Hey, wake up – this is your dream

Lisa Jakub – author. Age 8.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting by a pond with my friend, T. It was a warm fall day and the pond looked as if it had been ripped out of Idyllic Ponds Monthly Magazine. There were gently rustling reeds, lazy koi fish kissing the surface of the water and a heron, arrogantly surveying it all from the shoreline.

T is a writer and an English professor and we were talking about writerly things, like muses, death and Scotch. We talked about my book being published and he told me about the novel he was working on. We were perched on a wobbly stone bench and T stood up to stretch his legs and smoke a cigarette far enough away that I wouldn’t complain about it too much. He exhaled pensively for a moment and looked back at me:

“So, I have to ask you this, what’s it like to be living your dream?”

I laughed at him because the question seemed absurd. It feels strange to think of your own life like that. Most of us are more likely to tally up all the things we’ve not done, and focus on them.

When I look at my incredibly talented writer friend, I see his MFA that I’m envious of and his job in the academic surroundings that I admire. He’s a creative soul whose apartment is filled with Escher prints and typewriters and masks that he made in college. But he’ll downplay it all, even the things he’s published, waving them away like the cigarette smoke that still manages to get in my eyes. And all the while, I’ll feel inferior because I don’t have advanced degrees and I don’t even know how to make a mask — and I’ll wave away the beautiful moments in my own life.

Why are we compelled to move on to the next thing and discard our accomplishments? I’ve always felt that if just one person enjoyed my work, I’d die happy. But now Facebook is telling me that I need to keep tabs on pages that are similar to mine so I can “keep up.” Suddenly, I’m in a world where 8,000 Facebook fans doesn’t feel like enough.

Why do we change the rules on ourselves?

If we really were living our dream — would we even notice?

When I get still for just a moment, I realize how astounding it all is. I’m a writer. That’s the dream I’ve had since I was eight and compiled the Collected Works of Lisa Jakub. I’m also healthy and I have friends and family and a place to live. That’s a dream, too.

So, my answer to T was rather dualistic:

Living my dream is wonderful.
And it’s exactly the same as life before I got a book deal.

I think most of us assume that if we are living our dream, then everything must be all shiny and effortless. Therefore, if it’s not perfect, we can’t be there, yet. I still have maintenance issues with my car that require me to spend three hours waiting at the repair place. My dog is still half blind and has seasonal allergies. I used to get frustrated and cry because no one wanted to publish my book, I still get frustrated and cry because I have meetings with my publisher and I worry about disappointing them.

People have said that it must have been easy for me to get my book published because of “who I used to be.” I won’t detail the mountain of rejections from agents and publishers, the endless emails saying that no one is interested in a Hollywood story from a no-longer-famous person that doesn’t involve orgies and rehab – but I’ll just say, getting published was not easy.

But this is what we do, as humans. We tend to assume that everyone has it easier and better than us. They have connections or innate talent or more money or prettier hair. But none of that means that they don’t have troubles and stress and heartbreak. It’s just in different packaging.

Knowing those concerns are universal makes them feel so much more manageable. This is simply what it means to be alive. We might as well find some joy and gratitude in there, because life is never going to be perfect. For any of us. No book deal/MFA/sweet car will cure the essential human condition of uncertainty and unease.

But maybe being alive, being truly awake in your life, is the real dream.  Maybe the rest of it is just icing.

The ducks in the pond paddled towards us, looking up expectedly with their cutest begging duck faces. Since I only had bottled water and T only had gum, neither seemed to be appropriate offerings. The ducks got tired of watching us wax philosophical and glided away, muttering what I’m sure were disappointed profanities.

T and I left the pond to wander through the fallen leaves that were mostly obscuring the pathway. Kicking the leaves aside, we made our own path.

Back to our lives.

Back to our dreams.

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45 Replies to “Hey, wake up – this is your dream”

  1. Truly wonderful and insightful. Every day we are alive is so much better than the alternative, at least it should be for those of us who are healthy. Be happy for the small things 🙂

  2. Lisa, Two months ago, I attended my 50th high school reunion. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this event, but decided to attend to catch up with some friends I was longing to see. Over one hundred former students attended, out of a class of 240 remaining graduates still alive. This reunion was more than any one of us could have imagined. No one asked, “So, what are you doing?”, or, “Did you become that lawyer you mentioned in the yearbook?” Greetings, instead, were, “How are you?”, “You look wonderful.”, “It’s so good to see you, again!” It took fifty years, but we all rediscovered our youthful, spontaneous selves, and were reluctant to give them up. My point is, sometimes looking back gives us a better perspective of what is truly important in life, than looking forward. “Living the dream” simply means “living”! Another beautiful post, Lisa!

  3. Read your blog this morning Lisa over coffee, and although I had been in a funk of late your words really resonated with me. Thank you for putting back into prospective the things that we all want. To wake up each morning, breathe in the fresh air of the day, and to know that the “dream” really, is just the wonderful experience we all share in being alive.

  4. Reading Facebook started to become depressing for me with its endless ‘you’ll never believe what happens’ next videos, the surveys to find out what kind of animal you are or worse, too many political rants trying to portray very complex issues in black and white terms so I have gone on a Facecation as a friend of mine calls it… So your comment on how Facebook tries to hook you in is funny to me. The emails eventually started to become almost shrill in their desperation. The best part is how easy it became to ignore them after a few days. I have pretty much decided that my Facecation is permanent.

    Anyway, the rest of your post reminds me of an old girlfriend and how she broke up with me. One of her big issues was that I was too content. ‘How could I ever be happy when I’m so content?’ she asked. Among other responses I asked ‘How can you be happy when you’re never content?’ Needless to say, that argument didn’t go well for me. But I’ve thought about it from time to time over the years. Part of the ‘American Dream’ is striving to be successful or to become wealthy or, as the old saying goes, to keep up with the Joneses as though those were the things that would make someone happy. But as I found and you have seemed to find out as well, happiness is not a destination but a state of mind.

      1. I don’t understand. I checked both of the notify boxes yet I have received no notification of either your response nor of any new postings. Oh well, at least I finally remembered to check back again on my own.

        As for the girlfriend, you are probably correct. But at the same time, she’ll forever be the one that got away for me. I am generally happy with how my life has gone but my time with her was the happiest time overall. Oh well, c’est la vie…

  5. Everybody has their own definition of living the dream. My now 25 year old daughter and her new husband I assumed would be a NYC power couple. They informed us they were moving 2 years ago down south for a simplier life. It was quality of life they were going for. Her wedding was full of her dreams decorated in old books, pumpkins and an old typewriter. Her passion is literature, while down there she was offered a job in publishing. They are living a different dream and one more wonderfully peaceful than I could of imagined for her.

  6. Good for you Lisa, I really enjoyed this one. Brings us all a little closer to earth. And yes we all have a little bit different packaging in life and different ideas of dreams for our lives.

    I remember you as a child and you were always going for your dreams but never was above anyone.

    Thanks Lisa


  7. You summed it up by saying you are happy and healthy, not many can say that. My dream is to be a writer too, but without the fame, can that be done? I wouldn’t worry about Hollywood not buying your story, that can’t do anything but remakes and cartoon movies.

    1. You can totally be a writer – just write! You don’t need anyone else’s permission and you don’t need fame. And I’m not at all worried about Hollywood…I left that all behind me years ago!

    1. Love that! I also love one of Jack Kornfield’s books – After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. As as for gifts… it takes one to know one.

  8. What a good message this post had. Stop looking around the bend and enjoy what’s within your view, today. I am too guilty of this myself. Always having something else on my list I must do in order to accomplish x, y, and z. Thank-you for reminding me that all of that is minimal compared to the blessing that is waking up each day and having the ability to breathe in and breathe out. Just be in the moment. Not looking forward to the next. Just enjoying now and all that entails. Thank-you.

    1. I think we all have the tendency to do this – it’s all about recognizing that. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading.

  9. What a great post! I have really loved the voice of your prose, Lisa. It is so vivid and puts the reader right in the scene you’re depicting. I hope one day you’ll take your imagination and skill as a writer and tackle a novel of fiction, because based on the narrative style you display here, you’re most definitely a writer I would want to read more of. Certainly, reading your posts often inspires me not only in my own life, but also pushes me to get back to my own writing. In the meantime, however, I look forward to reading what’s to come right here, and can’t wait for your forthcoming memoir.

    1. I’d love to write fiction. I used to write a lot of it, I just never got brave enough to share. I’ll definitely dive into that in the future. Thank you so much for the encouragement — I’m thrilled that my work resonates with you and inspires you to write! What more could I ask for?

  10. I came across your blog a few weeks ago when, in the wake of Robin William’s passing, I found myself rewetting Mrs Doubtfire then, through Wikipedia page jumping, finding that you run a blog. I thought I’d check it out and I’m happy I did. I’ve stayed to read your new posts (added them to my blog reader so I don’t miss them) and have read back through many of your older posts. Because you write engagingly with content that no, isn’t orgies and rehab stories, but is very much compelling commentary on how fame can affect a person and, beyond that, what growing up is. You keep readers because of how well you write, even if you may attract many simply through name. So I truly believe you’re in a good space for the publication of your book: just enough name recognition for the book to be picked up, and more than enough talent for the book to be read.
    I’m sure it gets tiring to have your presence boiled down to a single film you did many years ago and I hope this doesn’t come across as anything but a sincere compliment on your writing. I’m glad you’re living your dream of being a writer, because you’re a great one.

    1. This comment warmed my heart – thank you so much. I’m really glad you stumbled upon me and I really appreciate the support. It means the world to me.

  11. I have been following your blog for a few months now, and I’ve really enjoyed reading your words. I truly appreciate the simple yet profound way you make meaning of the world through your blog posts, and even though you don’t write about unicorns, sparkles, and never giving up, your insight always leaves me with a little piece of much-needed inspiration. I too dream of being a (published) writer, and I often look to other writers for the courage to keep going. I always find some sort of motivation when I visit your space, so thank you! You are wonderful, and I’m so excited to read your book!

  12. Hi Lisa. A lovely post and so thought provoking. You reflect on life with such elegance and keep it real with a good sense of perspective. Great! I like to think I do the same – the crying especially on those lonely writing days when it’s grey and dull outside. That’s part of being a writer, I suppose. May I just add that I loved your newsletter video. Hope they keep coming 🙂

    1. Oh yeah, this writing life we’ve chosen can be brutal sometimes. I’m so happy you can relate and enjoy the posts. And thanks for the kind words about the newsletter – it’s actually really fun!

  13. “Most of us are more likely to tally up all the things we’ve not done, and focus on them.”

    So very true! You’ve hit the nail on the head there. Great post!

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