I’ve been thinking about dreams a lot lately. Not the things I see while sleeping, but the things I want for my life. For over a year, I have been trying to be content with where I am in my life, and I’m not there. It’s not the sort of thing that is making me dissatisfied with my life – I like where I’m heading but not happy where I am.
For a long time this bothered me. I would read all those lists of “Things People Do Who Are Happy” and they talk about living in the now, being happy in the present. And I had a hard time reconciling how someone can be happy RIGHT NOW and still want something different.
But the more I think about it, the more I think I understand. Though my job right now isn’t perfect (okay, it’s frustrating often), I don’t hate being at work. I interact with some great kids, get to teach literature (what’s not to love about that) and see students grow in many ways. My current schedule lets me still be involved with my kids in the afternoons and evenings, and allows for a chance to write, blog and pursue things outside my job. My three kids are at a great stage in their lives, my husband is working a job he enjoys and we live in a neighborhood where everyone in our family has opportunities to connect and be happy.
I want more.
And I think that’s okay.
See, in wanting something else, in longing for what could lie ahead, in setting my sights on a future that I have seen others attain, I am presented with the opportunity to reflect and reevaluate often. In doing this, I have eliminated things that make me feel like I’m using my time, but really I was just spending it. By reaching for something better, I am maximizing my life, continually learning – both about how to make a story better (characters, setting, plot, point of view and so forth), and how to make myself better.
One of my favorite and least favorite tendencies of American culture is the “Cinderella” story. Obviously, they feel good. We get to see someone rise from a life they didn’t love, get snippets of the setbacks they experienced and celebrate in their ultimate triumph.
The problem is all of this passes in a short news blurb during the pre-show of a sporting event, as a montage before presenting them with an award, or if we have gone really deep, a full length (two hour) movie. We shrink someone’s accomplishments over years and decade to fit the screening time a focus group has determined to be appropriate.
But chasing dreams takes time. And hard work and grit and tears and failures and fresh starts and yells and hard work again. It takes coming back when things went horribly wrong, tweaking and re-tweaking until we get that one part right, only to realize that there are other parts that need the same attention. For many people, that is the time to say it isn’t worth it, it’s too hard, no one will ever appreciate what they have to offer. For many people, that is the time to quit.
For dream chasers, that is the time to take a look back at where we started, to see where we have come. That is the opportunity for us to experience happiness in the moment – yes, that moment when we want to quit is exactly when we need to be happy because we have grown. That is the time to take stock of how we spend out time, how we feel our sense of accomplishment, and to recognize that the pursuit of a dream has placed us in a position to see the world differently.
And in the middle of all this, regardless of whether or not the end goal is how we envisioned, we will see that because we are chasing a dream, we are already living it.
Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher in Southern Utah. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of magic. Her loves include Diet Coke, owls, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is an editor for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly newsletter.