Yesterday I got a message from an old friend of mine. It was one of those long thoughtful messages that make you feel like your friend is right there at the table with you, mug of hot tea in hand. The kind of message that reads like a good conversation. My favorite kind of message, because they make me think.
My friend was telling me about his latest dreams, and how he is working to bring those dreams to life. He has plans and he is pursuing those plans. He sounded excited and happy and energized about his immediate future. I am excited and happy for him, and with him!
Then he ended his message with Happy New Year wishes for me and the family, and he asked me to tell him about my own dreams.
So I refilled my coffee cup and started to answer. I commented on his plans and shared my enthusiasm about his hoped for restaurant. I updated him on little news items from my family, chatted about our shared political views and our hopes for a more progressive future. I smiled as I typed, enjoying the exchange of ideas with a kindred spirit.
Then I started a new paragraph, one that was supposed to describe my own dreams. I stopped. I thought. I sipped for a bit. H’m. My dreams? This was harder than I thought. Harder than it probably should have been.
Going back as far as I can remember, I have had dreams and goals and “something to wish for”. I’ve had the usual “wishing on a star” dreams (“Please let me fall in love.” “Let me get a job.” “Please, please let me have a baby.”) Those were the kinds of wishes that need a greater force than willpower to come true. Those were the “fingers crossed”, say a prayer hopes and yearnings that were never under my control. I still have plenty of those, of course! “Please heal my nephew.”, “Please save my friends’ little girl.” “Keep my children safe.” “Look after Grandma, keep her healthy.” I have lots of these magical wishes, but I don’t think they count as life dreams.
When I was younger I had more concrete dreams to pursue, too. Dreams that I could work hard to achieve. I wanted a career, and I needed a Master’s Degree to get there. I worked hard, I kept my eyes on that prize, and I achieved both. Later, Paul and I wanted a house where we could raise our kids. We worked, we saved, we carefully house shopped, we bought. Goal reached!
About ten years ago, I had a dream (or are these goals?) of changing careers, and becoming a classroom teacher rather than a speech therapist at my school. It was a stretch, but it made me learn new skills, take new courses and put myself out there. Most of all, it made me take a lot of risks and shoved me out of my comfort zone. It has taken a lot of adjusting and a lot of work, but I did it, and I’m incredibly happy that I did. That was a dream, and I have achieved it.
But what dreams am I chasing right now?
I got up, made another cup of coffee, plopped in a spoonful of whipped cream (Christmas leftover…yum!) and wandered around the house. I looked in every room, but didn’t find any dreams. Peered out the window at the leafless woods behind the house. No dreams out there.
I felt a little sense of panic. What kind of person reaches the age of 55 and finds herself without a single goal in life? What could this mean? Have I turned into a middle aged drudge, dragging myself through life?
I gave myself a shake and plunked the coffee cup in the sink. I marched back to the computer, straightened my shoulders and tried again.
“Well”, I typed, “I do hope to lose some weight and eat healthier this year.” No, no, no! I rapidly hit “delete”. That was not only pathetic, it was an annual resolution. It wasn’t worthy of the word “dream”. Try again.
I briefly thought about making something up, but this friend is someone whose respect I would very much like to keep. “I plan to record a blues album with my sons.”, seemed just a little farfetched, even to me.
And so I decided to simply tell the truth, in the spirit of thoughtful honesty which had filled my friend’s message.
I wrote that I am at a point in my life where I am very content. I enjoy my job, and I still feel like I am learning and improving as I go through each year. I’m happy in my marriage, and have a good group of close friends. I’m not reaching for anything new at the moment.
And that’s OK. Maybe, I wrote to my friend, maybe a quiet period of rest and reflection is what all that earlier goal chasing is really all about. Maybe a little lull in the process is just a vacation, and not the sign of perpetual dullness.
I know myself well enough to know that I will probably come up with another scheme in the relatively near future. Maybe I will try to publish something that I write (stop laughing!). Maybe I will become more active with the Occupy movement, and will try to accomplish some of those worthy goals. Who knows?
Right now, though, I’m happy to just be content.
Happy New Year! May all your dreams come true.