Living. The. Dream.
Wow, how weighty are those three little words. When we think of someone living the dream, we imagine someone who really has it all, probably in terms of what we want out of life. This elusive person who has their dream life has everything that I want. They travel constantly, but with all their family and friends for company. Their life is full of love and friendship. They have money-so much money-which they spend on enhancing their incredible travels and helping people. They have the perfect job, which they don’t need because of all the money. They only like healthy foods, they don’t need to do any exercise to keep fit, they meditate three times a day and bake fresh bread every morning.
A lot like me, really.
But seriously. When Adam and I moved on board Hot Chocolate and started posting photos of all the amazing places we were visiting, and all the wonderful things we were doing, comments like ‘Wow, you’re living the dream’ were common place. And in a way they were (are) true. We are absolutely living our dream. But it got me thinking about what that term really means.
For as long as I can remember I always dreamed of being a singer. I wanted to act out other peoples lives on stage, because theirs were full of far more adventure than mine! I loved feeling someone elses emotions and bringing someone else to life. And I really loved singing. I still do. But was it really my dream job?
While I was auditioning for my dream job I found a stand in job working as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I did all the singing I could after work and at the weekends, be it paid gigs with a singing group or amateur musical theatre. I worked hard, and eventually I landed a job in a musical that was performing over the Christmas holidays. But when I got the phone call, I was crushed.
It would mean leaving work, before Christmas. I wouldn’t get to see the children perform the Christmas nativity they’d worked so hard on, I wouldn’t get to help them write their letters to Father Christmas or see their faces when he showed up to give them all a present. I spent a few weeks in turmoil, trying to force myself to accept the singing job that deep down I no longer wanted. I felt like I was giving up on my dream, until I came to the realisation that perhaps it was never really my dream at all.
Sure, I wanted to sing, and I was prepared to work really hard on the skills I needed to make that happen. What I wasn’t prepared for was the gruelling auditions, and the hours of self doubt, and being judged by people constantly. It wasn’t my dream to push myself forward, and show off. It wasn’t my dream to mess up and feel embarrassed and not good enough.
If I wanted to be a singer then I had to want it all. Or I at least had to be comfortable with it all. But I really, really wasn’t. I tried pretty hard to toughen up and become a slightly different person, but honestly, I didn’t have it in me. If it had really been my dream then I would have chased it, passionately and without doubt. The compromises I would have had to make along the way wouldn’t have been too big for me to overcome.
As a teacher I had found a job that I looked forward to every single day. I had found something that I really did love all of- I even loved listening to the same Biff and Chip reading book, being read really slowly and without expression over and over again. Teaching had never been my dream, but all of a sudden I realised that it was better.
If we want to live our dream lives, we have to really know what that entails. Do you really want the sort of life you would have to live if your dream came true? Do you want a bit of your dream, or do you want the whole package, warts and all? Do we just want the end result, or is getting there a part of the dream too? I think that if we could live our ‘dream life’ for a day, and experience what it would take to get there, we may well find out it’s not our dream life after all.
Becoming rich might mean a stressful job with really long hours, that would compromise relationships and mental health. Your dream to be a vet and make animals better, might also involve watching them die. Becoming a champion ice skater would take hours and hours of gruelling training and rehearsals.
I have a friend whose dream was to be a doctor. An incredible thing to be but not at all easy. She finished her degree and set about to pass the initial exams, revising hard at every opportunity. She didn’t pass. If this hadn’t really been her dream, she may well have given up there, but she knew it’s what she really wanted so she tried again. When she didn’t pass this time it seemed logical that she would chase something new, but she didn’t, she tried again until she passed. This unwavering perseverance, motivation and passion shows the world that this really is her dream life. No matter what happens on her training, she has and will succeed, until her idea of a dream life changes. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be greeted with in A and E!
I count myself as extremely lucky to have stumbled across something that I was (and still am) so passionate about. Teaching was never just a job to me, it was something I chose to do over my dream job. It was something that was better than the one thing I always thought I wanted. Knowing that helped me persevere through some challenging times, and helped me recognise when my dream job was not a dream job any longer. Or rather, when my dream school was not my dream school any longer. If I hadn’t been forced to make the decision to let go of a dream before, I wonder how long I would have stayed somewhere I was miserable, afraid to leave and chase a new dream.
Dream lives are great, as long as we are prepared to constantly reassess and evaluate our priorities. Secluded beaches, sunshine and freedom are all perfect ingredients for a dream life. We’re all told constantly that those are things we should aspire to have. But living on a sailboat has it’s own set of demanding compromises that could make this dream life some peoples worst nightmare.
I have had to leave behind my incredible parents, who I lived close to before and could see whenever I wanted. I’ve left behind my new niece, and wonder constantly if I’ll miss out on watching her grow up. I don’t have nice new clothes and I haven’t had my hair done in over a year. I have to think really carefully about where to spend my money. I worry about having enough water to shower, or enough electricity to run the laptop. I’m never 100% sure that after leaving my home I’ll return to find it where I left it.
These are compromises I can make. They feel like part of the adventure. They’re a challenge. But that’s just me. Living on a sailboat is not everyone’s dream life, and if it was I think everyone would be doing it!
When I was 8 I watched Beauty and the Beast for the first time. A girl goes riding through the woods, gets chased by wolves, and winds up in an enchanted castle where she meets the love of her life. What an adventure.
Actually, what a ridiculous story, I wish my 8 year old self could have worked out that falling in love with an angry monster that has locked you in a dungeon is probably not something to aspire to. But I didn’t care about the romance then, I cared about the music. And especially the line I sang over and over again, and still love to this day, ‘I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell.’
Now I don’t have to want it anymore, now I have it, and that is an incredible feeling. In my dream life I am not rich, or pretty, or even always happy. I get bored, insecure and feel that I lack purpose, I’m sometimes lonely and sometimes frustrated. I am chasing dolphins and braving storms. I feel proud of myself and amazed at new found abilities. I’m flying down mountains and falling into waist deep snow. I am scared and exhilarated and in awe of all that surrounds me. I’m changed and still exactly the same.
I am living the dream, only it’s not the dream anymore. It’s just real life, in all it’s twisted, glorious, hilarious and humbling reality. And I can tell you, however hard this reality gets, it’s far better than any of my dreams could ever be.