If you go back to the very beginnings of this blog I write a lot of self-indulgent tripe about wanting to change the world and be different and throw off the status quo. You’ll have to forgive me–I was an idealistic 19-year-old at the time.
In some ways, I still agree with some of those sentiments. I don’t like the idea of working eight hours a day 40 hours a week for the man. I don’t like the idea of owning a big house in the suburbs with a big lawn and a big mortgage and spending my precious hours off mowning the lawn to an exact length. I don’t like the idea of owning a house full of possessions, just like all my neighbors. I don’t want my life to center on work, soccer games with the kids and watching TV as a family. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with those things, but sometimes I wonder how much right there is in those things. Kids are starving in the world and we’re too busy to care—there’s nothing right about that.
I work for myself and set my own hours so I can watch my kids instead of paying someone else to do it (though that’s more necessity than plan). I own a big house, but a tiny lawn which I mow as infrequently as possible with a reel mower. I try (and fail) to minimize my possessions. I dream of sharing with my neighbors. I like the idea of only needing one snowblower on the block (growing up, that was my Dad—he had a massive snowblower on the garden tractor and would snowblow our driveway and then every other driveway around us that hadn’t been cleared yet). And I hope from time to time my efforts and time are centered on more than TV and work and I’m doing something to stop those starving kids from starving.
Maybe I am still that annoying 19-year-old. Though I think my dreams were grander back then.
But one thing I’ve learned since then is that these kind of world-changing and expectation-shrugging dreams are not easy. They take a lot of planning and hard work. You can’t just want to change the world. Our adoption journey in the past few years is an ideal example. It changed our world and broadened our horizons and forever tied us to a people of struggle. But it took investment and time and money and effort and help. We didn’t do it alone—we don’t do it alone.
The other day Abby brought up one of the crazy, idealistic dreams. She said she wanted to go teach in Ethiopia for six weeks at an AHOPE school. With summers off as a teacher and a writer husband who can work anywhere, it’s not completely crazy. It made me smile, because those are the crazy dreams we had as college students.
As we thought about making that dream a reality, I started to understand the hard work it takes to make it happen. It’s far from impossible, but it’s an uphill battle. It’s easy to go along in life and take the easy road. It’s simple to sit back and watch TV or put in your time at a job or spend your Saturdays for yourself or your kids. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to make that deep and last change, if you want to help those starving kids or whatever the cause may be, it’s going to take a lot more than just going along.
I don’t know if we’ll actually spend a summer in Ethiopia. But making it happen requires a lot of decisions about how we spend our time and money. Things like savings and fewer monthly bills and a smaller mortgage would help. It’s a lot easier to take these steps when you don’t have so many monthly bills and commitments holding you down. It’s probably basic family budgeting, but nobody really teaches you these things. We make X amount, so we spend X amount. Pretty soon we’re locked into it and it’s hard or impossible to change. That’s what makes a recession so difficult.
And this goes far beyond traveling abroad or adopting a kid or whatever dream you have. Smaller more manageable dreams require the same thing on a smaller scale. I’ve written a lot about my love affair with Detroit and its abandoned nature and burgeoning art scene. I’ve thought about visiting—and dismissed it. But why not? A vacation isn’t impossible. It just takes a little planning and effort.
I’m not describing anything ground-breaking here. It’s pretty basic and obvious. The difference between dreams and reality is hard work. But the clincher there is that you can achieve your dreams with a little hard work. Maybe a lot of hard work. But then they’re not just dreams—they’re reality.
I always look to big names and big accomplishments and their big talk and I think that could never be me. It’s just big talk. But it’s not big talk. It’s big work. It can happen. We can do it. We can change the world.
There I go again. Sounding just like my 19-year-old self. But maybe, just maybe, I’ve learned the difference.