About two years ago, a middle-aged higher education colleague did something that shocked many of us. He left a secure, well-paying, prestigious job to fulfill a childhood dream of owning a candy store.
Those of us he left behind were either shaking our heads, wondering if he’d gone mad, or were in a state of inspired awe that he would “give it all up” to chase a dream. I fell into this latter category. Not only did I admire his courage, I admit that I was a little envious. I wanted my own candy store dream.
I’ve spent most of my adult life drifting as it relates to my dreams. Part of the problem is that I have so many. I want to publish a novel. I want to own a holistic center. I want to spend a summer in Europe. I want to get my real estate license so I can fix up rundown houses and flip them. I want to sell antiques that I refinish myself out of our garage. The list goes on.
Dreams are amazing. They can inspire, motivate, and keep us going when life is less than dreamy. They are the starting point for nurturing our deepest passions, desires, and goals. But as Antoine de-Saint-Exupery said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” The same goes for dreams.
I’ve made some attempts over the years to turn my dreams into reality, with varying degrees of success.
There was the little yoga room I rented to teach classes in after completing teaching training, which I ditched after six months. At the time it seemed like too much work combined with my job at a community college. Plus, I hadn’t intended to open a yoga room. I fell into it by accident. But that’s a story for another day.
I made it to Ireland after falling in love with Irish literature while in college, my husband, toddler, and mother-in-law in tow.
I completed a historical romance novella and submitted it to Harlequin’s Undone e-book line. Two years later, I finally received an email from them apologizing for not getting back to me sooner. They’d closed down the line and only now realized that the email linked with it was still active. Though they encouraged me to send a new manuscript to another line, I haven’t bothered.
Then there’s the sad state of my career. On the outside it appears perfectly fine. Inside, it’s killing me slowly.
Until six years ago, I worked mostly part-time, sometimes piecing together several jobs at once. I never saw this as a problem because the arrangement worked out great. It gave me flexibility and plenty of time to spend with family, tend to home, and pursue personal interests and passions.
When my husband began having job issues it became necessary, or so I thought, for me to pursue full-time work. Since I’d worked in higher education part-time for years and enjoyed it, I decided to stick with this field. I left the community college I loved and went to work full-time at a large university.
From the start I knew it wasn’t a good fit. Not the work itself, but the rest of it. The culture felt cold and corporate compared to the community college. Working nine-to five with little flexibility was akin to torture. I hated being away from my home and family 10 hours a day (commute included), five days a week, at the nonstop beck and call of others.
The symbolism of my dying soul came in the form of my vegetable garden. It was during the first summer at this job. Summers require working 10-12 hour days. My garden withered and died, choked by the weeds I didn’t have time to pull. I haven’t bothered with one since. That was over five years ago.
Even worse, I was making choices based on what was expected of me, not on what I truly wanted. For example, I expended tremendous energy pursuing a master’s degree that meant almost nothing to me. I earned it because, well, that’s what one does when working in higher education.
Then there were my husband’s job issues, which were causing financial stress and overall wrecking my life, as I liked to tell him often and quite loudly at times.
I felt trapped, stuck, and unable to see the light.
I was no longer in charge of my life. My dreams were just ideas and possibilities stuck in my head with seemingly little hope of ever becoming reality. Topping it off was the realization that I had no one to blame but myself. For too long I’d allowed myself to be swept along in life. I’d let necessity, fear, negative thinking, and other people’s expectations, problems, and demands become my masters.
I made a conscious decision to take action. I didn’t want to be on my deathbed one day regretting my life choices. My first action was to stop blaming circumstances (and my husband) for my perceived stuckness and start putting my energy into creating a life I loved.
The bottom line is that our circumstances will never be perfect. We must take action in spite of them. There is simply no other way.
Now when I catch myself falling into a negative mindset, such as fear or blame, I immediately stop and say a prayer. I ask a higher power to replace all fear and negativity with faith and love. This has helped tremendously. It is retraining my brain to see the positive aspects of life.
I’m committed to living life on my own terms, no matter how long it takes, though the sooner the better. To accomplish this, I needed to get clear about my core values. These include:
- Satisfactory work/life balance, including being home for my children before and after school, and having time to tend to my family, friends, home, gardens, and self.
- Freedom to create my own work schedule and call the shots in my own life.
- Creative work that lets me be authentically me, that serves a higher purpose, that energizes and excites me, and provides a generous income.
- Time and energy to help my husband either start his own business or make a complete career shift, which in the end will benefit us all as a family.
To this end, I recently applied for a part-time position at the university that would allow me to utilize my creativity more . It would also provide me with more balance while I work on my dreams. To my surprise and delight, I was offered an interview, which went better than I expected. I’m now waiting to hear back.
Though I’m a little afraid about the possibility of a salary cut, and certainly I may not get the job, I’m convinced that taking this step was necessary. It’s telling the universe that I’m serious about creating change in my life and making room to pursue dreams.
Change one thing, change everything.
I’ve thought long and hard about what I would do if I won the lottery. How would I spend my money and time? I realized that once I remodeled my kitchen, bought a condo in Florida, did some serious traveling, and immersed myself in everything yoga, I would want to open that holistic center.
I’m passionate about helping people live happier, healthier, more balanced lives. I do this now to a certain degree as a college counselor, but I want to do it differently, on my own terms, without sacrificing my values.
I’ve decided the best approach is to start by opening a small office/studio that offers one-on-one yoga sessions, Reiki energywork, and workshops and series classes. To prepare for this, I’ve taken the following action steps:
- I wrote down an opening date of January 2017.
- I started a daily home yoga practice again; no excuses that I’m too busy or tired.
- I enrolled in a class with the woman I completed my Reiki training with to refresh my skills and deepen my knowledge of the energy body.
- I’m researching advanced teacher trainings at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health website to refresh my skills and learn some new ones.
- I started writing copy for the future website that will represent my business online.
I am coming to understand that the way to manifest your dreams is through strategic and sustained action. The dream alone is not enough.
If I can earn a master’s degree that I didn’t even want while working full-time, caring for a family and home, and dealing with my husband’s midlife crisis, I sure as hell can make my dream of owning a small holistic business come true.
As for the Ph.D. turned entrepreneur, his risk seems to have paid off. With over 400 candy varieties, an online store, gift baskets, kids’ birthday parties, and specialty products such as a PMS Rescue Pack, he is living the dream.