Friday, August 6, 2010

Up in the Air

I’m writing this somewhere over the Rocky Mountains, over the clouds and canyons and snow-capped peaks on my way to Southern California. I’ve had two Continental Airlines breakfasts of Honey Chex, 2% milk, and, on one flight, a banana and the other a pack of raisins. I’m somewhere between being fully awake and exhausted from lack of sleep.

On the plane, I watched the George Clooney movie Up in the Air on my laptop. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it is about a man named Ryan Bingham (played by Clooney) who travels 322 days a year to different places to fire people and deliver motivational lectures on how to become unfettered by mental, emotional, and material baggage.

I enjoyed the movie very much. Its theme was timely for me, and I could relate to the occasional loneliness of frequent business travel. But there was one scene, one sentence, in the movie that played like a looping reel in my mind. Clooney’s character asks a man whom he has just fired (in an attempt to help him see the firing as an opportunity to pursue his long-ago dream of working in culinary arts):

How much did they first pay you for you to give up your dream?

I kept thinking of this line. I kept thinking about what my early dreams were and how and why they got away from me. Some of my dreams were the ridiculous fantasies of an idealistic, naïve young woman. Some dreams were more realistic, more like hopes and goals than just mere dreams. Some dreams I actually thought might come true but for one reason or another didn’t. Sometimes I regret this; sometimes I don’t. Some dreams are just beyond our control.

When I started out as a copyeditor years ago, I was paid $28,000 per year.

Did I give up my dreams for the career I have today? Honestly? Yes, I mostly did. I gave up the silly fantasies and I focused on what I needed to do to be a responsible, independent adult. Would I have rather followed my dream to open up a restaurant or cafe or to have become a pastry chef? Absolutely.

A theme of the movie is that it's never too late to change course. It's not too late to start anew. I might not ever become a restauranteur or pastry chef or have a show on the Food Network, but I know that losing a job or income isn't the end of the world. It's an oppotunity to revisit the dreams I sold years ago and perhaps start dreaming of them again, even just to remind myself that I am a multidimensional, dynamic person, and one job or the loss of that job doesn't mean I've lost myself. It means I gain the opportunity to begin again and maybe, just maybe be happier despite being a little poorer.

But if you asked me about my biggest dreams today, the first would be that Brian finally comes back to Virginia, we buy my parents’ house, raise our children there, and live a simple life full of love, watching our children grow into the wonderful people. That would be the one singular dream that means the most to me. I no longer want to be at the top of my field. I no longer want to own luxury cars or houses or be a world traveler. I don’t want to be famous or infamous. I just want to be quiet. I just want to stay in one place for more than just a couple of weeks at a time.

I want someone to come home to after a long conference.

I want to fill an entire suitcase full of souvenirs and goodies for the people anxiously awaiting my return. I want to come home not to a dark, messy condo but to a house full of people thrilled by my homecoming.

Those are my dreams.

More health related

I’m going for a long run from my brother’s apartment to Downtown Disney tomorrow morning. This is about 4.75 miles. I ideally want to run 10 km for my long run so I will run back as well (at least up to 6.2 miles). Wish me luck! SoCal is SO chilly! I have no idea how cold it’ll be in the morning. And as you know, I’ve been running in the Florida and Virginia heat!



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