On Dreams (As Opposed to Reality)

Recently, my dude and I had to make a challenging decision not to move into a new apartment. It sucked: the new apartment was more spacious, better kept, newly renovated, and more attractive than our current one. It had screens on the double-paned windows. It was energy efficient. Its kitchen had many cupboards, and a refrigerator with a well-insulated door. The bathroom actually had a counter around the sink. The walk leading up to the building was well-lit, and the walls were thickly insulated for maximum sound diminishing. In short, it was in many ways everything our current apartment is not.

But financially, though the rent would be manageable, we just aren’t in a position to set down twice the rent (plus a pet deposit) in order to move right now. That’s not even taking moving trucks and whatnot into consideration, of course. And our dog, who just turned one year old, is a highly-strung, rambunctious little girl. We know stability is important for her right now. So, we decided to stay and make the most of our current quarters for another year. With rent control and the predictability of a known commute and neighborhood resources for the next year, getting through things like our wedding in August and our first Christmas apart from our families will be much easier. Nonetheless, I’ve been hoping desperately to get to move; I’m not a huge fan of our current apartment, with its tilted floors, cramped kitchen, single bedroom, and regular neighborly domestic disputes heard clearly, word for word, through the paper-thin walls. Deciding to stick it out for another year felt a little like a dream, you know, deferred.

And it’s not the only one. I spent half of the summer unemployed, wondering what I should do not just short term for a job, but long term for a career. Every dream that got my toes tingling with excitement would require more education, more setbacks financially, more significant time invested, not to mention possible geographical relocations and other family disruptions. And financial goals (I need a new computer, I got rid of my reading chair and my life has been disconcertingly strange without it, there are recipes I want to try that I don’t have the gadgetry for) seem like distant pipe dreams at times. It feels a little like keeping your fingers in the pages of a book, to the places you’d like to skip ahead to, but can’t yet. It’s not that I’m not enjoying this part of the story, but waiting! Waiting is the pits.

I’m learning to set interim projects to work on; I’m taking up cross-stitch, reading dozens of library books, trying the recipes I do have the cookware to create, and generally occupying myself until the next big life change. And it’s not as though I’m ungrateful. I love my life. I am lucky to have so much of what I have. But the type-A overachiever gumption gal in me has her hands balled on her hips, stamping her feet, crying, “But I’m willing to work hard. Why can’t I get what I want?!”

I might be prone to tantrums. But I know I’m not alone here; in the midst of the Occupy movement, a common narrative has arisen: we all are working hard, and we’re still not getting what we were promised for our educations, our investments of time and money, our grand and illustrious efforts. What we’ve sunk in has yet to pay off; it may never do so. In many ways, we’ve earned our tantrums.

Still, I’ve been trying to bring both the content side of me and the demanding side into peace with one another lately. As much as I strive for self-actualization or inner peace or some vague sense of okayness, I value the side of me that isn’t ever quite done working on constant self-improvement, on answering the call of that niggling voice in my head that says, “This could be a little better.” It’s not that I’m down on myself, or that I don’t respect my circumstances (ideal or otherwise). Maybe it’s a leftover vestige of the old Protestant work ethic (so sue me; my parents are protestant ministers). Maybe it’s the literary inheritance of the American Transcendentalists. Whatever it is, I’ve tried banishing it with meditation, apathy, alcohol, frantic distraction, intentional laziness, positive self-talk, and everything else in my arsenal. It’s not going away, so I figure I should embrace it for its positives.

Thankfully, it’s in striking that balance that I’m able to reconcile falling short of my dreams with my not-so-horrible reality. It’s in striking that balance and suspending myself somewhere between acceptance and perseverance that I’m able to forge through without hitting despair or self-doubt. Which kind of makes waiting on some of those bigger dreams seem not so bad after all.

What dreams have you put off? What are you doing about it in the meantime?

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

6 replies on “On Dreams (As Opposed to Reality)”

are you reading my mind?  this is like the conversation I have in my brain every day at my job ( which Im happy to have, but damn, if that shit isn’t unfulfilling and underpaid). I worry about not achieving the things I care so deeply about and instead just getting by, some days, depending on my mental state, just existing.

I was watching a Natalie Warne lecture today on TED and she said this –

” Despite what people think, my Oprah moments, being on TED, it doesnt define me, because if you were to follow me home to LA, you would see me waiting tables and nannying to pay the bills as I chase after my dream of becoming a filmmaker. In the small, anonymous, monotonous, every single day acts, I have to remind myself to be extraordinary. And believe me, when the doors close and the cameras are off, its tough. But if there is one thing that I want to drive home to you, to say to you, its the acts that make us extraordinary, not the  rewards.”

The idea that this really successful woman is still struggling, makes the “struggle” seem less isolating, less like a personal reflection of your efforts and more a part of combating the day to day . And yes, we should all be grateful because there is always someone worse or better off than us and times are hard. But we can also strive for more, strive for better.

dude, this article.  you described exactly how i’ve been feeling lately!  from the lack of kitchen gadgetry to obtaining a cross-stitch pattern (my grandma sent it to me…..she said i need a hobby)…there are so many things i want to do and have, but just can’t right now.  and it sucks.  it sucks a lot.  like you, i am so totally thankful for my job and for what i do have, but damn.  sometimes–most times–i want more.  i feel so restless.

Thanks for getting it. I knew what I had to say would rub some folks the wrong way; I get how obnoxious it is to listen to people who have plenty to survive on complain that they’re still not being fulfilled. But I think fulfillment is about more than material needs, and that’s kind of what I’m getting at here. That the striving, not the obtaining, is part of what makes us human.

Best wishes in your own dissatisfactions.

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