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The Life You Can't Imagine

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Follow your dreams! Live the life you imagined! Set your goals! Make a wish for your future! You've heard these all before. I've said them before! I used to love these quotes. I even have a mug with Thoreau's famous quote, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you imagined" But today as I poured my coffee into that exact mug, I just shook my head... NO NO NO THOREAU! Not sure I agree anymore. Could I have imagined the life I am living now, do I want to limit myself with a vision of my future? Life is much more fun and exciting when it's unimaginable! I don't want to be stuck thinking about what it should be... how does that allow for growth, inspiration, change of direction and heart, uninhibited craziness!

The pressure of not seeing your dreams can be terrifying! Post college graduation, pretty depressed after the four best years of my life in Madison, I was doing nothing but commuting to NYC from Long Island, selling antiques at a swanky store on East 60th Street, and hanging out with my parents. Not feeling like a go getter because I didn't know where I wanted to go, I was slowly slipping into a new level of insecurity at 22. I had the "world at my feet" and had no idea what to do with it. I had no idea of who or what I wanted to be, and I definitely wasn't even sure of what my dreams were. I remember looking at a young mother pushing a stroller -- I want to be her! A business woman on the train -- I want to be her! A couple in love -- I want to be them! An actress on TV... I want to be her! Each seemed equally unattainable. I was overwhelmed with the expectation of "living the life I'd imagined." Problem was my imagination was big and without focus or passion, and that terrified me. Everyone around me seemed to be following a dream, grad school, the dream job, travel... why couldn't I see or feel mine? I was paralyzed and very down. Ingrained in my brain was the idea that the future was where it would all happen for me -- here I was starting my future and I was stuck, immobile. I had no sense of one pedal-stroke at a time, I was an anxious 20-something... waiting for my "working girl" moment. Lucky for me, my parents stepped in, found me an apartment in the city, agreed to help with rent and gave me the push I needed to move forward.

Recently, I heard Robert O'Neill speak about his experiences as a Navy Seal, he was a member of famous Seal Team 6. Mr. O'Neill discussed that a big part of how the elite Seals make it through their days is just focusing on getting from morning to lunch, then to evening, with a commitment to never quit. How simple and yet how amazing. Think about their tasks, some of which are protecting the world from terrorists and rescuing hostages at sea. (Robert O'Neill helped rescue Captain Phillips.) Preparedness is high on the Seal's list and decision making, but they can never picture exactly what will happen (i.e., helicopter going down in Bin laden's yard) so they let go of that vision and just focus on each step as they take it, never spending too much time in the planning room. Wow, this blew me away. What if we just take each day like that... no future projections, just preparedness and confidence, minimize the planning, be ready for whatever comes up, opportunities, challenges, whatevs, (a big sprint out of the saddle, a super steep hill). Translate this into dreaming about the future, let life be the ever-evolving dream! Livin' the dream! I like the way that sounds! Going to order that mug today.

In typical mom-style, these insightful thoughts came after I put my foot in my mouth with Jack, my 15-year-old. Jack is working as a stage manager for a student production this summer. Over breakfast one summer morning, "Jack, do you think you'll do this for a living, as a career, it's so cool, you're so engaged and into it?!" Jack looked at me, as only an i-know-everything-when-will you-ever-learn-mom teenager does, "Really, Mom, I have absolutely no clue what I want to do, can you pass the OJ please?" Ugh! Practice what you preach Julie! (bang head with hand) It's so hard, I know I slip into the same habits I'm so desperately trying to break. I don't want Jack to have a vision of his future life yet... stupid me for asking! I want his future to be so great it can't even be dreamt of! Yes, Thoreau, I do hope Jack "walks confidently" but he may not always go the right direction, (and from experience often those wrong turns are the most valuable), and I want his life to be completely unimaginable! Like training a Navy Seal, I'll try my best to make sure he's got the preparedness, readiness and confidence (sprinkled with love) to not plan too much and be able to go out and LIVE!

Just like life on a bike at SoulCycle... by letting go of the goal, the dream, the wish, the expectation, the ride evolves and surprises, soon you surrender to a life you can't even imagine!