The Realities of Living the Dream

The Realities of Living the Dream

Fluffy pink clouds over Florence, Italy at sunset

Whenever I hear the phrase “living the dream,” I think of the TV show Letterkenny. Unlike Reilly and Jonesy, my life is more living the realities of living the dream. It’s what happens when you take a giant leap of faith in November 2019, sell everything you own, and arrive in Florence, Italy armed with a giant butterfly suitcase and a veritable shitload of tenacity and optimism.

What I didn’t have was a job or clear idea of how to pull off sticking the landing long-term. Plan A had gone sideways when I was nearly done in by 10 months of severe vertigo. Fresh from the nightmare of being incapacitated for days at a time, I was making Plan B as I went. I was equal parts elated and terrified.

Consequently, I was prepared for a lot of things. A pandemic was not one of them. Ironically, I bought two multipacks of N95 masks before I left the USA…in case of an earthquake, fire, or terrorist attack. Sounds morbid, I know. But after narrowly missing being at the epicenter of random lethal international events three times, I’m a pragmatist. I don’t tempt fate, but I do prepare.

But I digress…back to the realities of living the dream. defines the word “dream” as:

  1. a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.
  2. the sleeping state in which this occurs.
  3. an object seen in a dream.
  4. an involuntary vision occurring to a person when awake.
  5. a vision voluntarily indulged in while awake; daydream; reverie.
  6. an aspiration; goal; aim:
  7. a wild or vain fancy.
  8. something of an unreal beauty, charm, or excellence.

Reality #1: Living the dream requires being wide awake for your real life.

I don’t mean that in an obnoxious “woke” sense, but I do firmly believe that life happens in the present moment and the words we use shape our reality. In my case, the universe is ALWAYS listening. Too well at times. As a result of previous lessons learned, I’ve been crystal clear with it about the fact that living in Italy is not a fairytale that I want to wake up from. It’s my real, day-to-day existence, and I moved here for good, not an extended vacation. My world isn’t some lofty aspiration or wild and vain fancy. It’s my life, and I intend to live it fully conscious and in color, more outside the lines than in. 

Reality #2: The “dream” part implies it’s probably unattainable. 

Also in the realm of speaking it into reality: The sad truth is that most people never even act on pursuing their dreams. And only a small percentage of those who do actually achieve them, because it’s hard work, yo. However, this is not what you want to think about when you’re going after something viewed as a long shot. Or worse, a “pipe dream.”

In fact, “I’m worried about you” and “Are you sure you want to do that?” are two of the most dick things you can say to someone who’s going big. So don’t. Put your own shit in check and either say something encouraging or shush and go home. Even if you don’t think they can do it. ) A) That’s not your call to make, and B) unless they ask for your opinion, it’s irrelevant. The last thing someone standing on the high dive preparing to do a reverse somersault with four and a half twists needs is an idiot spectator squealing, “OMG, what if you don’t make it?!”

But (spoiler alert) the Force is with you, so what if you do make it?

The human mind is the most powerful supercomputer in the known universe. It can accomplish some crazy miraculous and cool things when you program it to. It’s how I’m sitting here writing this with a view of the world-famous cathedral listening to the bells from it and two other churches ring simultaneously. It’s also how I have an annual pass to the Uffizi. I can go stand in front of Botticelli’s “Primavera” anytime I want. And I do, because THAT is living the dream, amici.

When you decide to circumvent societal, cultural, familial, and/or self-imposed mental limitations (and deal with underlying trauma if you have that going on), you effectively have wings and a magic wand. You’re not living your dream, you ARE your dream, and anything is possible.

Reality #3: Most people don’t want to hear about the hard work living the dream takes.

A dream exists in your head. Once you start taking action to pursue it in your outer world, it’s a goal. Goals can (and frequently do) take motivational, emotional, financial, and/or other kinds of support to make them a reality. Sometimes a lot of it. They also take consistent hard work, often with no visible forward progress for days, weeks, or even months. That can push even the most determined dreamers to their limit. And it requires absolute faith to keep going, which is why most people either don’t try or quit.

I didn’t expect moving to a new country to be easy. But discovering that it takes the mental fortitude, focus, and discipline of an Olympic athlete was a surprise. Minus the six-pack abs and medals, obviously. Though finally getting your first Permesso di Soggiorno when you move to Italy feels like winning the gold. And with all dreams, the obstacles you encounter tend to get bigger the closer you get to accomplishing what you set out to because the stakes are higher.

Which is when things can get interesting with friends and family.

When you decide to go for it, a few people may imply or even tell you outright that you’re crazy. And they might not be wrong. But most will cheer you on, at least initially. That shifts when you visibly start to succeed. Suddenly, on top of triggering jealousy in those you may not expect it from, your success threatens all of the reasons people aren’t pursuing their dreams. You can find yourself in a twilight-ish zone where you simultaneously feel pressured by everyone commenting on how you’re “living the dream,” yet feel like there’s no one you can talk to when the journey gets real. A lot of people only want to hear the good stuff. Others will tell you to quit. A handful will secretly delight in your challenges, misery, misfortune, etc. (Schadenfreude, anyone?)

I don’t have it all figured out yet. But as someone who’s 80% there on the dream thing, I say find someone who will listen and a mentor. And be prepared to let go of relationships that are clearly not going where you are. Not everybody in your life is meant to go along for the entire ride. That includes family…DNA is not a pass to hold you back, keep you small, or treat you disrespectfully.

So, stay true to yourself, persist, and above all, remember that you are a goddamned sparkly unicorn with all the magic you need stored inside of you. You got this, whatever “this” may be.

If you’re inclined, follow me on Instagram for more human condition observations, obscure humor, and occasional life tips.

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