laziness–what? that keeps me from stretching out into that ambitious dream space again?

21 thoughts on “My wish about my dreams

  1. I feel like I’ve been struggling with this for years. My dreams were silent for a long time. For me, I think it has more to do with facing what feels impossible. How do I support myself in an expensive place like this and find a way to gain experience and education so that I can eventually, finally, do work that I really enjoy? Maybe some people are good at dreaming beyond what feels possible, but I think that gets harder the older we get.

  2. Agreed about dreams these days just bring projects with a nicer title. So much goal-setting and financial planning and scheduling until I’m not sure why I even wanted it in the first place. So then I just dream of Easter candy.

  3. I think it’s just adulthood that makes us change our outlook on what is possible. Further, when you are younger (20’s), you often don’t have “real” responsibilities, such as a permanent job, a house/long-term rent, kids or other (major) financial obligations; it does seem just possible to do whatever you damn well please (and many of us did). I’ve found that many of the big ideas (call them dreams, if you will) I had when I was younger have actually happened, but they weren’t quite what I was expecting; and, in some ways, that led me to realize that it’s ok for our ideas, wishes, etc to change as life unfolds. I was much more spontaneous and idealistic when I was younger, but I wasn’t as happy with myself, as if doing and being all these great things would somehow make me feel like I was an “adult” or had arrived somehow. Also, I think we, as a society, misplace our emphasis on what is actually brilliant or extraordinary. Many of the more extraordinary people I have known were seemingly quite “ordinary”, but they impacted others around them in a way that may not have happened had they been pursuing what we often see as success. There is nothing wrong with having what may seem to be less grandiose dreams compared to what we thought when we were younger, but that doesn’t mean that they are any less valid or any less worthy. My current goal is to have a permanent place to live before I’m 40, having spent the last 15 years bouncing all over the place. That seemed really cool and interesting when I was 22; not so much now. I don’t think that means I am now old and boring, just maybe better at recognizing what is truly important to me. Oh, and it would be nice if someone actually paid a living wage for the field in which I work.

    1. This blog post speaks to me. I am also 36 and I have a 3 year old and another on the way. I know that the daily life with these two is the best work – the absolute fulfillment of dreams I have always held, but I am also grappling with the distance from my other, more adventurous ambitions. I spent so much of my 20’s trying to settle down that I think I forgot to do what Corrie, above, did – bounce around and try things out when my responsibilities were limited to just me.
      But Corrie also points out something else that rings true for me – that I was not as at peace with who I am when I was younger. Maybe that’s just aging, maybe that’s a product of building this life that I envisioned for myself. I like me more now.
      I try to remind myself that it is not “over” just because I am nearing 40. Maybe my access to adventure has changed, and maybe it’s changed for the better. I’m not sure yet, as the mortgage, cars, full time job (teacher in NC – also under living wage, as Corrie points out!), and family life don’t leave as much access to travel or the beach body I still imagine, but perhaps we will get ahead in the next few years. Maybe when the kids are in public school, we can save some money and buy an RV and travel around the country for a year. It’s not an organic farm in New Zealand, but it still sounds exciting!

  4. Here is what I have noticed in my life: You scale back on your dreams when your kids are little. Your time and energy are focused on managing, maintaining, and surviving. Once your littles enter school, and you finally feel like you have a moment to yourself, then the aspirations you had come back and your leadership skills emerge. Only this time around, you are a better leader and visionary because you look at the world through the lens of being a mom. You realize that everyone is a daughter or a son to someone, and you treat the world with a little bit more kindness.

  5. I so know this feeling. But I have an inkling that savoring the small deep joys of “ordinary” life and creatively setting in motion broad social change may not be so far apart. Especially for you, dear one, who has courage to look straight in the eye of the everyday moment and sense the broad sweep of its meaning and significance–even when it’s hard to look. And you are pitch perfect when you describe these things which in turns helps others see the beauty and significance in the ordinary moments in life, too. And how is that not a revolutionary act in a world that screams “More! Bigger! Better! Faster!” all the while losing sight of the significance of sunshine on your skin, chickens preening and tree climbing with your child?

    This post is timely, too, because Niels and I were just dreaming a little BIG dream for you this morning: we want you to build a flexible, financially sustainable career for yourself here with us at Parent Connect East Bay; bring your emotional intelligence, creativity and people skills and help us transform the face of parenting and family life in our culture.

    Buif the wisdom and grace that you are meeting the every day of your life with was the same ground from which you could be part of creating broad change by bringing all of who you are? Whether you opt to work with us or not (and I’m not kidding!), I have deep faith that the ordinary will meet the grand, important and special in big way in your life. Because your “small dreams” that sprout out of this “small life” have such broad resonance and speak to matters of such significance. You make the ordinary shine, it’s just who you are.

    Love, Angela

    1. HOLY MOLY, Angela. Sounds like we need to have lunch 🙂 I’m *certainly* interested. And so grateful for what you’ve written here–helps me see a fresh spin on all of this that feels less defeated. More rooted and lifting.

  6. I think your writing really makes a difference! And I have started of dreaming about after college 😉 Tiny house, travel, me

  7. I’ve had thought like that… and then I’ve thought that maybe it’s enough that I am this important high profile person to some… a select few (such as my kids)… and maybe I will help inspire them to be the big shots in a bigger way than me. Anyway, everything you do makes some kind of impact, if not with a big bang then with lots of little ripples. 🙂

  8. I use to think the same thing when i first had my son, but then I came to believe that being with him was the best adventure of all. Now that he is getting older, I find myself reclaiming my old dreams and worrying about when we will grow apart

  9. I completely relate to this. When my first daughter was 18, I started all over again w/ my second daughter ~ I know there will be a time when I can focus on myself more and enjoy my girls in a different way. Now that Grrl#2 is almost 9, my uterus has been yelling at me to do it JUST ONE MORE TIME! Thank God my head is in charge and not my hormones! I wonder where my dream went and then I look at my grrls and realize that they ARE my dreams ~ they bring me so much joy (heartache and annoyance, too; don’t get me wrong!) and I would do it all again and again. AND I know that my days of adventure are just different for now… Who knows if this even makes sense but it sure helped me to read your words and then write some of my own. Is nice to remember that I chose this and would choose it again. OXOXOX

  10. What a beautiful post! I know you’re not alone here. We all have these thoughts/feelings for sure! Your writing is magnificent, the detail is striking and you are one funny gal! We just joined an intentional community in Mendocino where it feels like being removed from the daily drudgery and into a more dream space zone of creativity, connection, earth and wonder. Maybe you could consider something like that?

  11. thank you so much for writing this – feeling the same with two littles at home and a life that formerly included lots of adventures with a capital A (international travel, mountain climbing, etc). i think of it in my head as just having a bit of tunnel vision right now in this phase of our family that is so so demanding and intense…somedays it feels like i haven’t left a 4 block radius around our house! but, i like to think my dreams are still there and just outside my most immediate field of view and will (hopefully) still be there when i can pick my head up a bit (even if that’s a couple years from now 🙂

  12. As a father who has/had big dreams, I understand what you mean. For me, I just try to live the life I have, and make as many good moments with my family. I try to stay young by doing goofy stuff with my kids like building a fort and going to parks. I let their imagination be my playground as I go along for the ride. Great post!

  13. Inspiring! How many times have I told myself that I’d be a lawyer by now or that my entrepreneurial skills should have enfolded by now. We are mothers and we wear our badges proudly. Personally, I believe we are more than dedicated to nurturing that we often forget our selves. The term I have come to appreciate most is “self-care”; never forgetting to do things I enjoy, remembering to enjoy the children, while still attending to other aspects of our lives. It is who we are. But breaks are important too. Knowing when to recognize the need is another thing 🙂 I never realize I need a break until I am exhausted and nearly burnt out. My flaw is trying to be the energizer bunny. I can’t do it all.

    I always wanted to be a dancer and because my daughter enjoys dance, I have to be careful that I’m not pushing her and ensuring that she continues to enjoy it. I try not to focus on the dream I had and focus on developing the skills I have acquired. I have a writing skill that is so un-nurtured and I want to work on strengthening that skill. It also takes my mind off of the stretch marks and wide hips that have evolved.

    Thanks for your post!

    #MomsRock #Motherhood #Mommy #MoreThanAMom

  14. I found this post and the comments very insightful and meaningful. I’m not a mother. I’m turning 37 in a few days. I, too, struggle with the idea of dreams lost, although I’m not sure that I’ve ever known what they were. Now I want kids, but I’m putting my husband through school (he just finished his master’s and starts a PhD this fall). The fear in my 20s (not knowing what to do with my life) continues. I’ve even wondered if the desire to have kids came from not knowing what else to do with my life, which is a horrible thought to consider or even admit. Thank you all for sharing, reminding us that this struggle is not unique.

    1. I found your comment really meaningful and insightful! LOVE your questioning about the desire to have kids and your willingness to go there. I find its one of the HARDEST things to slow down, get quiet and listen to myself. The busy busy, go go world we live in does not leave us thinking that it has any value at all. But it DOES. I still regularly feel dreamless, but had a little break in the clouds recently: https://anhonestmom.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/where-i-found-my-dreams/

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