Thursday, April 26, 2012

On the Gradual Process of Reaching Your Dreams

Several things have happened in the past couple of weeks.

  • I went home to Baltimore and stood outside the big house in a small city that was once mine. I sat with friends on cobbled walks and sipped sugar-soaked drinks, drank in sunlight and the easy comfort that comes with people who know your whole soul. I remembered telling those same friends, one night when lightning struck by the harbor and we watched it from our porch, that one day the city I loved would be too small to hold all the dreams I harbored. During my visit, I walked familiar streets, felt the thrum of energy beneath my feet, the warmth of the earth itself. Felt again the strain of pulling my roots up from that rich loam, heard the groan of damp soil disturbed, the creak of branches and the snapping of twigs. I visited my favorite coffee shop and found that I no longer had a taste for the coffee there; it hadn’t changed, but I had.
  • I started taking Spanish classes because it’s been a goal of mine—because I want to belong in the city that’s chosen me, and because I want other people to feel they can belong when they’re in my presence; I see that as my responsibility. I am blessed in that learning has always come easily to me, so long as I set my mind to the schoolwork. But returning to the classroom made me realize all the areas of my life in which I’m learning and it in no way mimics the classroom, all the areas where trial and error equals real-life success or failure, where the difference between getting it right and screwing it up can be your job, or it can be your principles, or it can be your happiness. Or they can all three be tangled together, and maybe you can’t tell where one ends and another begins, and so you try to satisfy all of them in perfect balance, if you can do that, but I don’t know how.
  • I read this beautiful post by The Rejectionist—I mean Sarah McCarry, goodness, we can say that now—and the second I realized my cheeks were damp was also the second I realized I was sad. I wondered what I had to be sad about, when I’d earned my dreams, when I’d spent my day doing what I’d labored since high school to have the right to do. I read and re-read this line, over and over, again and again: “If you think getting what you want changes your life, you're most likely mistaken; there you are, still, in your same old body, fucking up, getting it right, no telling which.” And I cried, because I don’t know which. I don’t. It changes, day to day.
  • On another day, I cracked open a fortune cookie after a takeout lunch, unfolded the scrap of paper inside, and read:
    “The only way to enjoy anything in life is to earn it first.”
  • A week later I went somewhere I’d never been before and left with new friends, and then I went somewhere I’d been often and found it seemed to welcome me for the first time. The next day I sat down in the office with a pen and a notebook and I spent all day doing work I was proud of, and when I left for the night I thanked those around me for the opportunity.

This isn’t the kind of blog post I meant to write after so much silence. I guess I just hope it’s the kind of post that you needed to read. Perhaps you, like me, tend to live in the Where You’re Going and forget to enjoy the Where You Are. And maybe you must always be moving forward, because getting what you want will always, must always, be a gradual process. I’m not even sure there is a What You Want, not that doesn’t morph once you’ve reached it.

But in all that reaching and staying hungry and letting your dreams evolve, don’t ever forget that you’ve made it. Wherever you are now, you’ve made it to there, and that’s no small thing. That’s something to be proud of.

You’ve made it.


  1. Lovely! And very true. Two of the biggest lessons I've learned, and they're huge so I hope they don't sound too 'buzzy' reduced here, but here they are anyway:

    1.) The journey is the destination. (I remember hearing this for the first time at the Children's Book Festival in Hattiesburg, MS. Elaine Konigsburg said it)And since you discuss this so eloquently, I'll move on to...

    2.) You can have it all. You just can't have it all at once. (this one I continually have to relearn. When it 'stuck' in this, easy-to-hang-onto-format, was when Oprah said it. I was not a regular Oprah watcher. I was a new mother home with an infant and was a joyous,heartful, petrified, and a'what-have-I-done?' mess all at once. This one quote penetrated the fog, resonated, and reassured. Of course, it was a lesson I had already heard/learned my whole life ---there is a season for everything, etc. It remains true, and the permutation of the "Oprah" version was a revelation. You have to choose, and wait from that choice. See the harvest in, and then you can choose again. If *that* makes sense. Regardless, I love your writing. A lovely post. :)

  2. Beautiful post, Rachel. It's taken me almost 45 years to realize I am the creator of that feeling of home, both for myself and for others. I am home by definition. When people in my family come home, they come to me. Maybe when my grandmother spoke of being a homemaker, she was talking about this magic, winking, and trying to get me to see.

  3. Home is such an interesting concept. My family left my childhood home in NY and moved to Alabama one week before I started college. So, at holidays, other people went *home*. I went to Birmingham. I lived in Alabama off and on for eight years and never felt truly at home there, though I had my first solo apartment there, and my first true jobs there.

    When I chose my college in VA, I chose it in an instant. I walked onto the campus and just *knew* this was my place. I now live an hour away from there.

    Two years ago, I built my dream house. It is home, forever, I hope.

    In the first year of our marriage, my husband and I moved SEVEN times. I felt like I lost my sense of being grounded, my sense of self and my sense of the world that year. The only thing I had was him. He became my home. Then we had children. They were my home.

    But when I drive over a bridge or through a tunnel to New York City, something inside me eases. Some part of me hides the native New Yorker all the time in Virginia. When I re-enter the place I was born, that final mask slips away. I wonder if I can ever feel that somewhere else? Do I want to?