Simple Dreams

This blog has nothing to do with food. However, it involves living a balanced life so I figured it’s fair game.

I follow a few blogs where I feel like I’ve started to see the writers’ dreams coming to life right before my eyes. I don’t know any of these bloggers personally, but sometimes I feel like I do. (A sentiment that I think is pretty standard in the blogosphere.) These people’s backgrounds vary widely from a 20-something Chicagoan launching a new website, to a food blogger who recently landed a cookbook deal, to a married team of wedding photographers whose careers are totally taking off (all the way to Australia, in fact). And I have to admit that as exciting as it is to see these strangers’ dreams becoming realities and to also see their dreams growing bigger and bigger, I’ve started to wonder: Are my dreams big enough?

Many people talk about setting goals, reaching for the stars, and aiming farther than you ever thought possible. Watching people—friends and strangers alike—manifest their own dreams is one of the most fulfilling things for me to witness in life. Any time I hear about someone working on a passion project while maintaining a full-time job I always want to encourage them to follow their heart and turn their passion into a career. Hanging on my wall directly above my computer is a hand-stitched sampler that my grandma made for me when I graduated from college. There’s a peach-colored angel with rosy cheeks and a halo surrounded by yellow stars with the letters D-R-E-A-M embroidered in green below it. The only tchotchkes I own (I don’t like clutter) are those that say “dream” because I felt they were worthy of the space that they occupied. For most of my life, dreams powered every decision that I made. Fact is, there’s no way I would have ever been a full-time freelance writer by the time I graduated college if I hadn’t been able to dream it first.

But lately, the idea of dreams makes me want to lie down and take a big, fat nap. It’s exhausting. What else is exhausting? Every time over the past few months when I asked myself to identify what my dreams were I felt like I didn’t have any. And that felt depressing. Or I’d come up with a few things that I thought should be my dreams and they just didn’t feel right. Where did they go? What happened to my mantra? When did I stop wanting more and start selling myself short?

Yet slowly, over time, I realized something: My dreams haven’t gone anywhere. They’ve just changed. And today my dreams seem so much simpler than they used to be. So much simpler, in fact, that I shrugged them off as not being worthy of the label ‘dreams’ at all. Other dreams felt so common—the stuff most people want—that they didn’t feel unique or exciting enough to actually be my dreams.

In some ways I feel so close to achieving some of my dreams that once they were within reach I no longer identified them as dreams. And just because you achieve one doesn’t mean you need to come up with another, similar dream that’s so much bigger, right? Because, for me, that sounds even more nap-inducing. At a certain point I think you need to stop, soak it all in, and admire what you’ve already accomplished. Otherwise, how are you ever going to be content if your dreams just keep expanding?

Not only have my dreams become so much simpler lately, simplicity is exactly what I’ve been dreaming about. Specifically, the time to enjoy the things that make me happiest in life—cooking, practicing and (one day) teaching yoga, and taking my dogs for long walks daily instead of 30-minute jaunts around the block. I also dream about being able to care for others (and perhaps little ones in the future)—a skill I’ve recently identified as something that I love, that makes me happy, and that I’m good at.

Of course I want to continue enjoying all of the wonderful things in my life including my career. But what I truly dream about isn’t all of the books I can one day write, but how can I find a balance between writing, yoga, cooking, and caring? How can I make space in most days for all of these things that keep me feeling happy, healthy, and balanced? What I’m noticing about these people with their big dreams coming true—and I’m sure they’d agree if I asked them—is that dreams often come with sacrifice: Sleep. Health. Relationships. Exercise. And I’m sure if I asked them they’d say it was worth it.

But for me, at this moment in my life, instead of adding more to my plate in pursuit of some wild dream, I just want to soak it all in. I want to ride the waves of what my dreams have already created so I can enjoy them and watch them unfold each and every day. As small and as simple as that may seem, that’s exactly what I’ve been dreaming about.

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