What dream do you have for your life that remains to be realized? And what does it take to make a dream a reality? There’s vision, hard work, patience, and determination, of course.
You know what else really helps? Money.
I remember watching an episode of This Old House because a student told me his family’s new house was being featured. Even though I knew at the time that most of the students in the school I teach come from wealthy families, I don’t think it hit home until I watched that episode. I continue to remain pretty naively unaware of my students’ wealth, and that serves me well, generally speaking, but sometimes someone goes out of their way to remind me (“she’s the daughter of a professional basketball player” and “he’s the grandson of the Dunkin’ Donuts founder” are just two recent examples). As I watched that episode of This Old House, seeing my students’ parents go from dream to reality in a very short time made me realize how wealth can allow you to live the life you’ve always wanted to live–that for some people on this planet, there is no real barrier to realizing their dreams, unless they lack the imagination or motivation to identify and follow those dreams.
It may seem like an obvious thing to realize, but I’ve always come from a place of financial struggle, and only very recently would I say I’ve found some measure of security in that I have finally started to save (for things others may seem as necessities, like Free’s college tuition). I feel genuinely blessed and proud to be able to set any money aside for her future, and I have never blamed my own parents for being unable to do so for me.
Being able to save means also doing the work of reviewing and revising my dreams for myself. I’m happy to discover that semi-security hasn’t changed them all that much, which means that I didn’t place too many financial limits on my dreams in the first place. Either that, or I’m the dreamer’s version of a cheap date.
I think it’s the latter, actually. When I think about where I want to be in ten, twenty, or even thirty years, I think in terms of places and habits and ways of being that I already know. Sure, there’d be changes. I’d like to retire from teaching as soon as possible, or at least have the option of going part-time. I think I’ll always want to teach in some format, but I’d like it to be on my terms and in my own time. But other than how much work I do on any given day, I see a lot of things that are continuances of what I have now.
I’d like to have a great garden every year and the time to really spend there, digging around and trying new things. I’d like to own chickens and buy local foods and know how to cook many different dishes well. I’d like to be able to walk or bike to a farmer’s market.
I’d like to keep writing, in drips and drabs and for different audiences and different purposes, again on my own schedule but in ways that are pleasing and challenging at the same time. I’d like to always have time to read great books, and access to a library nearby that has nice people working in it.
I’d like to love my home, to always feel safe in it and to have a space for everything and to see things that I love everywhere I look, objects with histories and value and stories. I’d like it to be clean, organized, and inviting, without clutter or extra unused rooms.
I’d like to be able to stay in shape by running and being active in different ways well into old age. I’d like to share this enterprise with my partner and my child; I’m excited about the possibilities of working out with Free as she gets older.
I’d like to try new things–take classes in dancing or car maintenance or using a sewing machine. I’d like to be able to teach and learn in a community of other creative individuals whose company I enjoy and respect.
I’d like to take pleasure in all that life offers: travel, good food, little indulgences and luxuries here and there. I’d like to work enough to appreciate being able to take a day off, and I’d like to live cleanly enough to enjoy a treat as just that.
I’d like to be able to give back in ways that are meaningful–to work with children, especially, and those who take care of them and might need some help in doing so. I’d like to share the gifts I’ve been given and reap the benefits of being someone lucky enough to do so on a regular basis.
Beyond that, what is there? Family, friends, love, of course, the things that are so vital to a good life that they barely enter the list because they are my air and sunlight–without them, I would not be able to dream.
The thing about this list, though, is that none of this has to wait, and not much of it is waiting. Yes, I work more hours than I would like. Who doesn’t? Nothing else need wait, however. I’m not a big bucket list kind of girl, and I’m happiest that way. I don’t need to cliff dive, climb tall mountains, visit every country, or be an award-winning published author. I really don’t. To know that is very, very freeing. It is powerful to know yourself, to shout out what you want, to recognize how far or close you are to your dreams. Looking back on the last few years, I realize how the last five years for me, painful as they were in getting divorced and pursuing a new (and at first, rather rocky) relationship, were crucial in terms of turning toward what I really want in my life. Making my dreams a reality.
I guess my point is that you might not see it this way at first, but if you keep trying to get in touch with what you want in your life, you might just be able to finally name it and then go after it. Other than money or your own lack of clarity or motivation, what could possibly stand in your way?
And you might just get lucky, like me, and realize you don’t need all the money in the world. Just enough to get to what your own vision is. It’s all yours. What does it look like?