Livin' the Dream

Like so many of my posts, this came off the whim this past weekend during a moment of decision and contemplation. I wanted a way to include some of the thoughts of people who inspire me. I hope they inspire you, as they, and many others are inspiring me. "Spence. What's happening man?! How the heck are ya?" These were the words I heard almost every other day when Mike walked in. "Not too bad, Mike. And yourself?" That was my typical response, but it certainly didn't represent how I really felt. "Livin' the dream, Spence, I'm just livin' the dream." Another customer walks in, and I respond the same way I was trained to: "Welcome to Family Video." That was 13 months ago.

"Spence, you're really just living the dream." I hear these words from Jonathan frequently. A smirk typically comes over my face, as I figure out how to respond to this without sounding pompous. I don't think I've ever just said aloud: "I'm living the dream." What is the dream? I'm living my dream. Right now, I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing at the moment I want to be doing it. I'm writing the story I want to write with the characters I want to write it with and living the dream I want to dream. It's not yours, nor will it ever be. We don't need more Spencer Spellmans in the world.

What has it taken for me to get to that point where I'm "comfortable in my own skin," as one commenter recently remarked. I went to Twitter to see what others had to say about following their dreams.

If you've been somewhere for so long and can't ever imagine being anywhere else, what do you do when you figure out that your dreams may be somewhere else? The anxiety and concern of change might cause you to delay or abandon parts of your dreams altogether to be able to safeguard your relationships and perhaps a comfortable state of living.-Christel Lom,

What would this world be without dreams? There would be no airplanes or Twitter! Once upon a time, these were all someone's dreams. I think it can be hard to follow your dreams when you doubt yourself and when your friends and loved ones think you are crazy; but hey, we should ALL dream big. Go big or go home!- Colleen

Underlying my dreams are fears. What if I fail? What if I don't have enough money? How if I'm not as good as people say that I am? What about my relationships? However, as both Christel and Colleen eluded to, it's only natural to have fears, yet without dreams being lived out, what is the world left with? We all play roles in other people's dreams, but do you just want to be a part of other people's dreams or be the author of your own dreams?

Don't let your dreams be dreams. It's this very notion I hold deeply to my rules in life that threatens my dreams becoming a reality. I am so scared of failing and dying an old lady with 500 cats and a hamster if I let my dreams of travel, entrepreneurship, world-changing action, and the person I want to be, simply become...dreams.-Lauren Rains, The Mad to Live

I did a Google search today for "age limit for dreams". I didn't come up with anything. It has always seemed like there was this narrow window of when you can follow your dreams. Once that window closes, you're done. It's kind of like that big form they give you at the doctor's office. Are you over 35? Have you done drugs? Are you married? Do you have kids? It's like the more boxes you check, the less likely you are to fulfill your dreams. But come on, who told you that? Am I wrong here? Is there not the presumption that there are some things, that once you reach a certain point in life, you might as well sit things out?

My passions in life are split in two: my lifelong dream of being a magazine writer and editor, and my love of travel. Because I love writing and magazines so much, the hardest thing about working in that field is how emotionally attached I get to my job. In the past, I've let it completely consume me, something I've vowed never to do again. When I lost my job in 2008, I felt as if I'd lost my entire identity. Partially through travel, I was able to conquer that and find a better balance.-Abby Tegnelia

The challenges and disappointments are often as much a part of pursuing our passions as the passions themselves. One of my favorite real-world examples right now is Britt Reints. Britt, her husband, and two kids, are selling most of what they own to travel around the U.S. in an RV for a year. I love what Britt says in this blog post about her trip when she says: "It’s about throwing out old ideas of what we 'should do' and deciding to focus on what we want to do instead."

I find my dreams are constantly evolving. I became a published writer. And then I became a published travel writer. I traveled to South Africa. And then I traveled for a few months and lived in another country for a season. Now, these passions remain an important part of my fabric, but that fabric is now woven much differently than it was when I first started pursuing those passions. And there are still many passions and dreams to pursue. Michelle Schusterman sums these thoughts up nicely when she told me that the hardest part about following your dreams is "recognizing when your dreams have changed right along with you."

san francisco
san francisco

This post was motivated by giving up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this week. Why would I do this? Because I want to. This has become my motto when people ask me what they should do in certain situations. Do what you want to do. What I want to do is continue this pursuit of writing, traveling, and experiencing the world. The next season of my life consists of doing this in San Francisco, as I transition from extended travel, to having some semblance of home and traveling for shorter periods. What do you want to do? Be a mother? Teach overseas? Create a non-profit? Start a business? Go out and do it. Tell others about it. Some won't understand, others won't agree with it, and others will give you high fives on your way out the door. But what decisions aren't like that?

Top photo from Chris Devers on Flickr.