Where do you go to, my lovely?

There is a place between to-do lists and dreams where you wonder if it is possible to, literally, make your dreams come true.

The quaint answer is yes. But if you take a look at your to-do list–go ahead, I’ll wait–you’ll see there’s very little on it that has anything to do with dream making.

I mean, there is a good amount of truth to the saying (which I heard attributed to Lincoln) that after the age of forty, everyone is responsible for their own face. There is a certain amount of life-building that happens every day, and we can be either subconscious or slightly more conscious about it. But there is also a certain amount of truth that “luck and chance happen to us all” and that no amount of planning will get us a Pegasus.

Where we’re stuck is the in between.

How much power do we have over our lifestyle, and how much is dictated by what is necessary to pay the bills?

Sure, there are concrete examples of this conundrum. I have been frustrated for years by lack of space all to my own, to make my own; frustrated by hand-me-downs and clearance racks that don’t speak my language. I’m on the cusp of having my own space, and part of me leaps–finally! Me! My style! My choices! Not endless bending to others’. But in the back of my mind, there is sardonic laughter. Paying through the nose for the privileged of one’s own living spaces rarely leaves behind a fat wallet for classy quilted cowhide rugs and quirky chests of drawers, no matter how much one feels they embody their current stylistic muses.

There are people who posit the lack in hard currency is no real barrier, but invariably the make it up in the currency of minutes and hours. Which is grand. Only that, from what I’ve heard, pursuing a doctorate’s degree does not leave one’s pocket book of either sort pleasingly plump.

And now, my friends, we have tipped the dominoes. Upon completing grad school, one usually has quite a deficit of money, which can only be made up by extravagant expenditures in time. One can make up for the lack of time by spending more money, but then the debt will have to be repaid by spending more time earning money. Where does the madness end?

More specifically, when does the normal, average madness that people have come to expect transition into the extravagant madness of living your dreams? You see the problem. One cannot live their dreams by spending their whole life saying “later” and “soon” and “some day” and “hopefully” and “almost”. It would seem one must begin now. . .

. . .with no money and no job and no time. How do you resolutely live your dreams with no resources? Dream smaller? Compose larger debts? The spreadsheet isn’t balancing over here, and pithy ideologies don’t pay the creditors. I know I’m supposed always be true to myself and pursue my dreams and live my life today, et cetera and ad nauseam.

That’s fine. That’s grand.

How do I change my to-do list?

Does it even count if you have to put it on a to-do list? Like the obligatory kiss good-bye of the great-grandparents you rarely see? How much does duty and true heart-spring overlap? Does the driving intention fuel the dream, like the people who finally made it to the moon, or pervert the dream to a nightmare, like a woman who would do anything to become a mother–to the point she steals someone else’s child?

People say we must stop and recognize the beauty around us, but they are either very clever people with good imaginations or making up fun stuff to say. Let’s see. While I sat within four walls, blank and unmarked, I studied letters and numbers on a glowing screen, deaf by concentration. For an hour. And it was bad software, to boot–buggy and frustrating. What beauty do I mark down for those 60 passing minutes?

Am I grateful? Yes, I am grateful. I’m glad there were four walls and I wasn’t frost-bitten. I’m grateful my computer was still functioning, despite the fact that by rights it should have died of old age by now. I’m grateful for my instructor, who passionately wants us to learn. I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to delve into the preliminary understanding of chemistry, especially when I know that so many others are not even given to enter into the wonderful world of reading.

But was it beautiful?

No. It was butt-ugly.

It was in an ugly building, in an ugly environment, with technology that is over-used and often unpleasant especially in large doses, in a subject that I will likely never delve any further into, and it certainly had nothing I could see that related it to what I wanted to learn, my dreams, my personality and my desired lifestyle. It was work that had to be done, and I did it, crossing it off the ubiquitous to-do list, finding pleasure only in the finality of being done with it, thankyouverymuch.

That’s no way to live, the life-coach scolds. Enjoy every minute! Be engaged! Find the wonder!

Those are very pretty words, my dear, but what do you expect to be done differently? If I can’t put it on my list of things to do, how will it not get lost in the shuffle? And how do I thrive on things that must be done, but aren’t my dreams?

I don’t have all the answers, either, but I would like to know if people actually believe this stuff, or if it mostly winds up being things they mouth in their sleep as comforting thoughts of “the way it ought to be”. I want to hear the nitty-gritty from those who have walked off the trail, not the soft dreams of those watching.

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