July 9, 2014

You Can’t Judge a Dream

As I was getting ready for my overnight shift on Friday night, I opened my YouTube Watch Later list and put on one of the many videos I’ve saved where I could listen instead of watch: TED Talks, cool songs, and some random videos on productivity and lifehacking. (You’ll see some of those pop up on my Links I Love from time to time, but I honestly don’t spend a lot of time watching videos on my computer, so they’re few and far between.) That night, I ended up watching Marie Forleo’s Why Big Dreams Aren’t Necessarily Better Dreams – and I found it really inspiring.

A few years ago, I wrote a post on how I felt like everything I did was to fit with the expectations of others, and I wasn’t getting enough time to do what I wanted to do. I took a lot of heat in the comments for that post, which is part of why I’m not linking to it. (Though I don’t delete any posts/comments, so you could certainly go back and find it if you really wanted to.) People were (very rightfully) asking the question of, why do you feel that you have those expectations imposed on you? Who exactly imposes them? I don’t know if it was because I was living in New York City (known to be a pretty status-conscious place) or if it was the company I kept, but I truly did feel like I had to do certain things in order to fulfill other people’s expectations.

I remember a point early on in my career, when I was going through an awful  period at work (literally working/commuting 18-20 hours a day, and then also working 8-10 hours a day on weekends). I spoke to one of my college friends, in tears and completely overwrought, about potentially quitting my job. “But what would you do instead?” she asked. I hadn’t run any marathons yet, but I loved health and fitness, and I posited that I would love to be an aerobics instructor. (I had a few group fitness instructors at the time tell me they thought I’d be really good at it and that I should look into it.) However, my friend laughed at me and told me I was just being crazy… of course I couldn’t quit my fancy consulting job to do that.

Now, though, that seems like a totally viable career option. Who cares if I have the ability to work in a high-paying/prestigious job; it’s more important to do what I really want to be doing. (Plus, to echo the commenters on that post about taking more time for myself: prestigious according to who, exactly?) If I want to be a group fitness instructor, why should anyone tell me that’s not a valid career path?

I’m still in consulting, and really enjoying it now, but my lifestyle has definitely changed since then. I could not be more thrilled with my move to Colorado, which was a huge step for me in doing what I want instead of what other people expect of me. Living in “glamorous” New York City was never a good fit for me, and I only wish that I had the courage to leave sooner.

Being here has also also opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone is totally career-focused – and yet, they aren’t looked down upon for not being workaholics. It’s amazing to me how many people here can make and commit to post-work plans on weeknights, because they can count on leaving the office at 5pm. (Should note that I started seeing this as Dallas as well; it seems to be just NYC/Boston/DC that have all the workaholics! Ha.)

Even in downtown Denver, it definitely seems to be more of a “work to live” mentality rather than your career always coming first and other things being an apologetic afterthought. I’m still working on getting my own priorities in line with that (see: spending my vacation day today responding to work inquiries… oops), but it’s refreshing to see that it doesn’t have to be that way. In New York, I felt like it was a sign of me not being “cool” enough or social enough if I wanted to stay in on a Saturday night. Here, I can’t tell you how many Saturday nights I’ve just stayed in, cooked, and read a book – and that makes me so, so, so happy to get to do those things. Isn’t that what matters more than what other people think?

In the above video, I love Marie’s example of her parents’ dream.

My parents moved out to Vegas from New Jersey. Now, their Vegas is not the Vegas that most people think of. They’re not living in some penthouse in the Mandalay Bay; they would never ever want that. They live in a quiet little residential neighborhood; their house is so simple; their life is so simple; and they absolutely love it that way.

I talked about this a bit in my posts on my recent trip to Alaska, but I’ve started to have my own “simple” dreams about living somewhere quiet and fairly isolated. My ideal place to live would be a modern cabin/house somewhere out in the mountains just north of Boulder – where the nearest neighbor is 1/4 mile down the road, but where I could still easily get into Boulder/Denver for groceries, events, restaurant dinners, etc. Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound that out there, but when you consider that just a few years ago I was looking into buying apartments in New York City, it’s pretty different!

I never knew anyone who lived somewhere isolated like that, and I always had the impression that those hermits who did were a little bit “weird”. In fact, I dated a guy in NYC who told me that he wanted to make lots of money now to be able to buy a cabin in the woods and not have to interact with anyone ever, just play video games all day. I thought that sounded incredibly creepy and antisocial, but now I’m realizing that you really can’t judge anyone else’s dreams… and that a life like that actually has some appeal!

Ranch Estes Park Marathon
Wonder if this ranch in Estes Park is for sale?

I have always said that there’s more than one way to run a marathon. Sometimes I run a marathon for time, trying to see if I can PR. Sometimes I run a marathon as a pacer, with my main goal to make sure that everyone else hits their goals. And sometimes I run a marathon just to enjoy the scenery and take as many pictures as I can. However, it wasn’t until watching this video that I realized that as much as I don’t judge anyone’s running goals, perhaps I need to remember that no one should be judging personal goals either. It doesn’t make sense to compete for the highest salary, the most prestigious title, the biggest house, etc, if those things aren’t what’s important to you. It’s not easy to give up the “shoulds” that are all around you, but I’ve realize that I’m becoming so much happier when I’m focusing on what I like to do instead of what other people think I should be doing.

Anyone else guilty of focusing on what other people want instead of what you want?


11 thoughts on “You Can’t Judge a Dream”

  1. I have had these same issues off an on during my life. Tell someone hey I would love to do this or that only to be shot down and then feel like yep its a dumb idea. Only recently did I start standing up and doing what I wanted not what everyone else thought I wanted. Its a hard balance and one I still don’t have mastered. Colorado sounds beautiful we are taking a family vacation there in a couple weeks and I hope to get some walks/runs in while there.

    1. That makes me feel a lot better that I’m not the only one trying to balance it 🙂 Where are you going in Colorado? I LOVE IT HERE and know you will too 🙂

    2. Not real sure where we are headed my parents have it planned and I just havent had a chance to ask where. I will do that over the weekend so I can research fun things to do for me my husband and kids to do.

  2. I. Love. This. Post. I have been running through A LOT of these thoughts lately – whether or not I want to do what I’m doing or switch to do something more fitness related (even if it doesn’t earn me as much money), whether or not I want to live in the city, how I can do more of what I love. Sometimes I’m gung ho about moving out of the city to someone more suburban and outdoorsy (even toyed with California) and becoming a personal trainer, but then I worry about making enough money to pay rent, if I’ll miss being able to walk everywhere, if there will be enough young people in the burbs… yada yada… anyway… happy to know I’m not alone!

    1. I think we all question whether we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing! I really like my job but there are times I feel like I’ve been scared off from new opportunities because “what will people say?” It’s definitely hard not to care about that!

  3. LOVE this post! So relate to it and agree…as mentioned above also it’s so discouraging when you share your dream and other say its stupid or crazy etc., thanks for helping others feel like its ok.

    P.S. totally have the same dream for living in a cabin with some space!

  4. I deal with these feelings every time I meet someone new and get the dreaded “What do you do?” question. I feel like I always have to qualify my answer because I do not at all identify what what I get *paid* to do, which is really what that question is asking. I volunteer for two organizations, I’m training for my first half-marathon, I take flying trapeze classes, I’m starting my own business…but my job is just a job. Albeit, one that doesn’t require travel, being on call, working overtime, responding to emergencies, or working past 5pm, thereby allowing me to pursue all my other interests. I would very much be able to answer that question without the qualifiers, but I know that has more to do with wanting to fulfill others’ expectations of what a career is rather than my own fulfillment. But, until what I “do” is the same as what I get paid to do, I try not to let ego get in the way and to focus more on what makes me happy and less on where I spend the majority of my weekday hours. It can definitely be a struggle sometimes.

    1. How would you feel about answering “what do you do” with JUST those hobbies? Or maybe even, “well, I work in X, but I also volunteer for YZ and am working on starting my own business” (minimizing your “day job”). There have been a few times where I’ve answered the “what do you do” question with my hobbies instead, and I’ve left the conversation feeling really proud of myself for emphasizing that!

    2. Your second example is pretty much what I do. I’ll say, “I work in X, I also A, B, C, D…” and then direct the conversation towards those other things. I try to make it clear that my job just pays my bills and my other pursuits are what I’m really about. Those things present a much stronger picture of who I am and not just how I pay my rent!

    3. I love that approach. Jobs are such a small part of who we are, and while I love mine, I feel like most conversations around it are much more stilted than the conversations I have about my hobbies.

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