The Life You’ve Imagined

Have you ever had such a clear picture for what you want your life to be that, when you take stock of all that’s around you, sometimes it feels like your dream is still decades away?

Last night, after perhaps half a glass of wine too much, I found myself getting weepy as I was on one of my favorite websites: Redfin.com. Yes, for as much as I love my casa in Anaheim, I was once again browsing tiny bungalows in seaside communities…which is interesting, because I’ve always been terrified of the ocean thanks to almost drowning. Oh, and also because my hair hates humidity.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with the movie Top Gun, and that scene where Charlie and Maverick are at her cozy oceanfront bungalow with Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” playing is burned into my memory like the first time you see someone and you think love at first sight might actually be possible. Only my love was the perfectly filmed setting sun, the sea mist in the air that you could almost feel through the TV and the white wine being poured and enjoyed al fresco.

I was browsing property for sale in Laguna Beach. My favorite little store of handmade chocolates is off a tiny walkway called Peppertree Lane that’s accessible from Pacific Coast Highway. Facing the street is Watermarc, one of my beloved locations for enjoying a quiet glass of wine during off-peak hours. I’d like to live walking distance from both.

Sometimes I get a bit superstitious — not that I genuinely am, but I have a tendency to think that if I share something that I really want — if I voice it out loud — it probably will never come true. It’s one of the reasons I keep a lot of things to myself. Conversely, if I want something to not happen, I’ll voice it. Paranoid to travel for work and think I might die in a plane crash? I’ll totally talk about it so that it never happens. Think an earthquake might jolt us into awareness? Yep, I’m talking about that too.

(For the record, I never said a peep about any of the tinier ones we’ve had lately, hence — naturally — why we had them in the first place. Har.)

But back to my life dream. In the interest of this blog, which is supposed to be all about transparency and being real — and in the interest of trying to shake the silly superstition — here it is:

I want to be a writer someday. And I want to write in my cozy, unpretentious bungalow in Laguna Beach. I want to enjoy wine often without ever developing a dependency on it, I want to eat handmade chocolates equally as often without ever gaining a pound, I want to never be so famous as to have a stalker, and I want to earn enough from said writing to live comfortably and to share it with my parents and brother, to travel occasionally-but-not-extravagantly and to help those closest to me if they ever need it — but without ever needing to be paid back.

Last night when I was Redfinning, that dream felt 30 years away. I don’t mean to be impatient, but I don’t have 30 years. I’d like to enjoy my bungalow when I’m young and spry and spontaneous, and maybe even a bit frisky (my favorite f-word). Not when I’m 65 and checking to see what daily Medicare or AARP offerings await me in my mail.

I beat myself up about a lot, and in the case of this dream, I kick myself for not having it be more clear when I was 18. I kick myself for going through those stereotypical reckless and careless years in my 20s, and for dating people who I thought were worthy of my time — instead of giving my time to myself and my dreams. But when I think about it, perhaps those years are worthy of something after all: maybe they’re meant to be written about (fodder, anyone?) or perhaps simply learned from. Either could be valuable. The latter always is.

I’ve written about one of my favorite quotes from Henry David Thoreau before, and tonight it’s making its way into yet another post. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you’ve imagined” is Thoreau to the core, and perhaps the quote that he’s best known for.

It’s an easy quote to become wrapped up in, and to become starry-eyed and dreamy over. It’s a wistful quote. It has a sense of yearning. It simultaneously gives you a swift kick in the butt, but then sabotages (at least for me, anyway) one by saying, “…but you need to be confident. If you’re not confident, then don’t go in that direction just yet.” 

Or maybe that’s just me reading into it too much.

Confidence is something I often lack. It’s easy to be boisterous, to be loud, to be on stage, to be self-deprecating, to be sarcastic, to be funny. It’s easy because it’s an act I’ve gotten used to, and I often wonder if it’s at all “me,” or if it’s just something I’ve learned to use to my advantage between the hours of 9 and 5 (am and pm, respectively, lest any of you think I’m into tearing it up during the wee hours).

I find that I have a hard time reconciling the two sides of me.

Reconciling.

It’s a word I’ve used a lot in the past five years. I think there are two distinct sides of me that have been at odds for a while. The homebody, and the semi-inappropriate one that can sometimes skew a little bit Kathy Griffin. The girl that feels guilty for not going to church, but that also is down for a well-made gin and tonic, or — better yet — an extra dirty gin martini with extra olives.

Seriously. When do they reconcile? Ever? Are they even supposed to? And if not, when does the day come when I stop worrying about reconciling and embrace them both?

The life I imagined last evening is a life that left me with frustrated, built up tears in my eyes. I feel paralyzed sometimes. This blog has been great. It’s done exactly what I wanted it to do so far. It’s helped me tweak my voice (and I’m sure there’s much more tweaking to be done), it’s made me more comfortable with sharing my writing (oh, the beauty of auto-posting via Posterous), and it’s made me hungry to be able to speak that much more openly about so many things. But, as I like to jokingly say, “the time isn’t ripe.”

(Yep, “ripe.” It makes me laugh.)

I want to write about more than just surface stuff, but I’m not quite there yet. I don’t know why. Regardless, it’s also made me realize something more than I already knew: that I simply love to write, period. Surface or not.

The Thoreau quote, while easy to become enamored with, is dangerous. It’s something you know will always be there to pull out and dust off whenever you need some encouragement. But how often do each of us go confidently in the direction — not just any direction — but in the direction of our dreams?

Not often enough.

Tonight I am thankful for that quote that was tumbling around in my head all last night as I Redfinned, as I became angst-ridden over finding “cheap property” in Laguna Beach (then realizing it was only a lot — not an actual residence) and as I headed in to bed and read my two daily devotions before crashing out.

One was about how He knows where we are in every emotion, and the other — in an unrelated book — was about how He will never leave us.

Once again, the two books were connected. And if that isn’t its own kick in the butt, I don’t know what is. Time to go confidently, indeed.

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