All in Dreams
I am going to begin like I did last year: pen poised, gaze out over the lingering Christmas lights strung through the dark, heart open to all the pulsing possibility of 365 more days. I’m going to dream. I’m going to set my goals like signal flairs—intended less to be reached and more to point me in a new direction. I don’t love failure any more than I did as a kid, but I’m willing now because I’ve seen where it can get me.
I have given up on so many things.
Keep going isn’t exactly my life motto. I’m an instant-results girl, which is why cooking and 5-o’clock traffic bring me such mental anguish.
But today Windrose is celebrating four years of existing in this li’l Internet space—four years of stories told of navigating the challenges and triumphs of life in your twenties.
It has been almost a year since I graduated from college. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. My younger self would be surprised that I did not choose a solidified career path, but my younger self would have also questioned why I quit doing the things that I loved. Why did I not allow myself the space I needed to be creative? I could not allow myself the time for anything else besides school and work. To me, that is what equaled success.
For my entire life, this has been my dream. Freezing cold, sitting on the roof of my apartment, staring out at New York City in all its glory, at 2 o’clock in the morning, listening to Billy Joel. It really, truly does not get better than this.
But at the same time, it could.
Because there’s something that no one tells you about getting your dreams: Sometimes, it’s not what you thought it would be. Because sometimes, dreams change.
I am writing to inform you that I have decided to accept your offer to stay here for a to-be-determined amount of time. I’ve decided to occupy the space that you’ve provided me with here because it seems I have no other choice. I’ve tried my hardest to get out of this space, to crawl and dive and roll my way out of this weird and uncomfortable living situation. This is worse than any bad roommate I’ve ever had, for the record. I’ve tried to avoid giving people this address when they ask “what are you doing with your life?” or “where are you now?” because I quite honestly haven’t bothered to memorize it either. Every time I think I’m moving out and I’ve convinced myself this is it, I fall right back on my ass and am reminded, abruptly (and painfully if I must say so myself), that it is not my time.
I walked out of the interview how I had walked out of high school: Discouraged. Lost. Uncertain of the future. I had built up the idea of the flight attendant career so much in my head and after waiting three months to get there, it was completely different from what I had expected.
You see, I knew I had the potential to create something impactful. I’ve fought through my own darkness and have sat with enough friends in the thick of their mess to know that there is a whole army of people who need to know they are not hopeless and they’re fine just as they are. But whenever I took any steps to bring it to reality, I would get shut down by fear and sent back to the depths of YouTube.
I like to have things mapped out and know exactly what I’m working toward. I prefer to weigh out the pros and cons and then make one rational decision after another. For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept endless to-do lists and goal charts. And to be honest, that’s worked pretty well for me. Until after college, when the possibilities were endless and nothing seemed to go according to plan.
Having an image in my mind of how I wanted my life to be and then having things play out very differently inevitably led to a lot of anxiety. My self-critic became debilitatingly loud.
Two over-sized suitcases are packed full of my belongings, and I am ready to move across the world. This Texas girl is flying off to live in the suburbs of London. Indefinitely. I will be continuing my teaching career at a British school, teaching "maths."
Three phrases I have spoken on repeat since accepting my new job are as follows:
"This is the craziest thing I have ever done." (Obviously.)
"I'll be back." (Not in a Schwarzenegger accent, but you get the idea.)
"I'm such a Millennial." (Just the truth.)
Twenty-three has been the hardest year of my life, straight up. And I say that with zero melodrama and with the common sense that there will be years ahead that are worse and years ahead that are better. I know many of you can relate. Maybe this is just our early twenties, or maybe this is just life—this pendulum swinging between the dark and light, wandering and arriving, wondering and knowing, grief and joy.
Making the most of loneliness means not nursing the discomfort of emptiness but creatively discovering new ways to fill it. Singleness may not always naturally fill our time or our hearts, but there is plenty of fullness to be experienced if we only choose to fill the space with, well, whatever the heck we want.
It is 180,000% possible to travel on a post-grad budget, and I will defend this statement in a manner that is borderline aggressive.
The world wasn’t meant to be admired from a stock desktop wallpaper; it was meant to be experienced. This is another statement that I will defend in a manner that is borderline aggressive.
But traveling isn’t always easy on entry-level wages. Here’s how to see the world without breaking the bank.
You should just drive across the country,” she said lightheartedly, and laughter ensued. Drive across the country, what an absurd idea. But then the joke got taken one step too far and all of a sudden we were plotting about who would pay my rent for a month and where I could stop to stay the night in Oklahoma and Arizona and California. Suddenly, I was calling my parents and asking if I would still be allowed to come home for Christmas if I made a rather (arguably) reckless decision and drove my tired, thirteen-year-old car across the country. (It took some negotiation but I am, indeed, still allowed to come home.) We sat in a coffee shop for an hour and hammered out the plan and concluded that there really wouldn’t be one, that sometimes you have to take a leap, whether or not it looks like a promising landing, and whether or not people are going to speculate about where your mind might have run off to.
Since taking that first step, I’ve made the trip back to speak in numerous classes and even at other events. Yes, the introvert in me still needs plenty of time to recover after public speaking. But every time I went back to campus, it got easier. With every step—every time I said “yes” when I wanted to say “no”—I gained momentum.
That’s another great thing about baby steps: every step you take builds momentum—stamina to keep going, strength for the journey.