On Living Your Dream

In the last couple of years there has been a marked shift in how I look at my own goals and–if we’re going to get all “woo” about it–dreams. Here’s the truth though, I am living my dream on this farm, every day. Even on the hard days, I have no doubt about it. Which is super weird, because, if you’ve been around here long enough you might recall that, uh, this actually wasn’t my dream. Or, at least, I’d set a lot of goals over the last decade that looked a lot different than living on a farm in an old-ass house spending my evenings driving around on a tractor and talking to my chickens.

For example, my first house. Where my whole goal was to fix it up in a few months, and pay it off ASAP so I wouldn’t need to make decisions about what I wanted to do in my life based on paying a mortgage. (For the record, I’d be 3 years away from that goal right now if I’d stuck with it.)

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I bounced around a lot as a kid. My parents divorced in their early-twenties (and thank god too, because we were all much happier that way) and they both moved around often as they made lives for themselves–figuring out what they wanted to do with their lives and where they wanted to be. I don’t begrudge them that, at all. But, by the time I got out of college, I was tired. So effing tired of picking my life up and moving it every year or two.

It was actually a short-lived relationship that inspired me to buy my own house (which in my head went kind of like, “this dude has his own house and doesn’t know what the eff he’s doing with it…  I could definitely have my own place and do it WAY better than this.”) So I did, and I’m grateful for that. I’ve found over the years that even my least favorite relationships have taught me things or led me down really awesome paths I’m not sure I’d have taken otherwise.

My relationship with MysteryMan is another great example of this. In retrospect, as much as I like and respect the man (still to this day), the relationship itself was never going to make either of us happy in the long run. But, it did give me an opportunity to build something awesome with someone.

We took this…

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And turned it into this…

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And aside from the rough-framing, we did the bulk of the work ourselves. It still blows my mind when I think about how much I learned in those two years. My goals had changed… instead of just fixing up a house and paying it off, I wanted to build a home for myself. A real, forever home, with all of the awesome things I’ve ever wanted in a house (a big kitchen, an awesome bathroom with a fireplace next to the tub, wrap-around porches and an outside fireplace off a covered porch.) I wanted this to be it for me, and I thought if I built it well enough– if I agonized over the details enough–it would be.

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But it wasn’t.

It was easier for me to walk away from the relationship than it was for me to walk away from what I’d been building– both in the house, and in my heart. I was making a place for myself, I thought, where I could finally put down roots, and let them grow in to something. (Like, literally, I’d wanted to plant a fricking garden forever.) I joked a lot about it at the time… that after the Memorial House, I just wasn’t ready to commit long-term to another house. But it was very true in a sense… I didn’t want to commit to another dream–put all that time and effort in– only to have to make a hard call and leave it behind. I thought about buying a temporary place and flipping it. I thought about building a glorified garage to live in for a few years while I figured out what I wanted.

And while I was looking for that temporary thing, I found this place…

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Just drove over a hill one day, through the trees and fog…

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And there it was.

It wasn’t at all what I was looking for.

But it ended up actually being everything I was looking for. And something inside me just knew it.

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It doesn’t make logical sense to me. Even now when I can stand back from a distance and connect all the dots that led me to this place, it doesn’t make sense. That was the first time I realized that I couldn’t always rationally choose my dreams. I never read a story, or saw a picture in a book, or heard someone talk about an old farm house on a piece of property that was a pain-in-the-ass distance away from their job and said to myself “THAT is what I want.” I hadn’t been working towards it, or dreaming about some house or property that met some strict checklist of specifications that made it “perfect.” It’s not perfect, in fact. And a lot of the time it is a shitload of work. But it’s right for me.

I feel a sense of joy here that stops me in my tracks sometimes. Like I literally stop and look around as if there might be someone nearby to witness this craziness. I want to say to someone, “Do you see this? This is crazy, right?”And I don’t mean the house, or the land, or the barns, or the sunset. Those things are great, but what I mean is, do you see how happy this makes me? Do you see how random it is that I found this place, that it wasn’t what I was looking for, and yet it’s totally where I’m meant to be? This is a gift. It’s a gift that comes with the responsibility of a ton of work. So, so much work. And time. And driving. And shoveling shit. And forcing myself to do hard things, or to learn new skills (which I usually don’t love at the time, but am always grateful for later.)

Even with all of the words in my vocabulary I’m not able to articulate what it means to me. I almost don’t want to try for fear that it might come across as bragging, when really it’s something that humbles me. What I have said from the very first day, to myself, to the house, to the Universe is this: I don’t know that I deserve this. But I know that it’s my place. And I’m not asking for it to be easy, I don’t expect it to be handed to me, but if you give me the chance, I’ll work my ass off for it. I’ll work my ass off, and be grateful for it every day.

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And I am.

But I’ve learned recently that there’s also a hard thing about living your dream. It never occurred to me to sit and wait around for permission (or for a relationship) to go after the things I wanted. It never occurred to me not to dive, headfirst, into owning an old house on a large piece of property, even though it’s only me and I’d never operated a riding mower before, much less a tractor. I haven’t found yet a thing in life that I didn’t believe I could handle on my own. And if any girl in the entire world asked me, I’d tell them don’t you wait. Don’t you waste one minute of your precious, precious life waiting for another person to come around and make your dreams come true… you work your ass off and build those dreams yourself, and no one can ever take them from you.

I was in a short, but great, relationship recently. (I mean, of course it was great, he had a fabulous beard and what else does a girl need?) And here was the sticking point for that relationship: He wanted me to leave this place. (To be fair, he would have be okay if I didn’t leave this place, but only if I 100% committed to having kids. Which I couldn’t do, because I’m like 98% committed to not having kids. So…)

He wasn’t asking me to leave farms in general, mind you. Just this one. He was perfectly cool with living on a farm if we found and bought it together, but was absolutely against living separately or living here.

And while I understand the desired to find your own place more than most people might, I also know what it would cost me to leave this place, and it would be more than just the time and money I’ve put into it. I’ve had other houses (one of which I built to my exact specifications, and was much better suited to me than this one) but neither of them were my place. This is. So here’s what I said…

No.

I’m not leaving this place. And I’m not going to lie and commit to having kids, when I don’t think that’s what I want to do.

Up to that point, it had never really occurred to me that living my dream came with a price. And that the price might be that I would have a good relationship–one that had all the makings of being super long-term–with someone who, as it turns out, wanted something different. This is not shit that happens in all the love stories we’re told… but then again, I’d never want to be one of the women in any of those stories. And so I’m telling mine, for anyone who might one day find themselves here, saying… wait. This isn’t how it plays out in “happily ever after.” This isn’t the way it goes, right? You don’t find your place, get to live your dream for a brief period of time, find a good relationship, and then one day hear a loud record-scratch over the soundtrack to your life and someone says, “Okay, now pick.”

Except that is actual real life. This is how it goes sometimes. Because no one gets to dictate my dreams, but I don’t get to dictate theirs either. And I do have a choice. All those love stories we’re told would end with the girl (and the guy) choosing the relationship and everything else just works itself out. But what I actually believe–and maybe this is selfish, or idealistic, or applicable only to me– is that you should make yourself happy first. You should honor your own dreams and your own happiness, so that you can support someone else in theirs.

I’m lucky enough to be living my dream, and I’m not giving it up.

The weird thing about all of this for me, is that I’ve just written 1500 words on how dreams change. I have no idea if my dreams will change in the future. There are things I might say I want, things that make sense and that I might actually work towards… and then it might turn out that what is right for me is something else entirely.  What I’ve learned through all of this is that it isn’t always logical. It doesn’t always make sense. It’s not always something you can explain. Sometimes it’s just about what feels right.

It’s about driving over that hill one day, through the fog and the trees, and knowing you’ve come home.

shel-silverstein-the-voiceShel Silverstein | The Voice

99 Responses

  1. Goosebumps. Reading this raised the hairs all over my body…in a good way. Thank you for being such an inspiration to women of all ages. And may your dreams come true….whatever they may be.

  2. Congrats! And go for it. You have what it takes and you also know what is important.
    Only knowing you from this blog, I can only say this:
    I am proud of you.
    ~ ZM

  3. “It never occurred to me to sit and wait around for permission (or for a relationship) to go after the things I wanted.”

    MAN I needed to hear that when I was in my 20s, waiting around for any/everyone to tell me that my dreams were OK. I wanted so badly to buy a historic home in downtown Detroit. I searched, I got approved, I was ready to buy, but when no one confirmed, “yes, this is a good idea” I just let things fizzle. I’m a lifetime away from there now, but it’ll always be among the greatest regrets of my life. I somehow KNEW I was supposed to do it, but didn’t because…. I don’t know…

    Congrats to you for living your dream and refusing to give it up.

  4. Amazing! Wise beyond your years. And an inspiration to an old lady like me. Thanks for your effort to put your life out to the world.

  5. Dammit, I see my comment didn’t post! That was a weird week for the internet clearly.

    So, belately, here’s what I wanted to say.

    Shit that sucks. Sorry about Beard Guy. He seemed like a keeper. The good ones always have a fatal flaw don’t they?

    Hug a nug and haev a beer. xx

  6. So the “unexpected adventure” became your dream? I like it. I really do. And I am so happy for you that you’ve achieved that sense of yourself while you’re still young enough to really make something out of it. Yelling and waving back at you from the age of 47, I promise you won’t regret it. And I truly understand. I’ve lived in my house 3 years and yet feel like I’ve ALWAYS lived here, like the present joy in this place and the way it fits my life sort of stretches to fill all those yesterdays before as well as my future years living here. Good luck to you in your continued pursuit, and thanks for sharing it with readers.

  7. This was a beautiful post. As someone else who spent her childhood bouncing around every year, I really identify with that feeling of finding a place that just feels like home. And you know what? It was a lot like finding the right guy. I wasn’t really expecting either one to work out, but there they were and it just kind of happened. Someday, when you’re least expecting it, you’ll drive over another hill, and he won’t be at all what you were looking for, but he’ll be everything you were looking for.

  8. Been reading this blog for some time and have been so inspired, as I have basically been doing this as well…just bought an old house with a farm and woodlot and it’s amazing how many people ask me how I’m going to handle it myself and why am I not married… blah blah blah.

    Well, you get it. I have determined that in order for me to find happiness in someone else I need to find my own happiness first. If the man comes along and wants to be a part of that, fine…but I enjoy doing this on my own and for the first time truly feel happy where I am.

  9. You are such a good writer. I was blown away by this post – by the writing, the advice, the truth, everything. I hope that someday soon I listen to that whispering voice. Thanks for writing.

  10. Been super busy since last fall and just now got around to clearing up email, and saved all your email posts til last so I could catch up to the craziness that is your life.

    Sound familiar?

    Now to this post. Best ever: a great look back at what you’ve accomplished, what you’re still doing, dreaming and hoping for.

    You still impress. You’ve made a lot of tough choices over the years, and this one was another. Or not. Depends on your dreams. Which you seem to have a good handle on.

    Thanks for allowing us to live your life vicariously. And for sharing the joy, sorrow and pain, and successes, trials and tribulations. It’s all life.

    The Texas Rangers-the law enforcement kind- have a saying: it’s impossible to stop a man who gets knocked down and keeps getting up.

    You’ll do to ride the river with.

  11. Wow. Just wow. I’ve been reading your blog nonstop for a few days after a recent Google session around remodeling my bathroom.

    I had no idea your story would take me on a journey so parallel to my own. I love DIY. My life goal is to learn how to do EVERYTHING, first and foremost. I don’t know why. I have plenty of opportunity to take other paths (hire things out, buy things instead of build them, etc.), but I keep going. There’s some kind of irresistible draw to self sufficiency – some kind of burning desire to know – as if the only route to fulfillment is the experience, rather than the end result.

    This feeling is something I’ve always wanted to capture myself, but I’ve never quite figured out how. I know it and I feel it – it’s an irrevocable part of me – but I’ve never been able to express it so poignantly. Thank you for proving that it can be done.

    Reading the first post I came across, I had no idea your photos of waterproof membrane would lead me to anything so in line with my human experience. I had no idea anyone felt the way I do about unfinished projects – that a growing to-do list is fulfillment in itself, rather than something to be upset about.

    I’m not a woman so I won’t pretend to understand some of adversity you’ve probably encountered along the way, but I AM a person that used to be frowned upon as incapable of excelling at anything requiring mechanical or construction know-how. I was always expected to just be smart and make money so that I wouldn’t have to worry about those things.

    But in rebellious fashion, I decided I wanted to do things outside of my comfort zone. Figure out how to accomplish the tasks others considered “beneath me.” And they’ve been the most fulfilling parts of my life.

    I think I understand where you’re coming from. And then after I figure it’s just coincidental and the similarities probably end with a love of diy, I read a post like this and these uncontrollable tears come to my eyes. It’s like you’re expressing exactly how I’ve felt for a decade, with words I’ve just never been able to find.

    Thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one out there insane enough to find satisfaction in self sufficiency. Thank you for reading my thoughts. Thank you for writing things like, maybe relationships aren’t meant to have a fairy take happy ending. I’ve always felt guilty that those things sound boring and repetitive. I’m really glad to know there are others that question whether that should be everyone’s reality.

    The focus on the journey is a beautiful thing, and the last few days reading your writing have been very therapeutic for me. Way to go for putting that good out into the world and letting others know they aren’t alone.

    Best of luck with your future endeavors. I’ll definitely be following along.

    Oh… and thank you for revealing that I’m not the only one that loves both wine AND beer.

  12. As I go off to the little tiny home in Dexter to finish it in 5 days for the bone marrow transplant recipient that needs a home for the next few months. Purpose is what it’s all about…and I’m glad you found yours. Thanks for motivating me this cold and snowy morning! I needed someone to tell me that I can do this!

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