It has been almost four months since I quit my job. Four months of nannying, starting a new business, traveling, reading, pacing around the kitchen, a tiny bit of writing, and wondering. I’m not sure if I expected some sort of revelation by now, but I can hardly recall what I have done for the last several months. I imagined myself sitting in the park with an open journal, watching the leaves blow in the wind as I philosophized over life. Or maybe I would find the time to make the quilt I’ve always dreamed of. But instead I have watched my bank account dwindle, and I’ve been peed on no fewer than four times by screaming little kids.
Ok, it’s not all bad. I can garden without feeling the pressures of time. I sleep until eight or nine, and then leisurely make French press coffee. I have the freedom to let my mind wander and take me away. When telling people “what I do” – (which I try to avoid because it’s hard to say, “Well I sort of freelance write…nanny…no, I don’t want a job, thank you,”) – when I tell them, it’s often followed by, “Wow, you are really living the dream.” I’ve been told this enough times to stop and take note: what is ‘the dream’? I’m certainly struggling financially, so it’s not money or wealth. I don’t have a job I can brag about, so that can be ruled out.
So what is it, what does it mean to “live the dream”?
I just recently attended a creativity summit called Hatch. Creative geniuses were brought in from around the world, from every sector – education, health, music, design, play – and asked, “How are you using creativity to Hatch a better world?
As the volunteer writer I was given the gift of listening to every speaker, interacting with these creators, and taking notes. I was also given the space to think up my own “world-changing” ideas. I sat down with a mentor, someone from the tech industry to ask a few questions about a world so foreign to me. I began, “Well, I’d like to sort of create this thing, I mean, if it’s possible -” He cut me off and pointed a finger right at me. “I’m going to stop you right there, and point out your mistake. Never ask if something is possible; assume it is.” I realized that the characteristic that was drawing me to all of these people wasn’t just their creativity; it was their absolute fearlessness to create whatever they wanted. They did not ask for permission. They did not assume failure. They charged forward, dreaming big.
Although I may be at more of a jog than a charge, I feel positive about my choices, that I’m still moving forward towards my dreams, even though I may not know exactly what they are right now. And after only several months I’m not sure I’m in any position to define ‘the dream,’ but I have discovered something that makes me happy every single day, that outweighs the stresses of money and success: autonomy. I have the ability to make my own decisions, to do and say what I want, when I want. I can dream up the wildest, craziest ideas and make them happen. I can start a project and leave it. I can have a beer with lunch, stay in pajamas all day, watch a lecture on campus. But most importantly, I get to dream. If I understand anything about “living the dream,” it’s being able to devote time to thinking creatively.
I understand not everyone can have complete autonomy. There are the responsibilities of life that get in the way: paying the bills, raising children, taking care of loved ones. But there are ways to find the space and time to believe in your great ideas.
Here are a few things I have realized and learned over the past few months, that I will take with me for the rest of my life:
Devote time to thinking creatively.
Jot down ideas, paint, sketch. Just sit and think of how you will change the world. Your stroke of genius may happen when you least expect it – in a meeting, with children, in the car. How are you going to capitalize on that moment? Don’t let it slip away.
So what if you fail? No really, so what if you fail? Ask yourself that question objectively, and charge forward.
Never ask if something is possible; assume it is.
Stop asking for permission to live your dream. Galileo, the Wright Brothers, Edison – they assumed their inventions and ideas were possible, regardless of the criticism they received. Move forward without getting hung up on the details.
Creativity is contagious, so surround yourself with other people who will simultaneously inspire you, and build you up. And remember, if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.
Share your great ideas here, and with others, and put it out in the universe!