We are celebrating our upcoming one-year blogiversary by reposting some of our favorite pieces from the past year! We are thrilled for this milestone. When we started planning our Unexpected Ever Afters blog nearly two years ago, a major goal we had was to offer nuanced perspectives acknowledging that everyday life is beautiful and wonderful, and it is also often difficult and challenging. We both agreed that sharing everyday joys and struggles helped us feel less isolated and wanted to replicate that for others through our writing. Almost a year in and we have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work on our writing and share some of our thoughts and experiences. We look forward to reminiscing over the next six weeks. Thank you for joining in our journey!
-Jessica & Wendi-
This week, it is my pleasure to get to highlight one of my favorite of Jessica’s posts. I chose Living My Daydreams because it is a piece that provides such a deeply relatable and poignant emphasis of our blog’s mission. In this post, Jessica offers insight into her experience on making life changes, often as a way to start over as she attempts to find the perpetually elusive, conflict-free, perfect, happily ever after path. Her conclusion on the compatibility of appreciating current life while also establishing goals for the future is both compelling and inspiring. I was comforted by her eloquent perspectives and the gentle reminders she offered throughout this piece. I’ll conclude by sharing one of my favorite passages from this post:
“One of the most important things I learned is that I can grow, learn, and change without needing every aspect of my life to change. I can become the person I want to be, while still being exactly where I am now, with my family, where I want to be. I can change some things without changing everything.”
Cheers to embracing where we are right now in life while also continuing to grow into our future.
Living My Daydreams
Originally posted by Jessica on December 30, 2019
Growing up, I used to daydream about starting over, particularly when I found myself in conflict with friends or wading through the messy drama of the teenage years. I would read fiction books that would transport me to different places and journal about what it might look like outside of the struggles that I was navigating. Who would I be if nobody knew who I was? What did I want to do with my life? How could I push myself past the fear of the unknown?
I had several opportunities to live out the daydream of starting over: when I left for college, when I moved to a large city after graduating, when I moved again, and then again. I started changing jobs, changing life goals, or changing cities so frequently that daydreaming about starting over became my favorite thing to do anytime I felt lost or found myself in conflict. Yet, somehow through all my running away in life, I found myself in love and then married. A cat and two kids later, starting over can no longer be my go-to answer when things get tough. A clean slate looks significantly different today than it did when I packed my bag to move into a dorm room 200 miles from my childhood home.
Through this all, the “fresh start” daydream didn’t die, even with my new commitments. I initially fought the daydream and buried it under piles of guilt about how I wasn’t appreciating everything I already had. I would label the daydream as selfish and feel shame if I entertained even a momentary thought of living a different life. This internal struggle created self-doubt and erratic emotions. Something had to change.
I wish I could point to an epiphany moment, a moment when I realized that asking questions about who I wanted to be and the life that I wanted to live was actually a good thing. In reality, it was months (years) of conversations with friends, reengaging my love of reading and learning, and striving for opportunities that I could pursue in my current community. Somewhere along the way, I realized that it is okay to daydream about change. One of the most important things I learned is that I can grow, learn, and change without needing every aspect of my life to change. I can become the person I want to be, while still being exactly where I am now, with my family, where I want to be. I can change some things without changing everything.
I am working intentionally to stop the guilt and shame around questions of, what do I want to do? What impact do I want to have? If fear wasn’t a factor, who would I be? I journal about it, I read about it, and I give myself permission to daydream about it. Recently, an interesting thing started to happen. I started daydreaming about many aspects of the life I already lead. The number one dream on my list in this season of life, the dream that shows up over and over again when I am reading and writing, is that I want to be an amazing mom to my two kids. I want to provide them with safety and teach them self-confidence and the power of self-compassion. Number two on my list is I want to be in love with my husband and find intentional ways to celebrate us. It was incredibly freeing to realize that in some ways I am already living my dreams. My confidence in my parenting and my marriage increased in ways that I did not expect when I leaned into the dreams about the life that I want to lead.
I also identified areas of my life that I wanted to change or develop. I gave myself permission to grow these changes. I started writing goals down on paper, breaking the big goal into manageable steps that I could put into action each day. For example, in 2019 my intended goal was to write more. My action steps included: 1. Start a gratitude journal, 10 minutes or less each night. 2. Find 30 minutes to an hour a few times a week (during weekend nap times or after bedtime) to write. 3. Share my writing with others. When I started, I wasn’t sure what this would look like. Would I share with just a few close friends or would it grow into a blog? In the end, I found myself here, sharing this with all of you. I also set intention around mental health, physical health, family life, reading, and leadership development. I didn’t set these as “goals,” like stereotypical S.M.A.R.T. goals, defined with a clear beginning and end. I just set them as intentions, with small, actionable items that I should do daily (or weekly/monthly), if I wanted to see these areas of my life grow.
So now I dream. And I do my best to act. I wrote the word “purposeful” on a note by my bed to remind myself that each day I want to live on purpose. To take steps toward the dreams that I have and to put energy into the dreams that I am already living. I am not perfect at this and my emotions and stress do still get in the way. But, the guilt and shame surrounding daydreaming about making changes in my life, that I am letting go of. And, I am finding my way through the previous daydream of a clean slate by instead focusing my energy into the change that I can (and want to) create.
Author: Jessica is a wife, mom, school social worker, and aspiring writer. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.