The January edition of the Mother Sugar Salon, I’ll admit, rather stumped me. The question (At this point in your life, is there a dream you will never get to fulfill? What is it- and what makes you so sure it’s out of reach?) knocks up against one of the deep-seated principles of our culture: this idea of living our dreams, of all things being always within our reach if we simply try hard enough. My knee-jerk response to the question, then, was, No! Absolutely not. At first, I could not imagine (or perhaps have so trained myself not to allow myself to imagine) listing even one ‘dream’ or aspiration of mine that I couldn’t, in one way or another, fulfill.
My second response came quickly thereafter, in the form of a small internal question to myself: Really, though, what is it that makes you so sure?
And so began the unraveling of many more questions and many more recollections, in such a complicated and indirect sequence, that proved (despite my initial response) why this is a question worth asking. I’ll try my best to make sense of those thoughts here:
When I was young, I watched my father come home from work late at night, much later than dinner time, after my sister and I were in our pajamas and often after we had crawled into bed. I watched him wake up on Saturday mornings and leave for work while we were still yawning off our sleep and easing into our weekend. His life, for all I could tell, had only to do with work, with the long hours six days a week that he spent at his office, with the faxes and papers and phone calls that sometimes took up his Sundays and definitely got in the way of, say, our trip to Disney World. For awhile, I thought his work was a kind of fun, mystical place, where photocopies could be made by the hundreds (I was an easily entertained child) and a general sense of importance permeated everything. As I got older and gained some introspection, I saw that he was tired, that he had no room in his day (let alone his life) for the things he enjoyed–and which things those were, to be honest, I really had no idea. So I promised myself that, when I had a say, I would not live his way. I suppose it could be called a dream of some kind: I imagined that I would work only as much as I needed to afford a small house and maybe a boat, and I would have the time to enjoy my life.
So after all my musing on the question of fulfilling dreams, this is where I settled: Have I lived up to my aspirations of a simple life with a balance of work and play? I work hard, and I work hours not unlike my father’s, despite it all. (This post, for example, is five days delayed because of my overfilled and over-ambitious work ‘week.’) Do I believe my aspiration is out of reach? (And this is what shocked me:) Maybe I do.
It’s not so much that I believe my dream is humanly impossible — I fully acknowledge that I could work less, make less and have more time to fill with other non-work things, buy a small boat and live in a tiny house in the woods. I could. Rather, I realized that this dream (or perhaps it’s more accurate to call it a vision for my life), though still something that sounds lovely, is not what I really want. The life I’m building is much more complex, much more varied, and — surprise, surprise — requiring of more money, which is requiring of more work. So.
Be sure to share your thoughts on this month’s Salon question (and maybe even win some fudge!), and then share your thoughts on this other question, if you like, of the realities of the so-called ‘work-life balance.’ I’m so curious to know.