At what point to you relinquish the desiccated ghost of your hopes and say, “Okay, this dream is dead”?
I’m not super good at giving up. If I want something, I will fight for it until the undertaker has to pry the dream from my cold, lifeless fingers.
But at what point is it just too exhausting to keep clinging?
One of my great lessons in this life is surrender. Going with the flow.
I am fucking terrible at going with the flow. I’m even worse at surrendering. I will grip the steering wheel and attempt to control the direction until all hope is lost, along with its extended family and pet hamster.
But, oh my god, I’m so tired. It takes a lot of energy to want something for years and years and years and not get it - and I don’t have a whole lot of energy to spare. One of the reasons I cobbled together this weird unicorn career is that I literally can’t have a full-time job. Or any kind of situation that would regularly require me to be in a room with other humans and get things done.
(I adore humans but I find them so exhausting. Humans have so many thoughts and worries and feelings and I take them all on until I have no idea where your thoughts and feelings end and mine begin. Navigating life in a swirling vortex of ceaseless emotion will certainly tire a person out.)
Obviously, nobody but me can decide when to surrender my dreams, so I’m not really asking for advice here. It feels more like I'm taking the first step of admitting that most of my dreams have gone direly unfulfilled, and that’s pretty embarrassing. I literally had every advantage in the box and somehow managed to squander all of them. Whoops?
Now that we’re here and I’ve typed for long enough that this is happening, I’m trying to think of one dream I’ve let myself accomplish.
(Sally's making the crickets noise. I don't mind telling you that I find it quite obnoxious. Someone won't be getting any sardines this week.)
No long-term relationship / husband-type person, no babies, no dog, no books published, no comfortable nest egg accrued. I did some traveling but it was always sort of accidental. My big travel dreams - Kenya to go to the giraffe hotel, Iceland to see the Northern lights - those haven’t happened. I haven’t even done that road trip through the south I keep talking about.
Now that I look at it, it sounds rather pathological. Like, come on, you couldn’t even get a dog? You’d think a dog would be do-able.
Unless you live in the Bay Area and every place that you could both avoid people and have a dog requires quadrupling your income.
But I could offer up an excuse for every single one of those dreams, and I’m not really sure I want my legacy in this world to be excuses.
(Yes, I have this bizarre channeling business and I love doing it. But it was never a dream. If it were up to me, I would’ve aimed for some fancy Silicon Valley job with really good health insurance. But I haven’t been employable since 2009. And if you asked my last boss how many times I cried at my desk, she'd say "an awful lot.")
I’ve never been very good at finding the balance between “Hi, I want to be vulnerable about this thing that's kinda humiliating” and relentless complaining.
I honestly don't mean to complain. My life is pretty damn good. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, I work with incredible people, and I have a very supportive (except for the cricket chirping thing) stuffed otter named Sally. I have my health, a good brain, limbs in working order, and I always manage to feed myself, even if “feed myself” mostly means “existing entirely on string cheese because I'm an adult.”
I’m finding myself panicking a little bit. Perilously close to sticking my head out the window and shrieking “ONE OF THESE DREAMS HAS TO HAPPEN THIS YEAR OR I HAVE TO GIVE UP ON ALL OF THEM BEFORE I TORTURE MYSELF FOR ANOTHER DECADE” into the Mill Valley void.
Now, I could just go to the pound and get a dog and trust that the universe will provide another home when my landlord kicks me out of mine. I could just climb in my car and start driving toward Tennessee and trust that everything works out and that Kristin and Scott will be willing to feed me when I get there, because I’ll have been eating string cheese for 2300 miles.
But the thought of surrendering to that extent, when I'm clinging to the edge in a few crucial ways, feels a bit hard to swallow.
I don't know. Obviously, I have zero answers. But I'm sick of beating myself up over the things that haven't happened for me, that maybe would have happened if I'd done things differently. But maybe there was no differently. Maybe I genuinely did the best I could in every moment and I ended up exactly where I'm supposed to be, even if it doesn't look anything like I hoped.
Maybe on my fortieth birthday this year, I’ll have a bonfire for my dreams. I’ll write them all on little pieces of paper, hike out to the beach, and set them all alight and watch the ashes drift toward the sky.
Or maybe I'll just get in my car and start driving.