Living Your Dream at the Worst Possible Time

Ten years ago I  wrote a book called “Quit Your Job, Move to Paris.” I wrote it after a young dewy-eyed college grad interviewed with me at the bank where I was working in the advertising department. (Dear God, I’m depressing myself just writing the words.) She’d recently graduated with a degree in advertising and wanted to know what she should do to, basically, get my job. I looked at her and asked: “Are you married?” She blushed prettily and shook her head. I said: “So no kids?” She reddened not so prettily and frowned at me. “Of course not,” she said. “Do you own your own home?” “I’m only 21,” she replied, as if speaking to a seriously mentally impaired individual. (Kind of like how my teenager speaks to me all the time but that’s another blog.) I said: “So, no ties, no mortgage, no private school tuition. My advice to you is…” She poised her little pen over her little steno pad.

Well, you can probably guess what I said (see above title of aforementioned book) and she did not appreciate being led on as she put it. In addition to being a new college graduate, she also happened to be the daughter of the bank’s vice president so I’m not sure why she even bothered to get my take on anything. She should’ve just gone to her Dad and said: “I want her job, please, Daddy.”

But see, I had a mortgage and a kid (plus two step-kids, but again, another time, another blog) and the idea of “living my passion” or waking up and smelling the croissants on the Rue de la Paix or spending a year writing a novel was about as possible as starring in a Broadway musical. She was young. She had her whole life ahead of her. Her choices hadn’t been made yet. From my perspective, I thought she should take advantage of her freedom while she had it, as if passion—for writing or travel or acting or anything—would dry up or run out like sand in an hourglass.

When I wrote the “Quit Your Job” book, I ended up researching various chapters on different life situations to suggest ways and ideas of how moving to Paris for a period of time might be possible: married with kids, single with kids, etc. During the course of my research, I discovered how it would be possible for me to go, too. The  information I came up with for my own situation was good and bad. The good news was: I learned I could go! I learned how I could make it happen! The bad news was: I chose not to. Yeah, I know. That part sucked. But it still helped to know I had a choice. I didn’t pack up the kid and the husband and shoot off to France in 2001 because when I sat down and thought about it, I realized I wanted other things more. Things that couldn’t happen if I took the Paris option at that time.

Funny thing about passion, though. If it’s real, it tends to stay with you. I don’t work in a corporate advertising department any more. I write full time. As for the Paris thing, well, my son is sifting through his college acceptances even as we speak which means, next year, he’s launched into his grand adventure. And guess what? Turns out, Paris is still there!

Seems that silly college girl was right about one thing: there really isn’t a time limit on passions after all.

20 thoughts on “Living Your Dream at the Worst Possible Time

  1. I really enjoyed that. Not sure why, exactly, because I have no job to quit and don’t really want to go to Paris. But you’re right about passion, if it’s really there it will stay with you. After I graduated and started looking for jobs in public relations, I asked a question similar to your dewy-eyed college grad. I was told, “If you want a job in Public Relations, you aren’t going to be able to start at the top and work your way down.” He suggested I offer to sweep up the offices to get a foot in the door. I couldn’t take that route, I was married, had two kids, and a mortgage.

  2. I understand completely. My dream job was living in the Tetons right out of college. Hiking and camping and keeping my journal. I had a summer sweetheart, and great tips waiting tables in the national park. I returned years later with my husband and kids for a family reunion. The park was just as beautiful, the hiking was still great, and the uniforms were SO much nicer. I chatted with retired couples who follow the seasons, working in different parks throughout the year. For about thirty seconds I felt nostalgic.
    Then it hit me that I was there with the love of my life, being served my morning coffee instead of getting up with the sun to do the breakfast shift–with just enough time to shower off the grease before the lunch crowd showed up. I had almost forgotten that I was already living my dream life as a full-time writer and storyteller in the most beautiful city–the one I had crossed the country to live in and chosen as my home.
    We tend to romanticize certain situations, and our dreams probably change as often as we do. A reality check now and then is a good exercise. Another really great post, Susan!

    • Thanks, Naomi! And you’re right about the reality check. And how wise of you to know you already had your dream life without uprooting everyone and spending a fortune. Or, as Dorothy would say: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!”

  3. Mmmm… One of my dreams is quitting my job and moving to England … and getting another job there to pay for the student loans and credit card debt and all of the other things I need money for as someone in their late 30s. I bet I could make it happen, but then I stop and think about how much I would miss my friends and family. But I like to keep that dream forever on the periphery of possibility. 😉

    • I know what you mean. I moved to New Zealand years ago for an “adventure” (there was a handsome POM involved) and I look back at those years as some of my most exciting. But this was before Skype and e-mail and I also remember that time as one of bone-crushing homesickness. (You’re never more alone than when you’re the only Yank in a land of English-speakers!) I learned that, like most things worth doing, it was really, really hard in a lot of ways.

  4. “because when I sat down and thought about it, I realized I wanted other things more. Things that couldn’t happen if I took the Paris option at that time.” What an amazing revelation to find within yourself. To understand what you want and what it would ‘cost’ you in return. Hope it all works out as well as you desire. No matter where you are – may you enjoy always, T

  5. My “Paris” is England. And I’m scrambling to come up with whatever I need in order to live a guilt free, fun-tastic 30 days across the pond. You are so right, the dream never dies. :-). Great post!

    • My husband and I are both serious Anglophiles (we spent six weeks in January in the Cotswolds for our honeymoon!) I often check the prices on flats (in Oxford, mostly–FORGET being able to afford London) and I can’t imagine it ever being possible for a very long stay. But your “30-days across the pond” is so do-able! Do it! Do it!

  6. True, there are no time limits, but there are always choices. It’s when people don’t realize that they have choices that they let their dreams die. Did you know what happened to that college girl? Did she follow her passion? Maybe it was to get something that wasn’t handed to her by her father. And I wonder what she would say is her dream now?

    Great post, Susan.

  7. The grass may always be greener, but you still have to mow it. As soon as I realised that I became less worried about not ‘living the dream’. The most important thing is never giving up on your passions, hopes and dreams but not resenting your life whilst your working towards them. Hard to put into words but this really struck a chord. All about realising what is important and how you can try and live a little bit of your dream everyday. I quit an extremely stressful career job for a less stressful one so I could make room for writing and not one bit of me regrets it.

  8. So glad you know the Cotswolds – they are down the road from here, where I do all my walking. Forget London! There is a lot more to England and so much of it beautiful.
    I had a dream about art college which my parent scuppered. The dream died. The other dream stayed with me and 35 years later, I’ve written a novel and a few short stories, plus a selection of poems. How it stayed alive when I convinced myself for so long I couldn’t be a writer is anyone’s guess; but stay alive it did.
    It’s hard, and sometimes lonely work; and it’s what I want to do at the moment so I’m happy.

  9. Pingback: Who’s afraid of the big bad world? | Mitochondrian Productions

  10. Your post made me smile. It’s good to hear that my spontaneous decision to work abroad isn’t as crazy as I thought. I mean, come on, I’m 22 and I have no obligations… besides paying my student loans back. But even then, why not experience new cultures and such now when I still have just me, myself, and I. Thanks for your post!

  11. Thank you for this post. I have wanted to live in Paris … since forever. The two days I was able to spend there are permanently etched in my mind. You are right, kids, etc. all come first. Even so, just yesterday, I found myself poking around online trying to find some way to live there. Every time I think of Paris, I can smell the croissants baking. I can hear the sound of shoes clicking, echoing down the long hallways in the Louvre. The cheese and wine go without say. Sigh. Smile. You know, they have monthly furnished rentals that are very reasonable.

    • Thank you for your comment, Karen! I just got back–as in early this morning–from a week’s stay in Paris, as it happens. And yes, my husband and son and I rented a very natty little apartment in the shadow of the Notre Dame cathedral. It was pure bliss for seven days and I’m finding it difficult to believe I’m already back home! I walked everywhere and ate what I wanted to eat (for a change) and shopped and loved every minute of it. I must say, going to Paris with two guys is a tad more stifling than going with my mother (who was always my Paris travel companion up but she’s 90 and not up to it). One day I let them to the natural history museum, the zoo, (really?!), the Pantheon…and I spent the day shopping and stopping for cafe when the mood hit me. Pure bliss. I was happy to reconnect with them at the end of the day but thoroughly enjoyed my solo tramp thru Paris even so. (Besides spending Christmas there, the trip was designed to help put a little more texture in my finishing my fourth Maggie Newberry Mystery which takes place in Paris during Paris Fashion Week.) 🙂

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