When Dream Chasing Goes Wonky
I wrote a lot about dream chasing before me and Mr. Meg left for our three-month trip around the US. About the big pause, about the not so glamorous side of dream chasing and about the need to write your own adventure story.
Now it’s time to talk about when dreams becomes reality and when dream chasing goes wonky.
I’m sharing this because I’ve always been truthful, even if it’s been hard to say. I’ve felt embarrassed (I’ve got over that) and struggled with the feeling that this is self-indulgent shit and I should just shut up and be grateful. But I think we really do gloss over aspects of dream chasing, especially the taboo of what happens when things don’t go as planned. And I’m hoping that in sharing my struggles, there might be something in here that helps you.
I’ve been putting off finishing it and publishing it because I’ve been waiting for some kind of life lesson to emerge, some kind of resolution, some sort of ‘ta-da’ moment. But there isn’t. On a recent Couragemakers podcast episode Meaghan Gallant talked about the damage of not seeing the stories of failure and instead only seeing the stories of people who’ve struggled when they reached the other side.
So this, friends, is my inbetween-ness.
I’ve been back from the US for just under a three months now, and now feels like a good time to sit down and reflect on our trip and what dream chasing has looked like along the way. My hope is that this bullshit-free look at dream chasing and what happens when things go wonky will inspire you to chase down your dreams and hold on tight, because I can tell you, no matter what dream you’re chasing, it will be one hell of a ride.
Right now I should be enjoying exploring Vietnam with Mr. Meg. After our three-month trip around the US, we were scheduled to spend the next six months travelling around South East Asia: India, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, ending in Bali.
Instead I’m back in London with a very much drained bank account, and staying put until at least July while we’re figuring out our next steps. I really missed working on That Hummingbird Life while I was away and I’m really looking forward to the time I have to focus on the work that lights me up, getting things more set up and being more creative.
But obviously, I am gutted that I’m not in Asia right now, but I’m learning that slow and steady is the way to go, even when the future looks completely uncertain.
We can get it wrong
I’ve learned a shitload in the last four months. About dream-chasing, about myself, about humanity, how to sleep in a room with beetles pinned to a canvas to name a few.
But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that we can want things as much as a human possibly could ever want something, and we can get it and be completely confused.
(The second biggest lesson is that I’m learning every day in new ways every day is that life never goes as planned and life has a way of throwing you surprises at every turn. A lesson that I thought I learned before but keeps coming back to bite me.)
We can decide that our life is going to be a certain way, be 254% sure that it’s going to be the right choice for us and what will ultimately make us happy, and we can be wrong.
If you asked me six months ago how my life would look, I would have looked you straight in the eye and told you without a hesitation of certainty that I would definitely be spending the next five years of my life travelling. I would have told you that travelling would be my way of life, that I never wanted to live out of anything bigger than a backpack and that stability is overrated.
Skip forward, and despite having a drained bank account and a very empty itinerary which makes our Asia trip impossible at the moment, my answer would be very different.
Instead, I would tell you (over a hot chocolate, of course):
- The reality of doing a three month trip around the US followed by a six month trip to Asia back to back and ENJOYING it would have been ridiculous. While fun, travelling, being on the move and being aware of your surroundings at all times is exhausting.
- Travelling around the US soley by public transport is mentally and physically draining, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who had dreams of a roadtrip. Unless you wanted an average day on that road trip to include helping a drunk man off the floor of a bus and having the whole bus stop while you have to fill out a ‘Passenger Witness Statement’.
- From a UK stance, we only get to see the great bits of the US on the TV, and the reality is very much different. Ignoring politics and gun laws, the levels of inequality, poverty and homelessness are astounding and horrific. You see so much more when you’re not ferried around in a car.
- The novelty and romanticism of living just in Bnbs wears off, especially when you just want to guilt-fee veg out and cook a huge meal without being judged.
- Huge rucksacks and buses do not mix. At least not in the States. People will look at you you came via a spaceship.
- Being a public spectacle everywhere you go isn’t fun. Especially when you’re eating pasta from a plastic container standing outside TJ Maxx because a) you can’t find a bench and b) you can’t afford to eat at a restaurant because you’re on such a low budget.
- Some people think it’s okay to hang a home made canvas with HUGE beetles pinned (like a pin board!!) to it in a room they let on Air bnb. I STILL haven’t got over this one.
- Scam artists sometimes tell you to go fuck yourself if you don’t return their high five.
But I wouldn’t know any of those things if I didn’t chase down my first dream of going to the US.
And I wouldn’t know these incredible truths:
- You can spend every day for 3 months with your best friend and love of your life (same person, folks), getting into weird as shit situations, getting on the wrong bus, jumping into lakes that smell of dog shit and returning closer than ever
- That to me, one of the most exciting things about New York is their INCREDIBLE dog park in Madison Square Park.
- I have the courage to jump into a pool topless and not knock myself out with my knockers
- Most people are very kind and want to help you. Even if the news acts like everyone is monsters
- Wandering into a karaoke night in a dodgy dive bar full of locals on the top of a mountain and proceeding to sing Shakira will get you very weird looks.
- If you go a gig with an audience of less than 1000 people in Vegas and Busta Rhymes shows up and you don’t know any of his songs, it's pretty fucking awkward
- Shouting I love you to the only second runner to Mr Meg (Sal from Impractical Jokers) works and is reciprocated (ahhh!)
And this list could be a hell of a lot longer. And each item on that list makes me really happy.
But here’s an even bigger truth:
Dream chasing is always going to be wonky because we’re presupposing how we’re going to feel, what we’re going to want and how things are going to go.
And the scariest thing about dream chasing is that ultimately, we don’t know how we’re going to feel when we get there.
The problem is that when we’re working our asses off trying to make our dreams a reality, we take huge risks, make huge sacrifices, and the outcome is the most important thing.
It’s the thing that keeps us going. It’s our purpose, our reason. And we spend so much time fantasising and day dreaming that it’s absolutely natural that we built up a picture in our head of how it’s going to be.
We have to believe that it’s going to be worth it. We have to believe that the end result is going to look like it does in our heads. We have to believe that it’s going to happen, come thunder or lightning.
And when it doesn’t, we have to deal with the reality of our expectations. And that’s pretty fucking tough.
The difference between expectation and intention
I read (most) of a great book while I was away called The Intention Generation by Makenna Johnston. In it, Makenna talks about the differences been expectations and intentions, and how, if we focus on our intentions instead, we’re more likely to be happy with an outcome, not disappointed.
And that’s certainly a part of it. Had I gone to the US with the intention of having adventures, coming back with stories to tell and some really random photos, then I’d have achieved every intention I set out to.
But instead I went with a huge rucksack of expectation. I expected it to be like everything I’ve ever seen that involved a road trip. I expected to find like-minded people along the way. I expected America to look how it does on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. I expected to find myself and learn the meaning of life. I expected to be addicted to living on the road and never want to do anything else ever. I expected to feel alive.
I expected it to go someway towards achieving that feeling we’re all feeling when we get wanderlust. And so much more.
But I’ve come back feeling empty, feeling pretty disillusioned and more lost than ever. None of those expectations, my friends, were met. And I am filled with such sadness that I have put off writing and publishing this post since I got back.
The only way I can come to understanding what I’m going through now and working through it, is to see it for what it is.
And that’s grief.
Grieving the loss of a huge dream. Grieving the loss of an identity. Grieving the picture in my head that didn’t play out. Grieving all of the things I sacrificed for The Big Dream and wondering if they were worth it.
So, this my friend is where I’m at right now.
While it’s easy to feel like I’m back at square 1, I know I’m not. And I’m trying not to judge myself too harshly. Because we all really are our own harshest critics
Instead I’m giving myself space for more dreams to emerge, giving myself time to make That Hummingbird Life everything I know it can be, and starting to take my future as seriously as my fears.
I don’t know what the future looks like in my personal life, I don’t know much, but I hope that some day this will all make a lot more sense than it does right now.
But here's what I do know
While dream-chasing isn’t glamourous, it often goes wonky and certainly isn’t predictable, it’s really fucking important.
It’s important to go after the things you want with your whole heart. It’s important even if it doesn’t work out. And it’s important to feel all the fears and do it anyway. Because without dreams, we’re missing out on a lifetime of memories, opportunities and experiences that we don’t even know are out there.
And we need to have more open and honest conversations about the reality of dream chasing and the struggles that come along for the ride.
There are too many books about how to have your dream life and how to accomplish your dreams, and how to be happy in 1,2,3. And not enough about what happens when things don’t go according to plan.
So here’s to filling that void!
And here’s to living, not merely existing, no matter how hard that might be.
I’d love to know about how dream chasing looks in your own life. Let me know in the comments below!