The other day a wonderful former co-worker of mine congratulated me on living my dream. It was sweet and startling. I’m always telling people to live their dreams, but somehow it never occurred to me that I have been living mine. If what I’m really doing is “living my dream,” then let me tell you a bit of what it’s been like.
In the beginning, it was a nightmare. The kind where you’re on stage and naked and don’t know your lines and the stage collapses, and you’re running from murderers except for some reason you can’t move and one of them is your ex.
Nothing was easy and everything was scary. Pretty much every time I hoped for no surprises, I got surprises (and yes, I know I’m in the surprise business). I spent most of my time feeling doubt and disappointment.
Then about four years in, the fog started clearing up. It’s not that I figured out where I was going. To return to the dream metaphor, it was more like learning to be a lucid dreamer—those rare folks who can direct their own dreams. Instead of asking, “where should I be going?” I started asking: “where do I want to go?” Instead of thinking, “what should I do?” I started wondering: “what will I do?” And most importantly, instead of fearing and dodging surprises in my path, I started enjoying them and taking surprising turns of my own.
What I’ve learned is that it’s not really about living the dream at all. That metaphor makes it sound like you have this clear, perfect destination in your mind and you just go there. Instead, it’s more about “dreaming the life”—imagining something and moving toward it, making it up as you go along, taking risks as though things will work out, and creating something that has never existed before.
Six years into my “dream life,” there are still foggy days and rocky days and days of doubt and disappointment, but there are also many more days that feel like flying. There are days that take you places you never imagined. And there are days when you fight to stay awake because nothing can be better than real life.
Are those days worth the fear, pain, doubt, and disappointment? Definitely.