I have a theory there are two types of dreams.
The first are the amorphous ones, often generated by what you see others doing. Like on Instagram.
As I’m scrolling through my feed, I see really aspirational photos from some far-flung locale and I think to myself “adding that to my bucket list.” I’m pretty sure, though, that unless I win the lottery, I won’t be sacrificing anything to stand in that exotic destination. In other words, unless that dreamy place is delivered to me on a (free) silver platter, it’s just an idea. It’s a dream I won’t take any concrete steps to fulfill. I just don’t want it bad enough.
But then there’s another kind of dream. The kind that you can physically feel deep within your soul. A dream that makes you to lose your breath and your heart rate speed up. A dream that grabs hold of you and won’t let go, no matter how much time passes or distractions you try and throw in its way. The kind of dream you’re willing to sacrifice for. To do whatever it takes to make it a reality.
It is this second type of dream that forces you to ask yourself a very difficult question.
Because the second type of dream rarely becomes reality without a lot of sacrifice. And those sacrifices can take many forms.
Will you walk away from the security you’ve surrounded yourself with? Give up something (or someone) you love? Risk the disapproval of friends and family? Jump without a net below you, with no assurances that your decision will ultimately work out?
Because the cold, hard truth is when you’re pursuing something that you feel in your heart is the right (maybe, only?) option, you’re going to have to make a few choices. Some of them are no big deal. Others are tougher. A lot tougher.
Recently I visited Seattle, the last place in the U.S. I lived before moving to the Caribbean. I haven’t resided there for over eight years and my visits in the interim had been sporadic at best. But I still have friends and family there.
While usually I only dart in for a quick visit and tend to stay in the ‘burbs, on this trip I made it a point to get back into the mountains for a day of skiing (no broken bones = success). It was on the slopes where the most unexpected thing happened (besides the fact I didn’t hurt myself).
As I was sitting on a chairlift gazing out at the snow-covered mountains glistening under a rare February blue sky, I felt something I had not felt in a very long time. My chest constricted and my heart started racing. I also realized this was exactly where I was supposed to be. I knew these feelings well. They were the same ones I had the moment I first stepped foot off the airplane on my little Caribbean island all those years ago.
I suddenly realized the mountains are a place I can’t live without (and just once or twice a year on vacation won’t cut it anymore), even if my tropical toes were freezing in ski boots. As I craned my neck to take in the full panoramic view of snow-covered peaks in every direction, two things suddenly became crystal clear.
There can be more than one place that grabs hold of your heart and won’t let go. There are also some things you are willing to sacrifice anything for. These realizations were a little overwhelming, and there may have been a few tears shed at that particular moment. I’m eternally grateful for mirrored ski goggles.
Of course, realizing something and figuring out how to execute on it are two very different animals. The recognition comes easy. The execution? That’s a little bit harder.
Because this epiphany came with a rub – I also don’t want to fully give up my island girl life. And creating a life in two different places isn’t easy. Or rational. Or cheap. Probably the reason you only see wealthy, famous, or retired people doing it. Of which I am none. I’m just a mostly anonymous chick with a good tan, a blog, and the ability to string words together well enough to eek out a living doing so.
Which is prompting me to ask the question “How bad do I want this?”
Plane tickets are expensive. So is maintaining a second home and car. And, as is the reality in the US, one is going to need health insurance if one is planning to spend any significant amount of time there.
So many things to consider. So many sacrifices to be made. Thinking about it all gets very overwhelming.
Yet in the midst of the chaos, the little voice inside my head continues to ask the same question over and over and over again. “How bad do you want it?”
Well, at least one thing in this puzzle is easy – the answer to that question.
Pretty damn bad.
Bad enough that I’m willing to tackle the roadblocks and false starts I know are coming my way. Shed the tears I also know will be part of the process. Feel the sting of rejection that comes with a job search. Rejoice when I do find the right work fit. Be sad when I’m away from the people and things I love in the tropics. Enjoy the exhilaration when I stand on top of a soaring mountain peak. Re-appreciate all there is to love about my island home when I return to the sunshine.
And while many details of this hazy future remain unclear, I am 100% certain of one thing.
When you have a soul-shaking realization like this, you can’t ignore it. That only leads to eventual regret.
The only real path forward – at least the one that will be most fulfilling down the road, as I’ve learned in the past – is to go for it. Be willing to put in the hard work, deal with the setbacks and sacrifices, and trust that the universe will deliver exactly what you need at the exact moment you need it.
All the rest will fall into place. It always does.