I have had several conversations recently with a friend regarding aspirations. It set me to thinking about ambition. Goals. Dreams. We hear a lot about having goals, being ambitious, pursuing dreams. But what does it really mean for the average person? How many times a week/month/year/lifetime, does one really think on these things? I can only speak for myself, and from the closeness I have with one or two others where I have insight into this realm of their life. And I return to a couple of sentences up and I realize that the average person probably doesn’t function that way – that it is those who are not average that aspire, that dream, that set up goals. We read about them in People magazine. They do TED talks. We read their books. Sometimes they change only their own life. Others change the lives of many.
What do those people have that others do not? Drive? Discipline? Money? Is there a secret formula perhaps, that others are clueless about? In looking back over my own life which is where I have the most insight, those things that I accomplished that mean something to me, truly did involve aspirations, drive and discipline. Sometimes they also involved money. I can honestly say I left high school with zero aspirations. I never visualized a future, I never thought about a career. I don’t have a family that cherishes education as a mechanism or way to go some place further. We surely did not have money. I think my only goal at that young age was some nebulous vision of being a wife and mother, and I didn’t have a very clear vision of what that should look like either. I bounced from menial secretarial job to secretarial job, usually also holding a second job in the service industry at night in order to make ends meet. Never during any of that time, that I can recall, did I consider going to college even though the majority of people who I graduated with did go on to college. I was simply waiting for something to come along and change my life. And so I got married. That really didn’t change my life much. I still worked at low wage jobs without much thought of a career, because now I was just waiting to have children. That took a while. When I became a mother and stayed home, that did change my life. Freed from the daily grind of just going to work, my mind took off. I read even more than I did before. I learned to cook. I kind of learned to iron. I cleaned house and I took care of my daughter and husband. And I kept on reading. With the arrival of a second, and then a third child, reading fell to the side. Keeping up with three children and a house was more than I could handle. I was always tired. Suddenly this didn’t seem like anything remotely related to that nebulous vision I had in my head. Lots of things about my life didn’t look like what I had buried in the dim recesses of my mind.
And thus began my second attempt on life, this time with a different path. After my divorce I went to college for the first time ever. I had to, if I was ever going to earn enough money to at best, even partially support my family. After years of external negative input about me, about my intelligence, going to college taught me that all of those messages had been erroneous. I took the college entrance exam and found out that even after being out of school for over fifteen years, I was still just as smart as I tested way back in grade school. I made Honors placement in all courses except math. Have I mentioned how much I dislike math? It’s worse than a foreign language to me – simply doesn’t compute. I digress. What college did for me was restore my faith in my own abilities. College erased all the negative that I had been listening to for ten years, even though I *did* have to take remedial algebra 🙂 But there wasn’t enough money for me to continue college full-time without also taking on a job, even with my husband working and child support coming in. So I dropped out and got a job at a Fortune 100 company. Yes, I still began at the low-level administrative end. I learned and worked though, and they offered college tuition reimbursement, so back again I went to college. I had a successful career and was promoted several times over my seven years there. Even working full-time, raising three children, I made Dean’s List time and time again. And then, I just ran out of energy. Again.
I quit my high-end job and moved for love. Opened a small business, which was modestly successful. Then I had to make yet another detour, stopping my business and seeking employment again due to family issues. It wasn’t until 2007 that I really began to learn what motivated me, what I liked, and to begin to form a plan; in other words, I began to once again have aspirations. This time they were not centered around making more money, or going to college, or even related to those things. My aspirations were in regards to two things – learning to grow things and starting to write. Truthfully, I hate living in the city. And I was living in one of the biggest cities – Atlanta. I wanted open spaces, good dirt and a writing desk underneath a window. Yes, I knew I’d still have to work. But this time I had a job I could take with me to the place that I found open space and good dirt! In 2008, my dreams finally came to fruition. I had a stint on a farm in Virginia where we took care of the farm in exchange for a place to live. Although the dream ended badly due to things out of my control, it is the happiest I have ever been in my life. I learned in that space really, the beginnings of who I am. Up until then, I didn’t have a clue. I was always being what others expected of me. I learned I like being alone a lot of the time. I am content then. I learned the awesome power of growing things, and seeing the outside world come alive season to season. I learned that television was something I could truly live without. We moved to another farm, this time in Tennessee, and I grew more things and had even more open spaces. I learned to watch the forest through seasons, when wild raspberries and blackberries fruited, and how to make jams and jellies and hunt for morel mushrooms and ‘sang. Then life delivered yet another blow through death.
The older entries in this blog show a tiny snapshot of my struggles to continue my dream alone. They don’t show the faltering that followed, when I could no longer write because it was simply too painful, and I was too busy trying to just live to also try and write about living. They don’t show the loss of my job, the leaving of my farm and the re-homing of my two beautiful Pyrs and traveling to another state to couch surf with thoughtful co-workers until I could scavenge up enough money to finally once again even have a place to be alone. They don’t show the friends that sent money so I could have gas, buy firewood, and eventually travel from there to here. They don’t show the kind people who allowed me to work their farms and market stands in exchange for vegetables, milk and eggs. Those entries don’t show the selling of most of what I had of value, just so I could sit here in a place of quiet, and once again find enough strength to write.
Adversity tends to dry up my desire to write. It doesn’t seem to dry up my desire to talk, so why does it cause the words to stop flowing from my fingers? This is on my mind due to an older blog post from Seth Godin entitled “Talker’s Block” and it was great food for thought, and a morsel I am going to savor daily.
So my aspirations are the same as they were in 2007 – to grow things and to write. The desk under the window will have to wait a while I suspect, but it’s always good to have something to look forward to, right? 🙂
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
― Anaïs Nin
To good tasting,