New dreams, or no dreams?


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.

My dreams?

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.

5 thoughts on “New dreams, or no dreams?

  1. I already know I’m going to leave a long comment. We have only just met so please just tell me I’m talking too much if I get on your nerves.
    First (unrelated to this post), I thought about you last night because I am at the height of worry about my sons – they are at a three day music festival and it’s New Year’s Eve. Worry, worry, worry. . .
    Second, I too, am at this point in my life where I am very content and other than the usual weight loss and health goals, I don’t have any goals for my immediate future. When I left my teaching job in June, I started my blog. The original first post (which is now post two) reads, “Like most people I have spent my entire life obligated to something or someone; school, children, work . . . in that order and back to back. I feel like this is the first day in fifty years where my future is truly a blank page to do whatever I want with it. In the past, I would have filled that page rather quickly; making plans, but now I love the idea of just letting it sit empty for awhile and seeing what happens without me cramming stuff into every nook and cranny.”
    Third (and last), since that first post my life has slowly filled with the thoughts and ideas of the many, many talented individuals I have met through blogging. I have never before felt as inspired as I do now. I’m still not sure how things are going to pan out, but I am very grateful I turned my back on my compulsive need to be busy and just let things happen for a change . . . Again, sorry for the long reply – I am just so happy to come across someone who seems to be at the same place I am (worry and all).


  2. Happy New Year, my worrying new friend!
    I am sitting on my couch, a dog on each side, laughing out loud. I was awake from 2-4 AM last night, worrying about my boys, and I was thinking of you! What a wonderful turn of events it is to find solace and support through the blogs!
    I love your long reply, my dear! Like the friend I wrote about in my last entry, your writing makes me feel like you right here. He is virtually a stranger; we met a few times when he was about 18 and I was 23, but only reconnected through Facebook a year or so ago. Just kindred souls, isn’t that so great?
    I need to go back and read your first post. I’m so happy that you are also finding happiness in your new contentment. I think I’m almost there!
    If you are so inclined, go back and read my first post. I started the blog on the advice of a therapist; that post is the letter to my kids that she assigned me for “homework”.
    Happy New Year, and don’t worry! I’m sure that ALL the kids will be just fine!


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