Living the Dream, Reality Version
Whenever anyone says something about how I’m “living the dream,” I think of Reilly and Jonesy from the TV show Letterkenny. For the unfamiliar, it’s Canadian, irreverent, obscure, and quite possibly the most hilarious and quotable series in the history of humankind. That said, it affirms that “the dream” encompasses a pretty wide swath of experiences and possibilities.
The part that people seem to miss is that living the dream does not exempt you from reality. If anything, it seems to amplify it. How do I know this? Let me count the ways… I kid, but not really. When I took a giant leap of faith in November 2019, sold everything I owned, and arrived in Florence, Italy armed with a giant butterfly suitcase, I had 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.
I’d had a solid Plan A, but it went sideways when I was nearly done in by 10 months of severe vertigo. So, fresh from the nightmare of constant vomiting and being incapacitated for days on end, I was making Plan B as I went. Consequently, I was prepared for a lot of things. Unfortunately, a pandemic was not one of them.
I did recognize that something ominous was afoot far earlier than most people, and I’d bought two multipacks of N95 masks before I left the USA, but my thinking at the time was that it was in case of an earthquake, fire, or terrorist attack. Sounds morbid, I know. But my spidey senses know things, and after narrowly missing being at the epicenter of random lethal international events and beating the odds by surviving a couple of bizarre health things, I’m a pragmatist. I never intentionally tempt fate, but oh, how I quietly prepare for statistically possible outcomes in advance.
But I digress…back to living the dream.
Dictionary.com defines the word “dream” as:
- a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.
- the sleeping state in which this occurs.
- an object seen in a dream.
- an involuntary vision occurring to a person when awake.
- a vision voluntarily indulged in while awake; daydream; reverie.
- an aspiration; goal; aim:
- a wild or vain fancy.
- something of an unreal beauty, charm, or excellence.
Reality #1: Living the dream requires being wide awake.
I don’t mean that in an obnoxious “woke” sense [insert eyeroll here], 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, a lot of the time. As a result of previous lessons learned, I’ve been crystal clear with it about the fact that I moved here for good and living in Italy is my real, day-to-day existence, not a fairytale I want to wake up from or an extended vacation. I have lofty aspirations to be sure, but my world isn’t some wild and vain fancy. It’s my life, and I intend to live it fully conscious and in color, albeit more outside the lines than in.
Reality #2: “Dream” implies it’s a long shot.
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.
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