Imagine the Life of Your Dreams
What do I want? I mean really, really want?
For most of my life the answers to that question was easy. I knew I wanted to be at the top of my class in high school. I wanted to be first chair in orchestra, and I wanted to be a captain of the tennis team. I knew I wanted to go to Gordon College, primarily because I wanted to be a part of the Elijah project and live in the intentional community that was the Dexter House. After an impactful 12-day-long hiking experience, I wanted to work for my college's outdoor education program. Later those desires turned to studying abroad in New Zealand, and then returning to work there.
Knowing your desires is half the battle in accomplishing them. Although many of my "wants" ultimately relied on other's decisions, acknowledging them helped me to strive to accomplish them. I could practice the violin, practice my serve or backhand slice, do homework during study halls to get ahead. I belabored over my college application, Elijah Project application, La Vida job application and study abroad application. When you set a goal, you can start making your road map to get you to where you want to go.
It's guaranteed that there will be stumbling blocks and obstacles. I got rejected from the summer-long La Vida program three times. At first, I received a "no," about returning to New Zealand as a staff member. But, often with persistence, those diversions either worked themselves out or lead me to other paths that helped me accomplish my goals.
But now, I'm not sure what I want.
A few months ago I read through a personal development book titled "Don't Read This: Your Ego Won't Like It" by Dov Baron. It was great in so many different ways. Baron offered exercises to practice each morning, asking yourself, "What do the people who love me love about me?" and "What is my greatest achievement? What successes lead to that achievement?"
But then, halfway through the book, Baron laid out a more difficult exercise.
"Imagine you are now living the life of your dreams."
Where are you? What does your home look like? What color is it? What are you wearing? Are you sitting on a couch? How does it feel? What do you smell? Is there music?
To each question I felt a growing sense of urgency. "I....don't know."
Maybe for the first time in my life, I'm not really sure what I want.
After I worked in New Zealand, I always imagined getting a job in New York City for a big-name newspaper, magazine, or publishing house. I'd start on the ground floor and work my way up. Do whatever writing I could get. The earthquake pushed my timeline up a bit sooner. So I started freelance writing for a local paper and regional magazine, but that full-time big-name job kept eluding me. Each time I didn't get a job, even when I got to final rounds of interviews, I would always question myself, "Did I really want that job in the first place?" Inevitably, each time I felt the answer was "no."
I've never worked a 9-to-5 office job. I always was outside, or in a camp/study abroad program setting, or doing part-time gigs. Getting the "9-to-5" felt like a rite of passage, though, to adulthood. Get a steady, decent paying job. Rent an apartment. Go to bed at 9:00pm. In contrast, working from home, and living at home, felt like a mark of failure, even though I hadn't really sat down and thought about what I wanted to do with my writing and my future. Where do I see myself, not where I think others want to see me? What is the life of my dreams?
Recently, I have begun to see that doing smaller freelance articles enables me to meet interesting people in my area, and give back to my community as a reporter. I love the flexibility of working when I know I'll be most productive, of working from my living room or having the opportunity to go to weddings, visit family, and fly out to see friends. Pretty much all the money I've saved on rent has been spent on travel, something I love. Despite feeling ready for the next stage of life, a stage with less uncertainty, I have to admit that the one I'm living now is not exactly one I don't want.
Finally, I wrote down my answers to Baron's question: I would love to have a chance to be outdoors. Oh! And meeting new people. Mentoring college students or others a few years younger. Learning new skills. Getting to use both my passion for writing and love for the environment. Some sort of career that has a mission, or involves helping others.
I looked at my list with a sense of accomplishment, then with dismay I realized I had listed qualities that all had been part of my New Zealand job.
The truth is, I didn't think much about life after New Zealand. I embodied the La Vida slogan of "Be Here Now" knowing that one day I would have to say goodbye and leave, but not dwelling on it at all. I hadn't dreamt up what life could be after that job, and after it was over my obsession with a past that lacked closure prevented me from wanting to think about the future.
But now, that's changed. I hope.
I want to be a children's author. I want to write a memoir about my time in New Zealand, to share my experiences and learning from that season and put it to rest. I want to keep doing some freelance reporting, to meet new and interesting people. I want to create a home, implementing many of the lessons I learned from my time in New Zealand. One day, I may even pursue my crazy dream of running a literary-themed coffee shop/library/flower shop combo. Or start my own feel-good magazine featuring local photographers, poets and stories. It's up to me imagine how I envision the life of my dreams.
What about you? What do you want? It can be easy to know what you don't want, but do you know what you do? If you know, what steps are you taking to achieve those desires and goals? Because the only variable you can control in this world full of potential is you.