Living the Dream, Reality Version
Whenever anyone tells me I’m “living the dream,” I think of Reilly and Jonesy from Letterkenny. For the unfamiliar, it’s set in rural Canada, irreverent, obscure, and possibly the most hilarious and quotable television series in the history of humankind. For context, each episode opens with the line “There are 5,000 people in Letterkenny. These are their problems.” Did I mention it was sarcastic?
Anyway, most people don’t understand that living the dream does not exempt you from reality. It seems to amplify it. How do I know this? Let me count the ways… I kid, sort of. When I took a giant leap of faith in November 2019, sold everything I owned, and arrived in Florence, Italy, I was armed with a veritable shitload of tenacity and optimism. (And a giant butterfly suitcase, but more on that in a bit.) What I did not have was a job or a clear way to stick the landing long-term.
I’d had a solid Plan A once, but it went south when I was incapacitated by severe vertigo for almost a year, so I was making Plan B as I went. If I could sit up without barfing, it was a good day. The upside of being stuck in bed was that it gave me a lot of time to think. Consequently, I was prepared for a lot of things. Unfortunately, a pandemic wasn’t on the list. Earthquakes, fire, and terrorist attacks were though, so among the contents of my giant butterfly suitcase were two multi-packs of N-95 masks. #truestory
I sensed something ominous was afoot way earlier than most people, but as a pragmatist, I figured I was just being overly cautious. I’d narrowly missed being at the epicenter of random lethal international events on a few occasions, so I don’t tempt fate, but I do quietly prepare for weird shit.
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 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.
Living the dream requires being wide awake.
I don’t mean that in an obnoxious “woke” sense [insert eyeroll], but I do firmly believe that life happens in the present and the words we use shape our reality. In my case, the universe is always listening. Too well, IMHO. As a result of previous lessons learned, I’ve been crystal clear about the fact that I moved to Italy for good and living here is my real, day-to-day existence, not a fairytale or an extended vacation. I have lofty aspirations, but my world isn’t a wild and vain fancy.
The word “dream” implies it’s a long shot.
Also in the realm of speaking it into reality: The sad truth is that most people never act on pursuing their dreams. And only a small percentage of those who do actually achieve them, because it’s hard work, yo. This is not what you want to think about when you’re going after something the general public sees as a long shot, or worse, a “pipe dream.” That’s a dick thing to say to someone, by the way.
As are “I’m worried about you” and “Are you sure?” So don’t. Put your own shit in check and either say something encouraging or zip it and go home. Your opinion is irrelevant, even if you don’t think they can do it. It’s not your call. If I’m standing on the high dive preparing to do a reverse somersault with four and a half twists, I need to focus on nailing it, not some asshole 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 circumvent societal, cultural, familial, and/or self-imposed mental limitations (and deal with underlying trauma if you’ve got that going on), you effectively have wings and a magic wand. You’re not living your dream, you ARE your dream. Anything is possible.
Most people don’t want to hear about the hard work it takes to live the dream.
A dream exists in your head. Once you take action to pursue it in your outer world, it’s a goal. Goals take motivational, emotional, financial, and other kinds of support to achieve. 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 holy shitaly, I was caught off-guard by the fact that it takes the mental fortitude, focus, and discipline of an Olympic athlete. Minus the six-pack abs and medals, obviously, though getting your first Permesso di Soggiorno feels like winning the gold.
Which is when things with friends and family can get interesting.
When you go big instead of going home, 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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