When I travel to the Midwest, there is a great little green canteen where I get breakfast and/or lunch near my office in Chicago. There is a vivacious young lady who works there who answers with “living the dream” when asked “how are you today?” I sense a touch of good-natured snark in her voice when she says those words as I know a bit about her and her goals from our conversations. She is a very happy and good-natured person; she loves her job and is currently attending school to pursue her goals. The future is hers to make as she envisions it. Indeed I believe she is living the dream; her dream. Of the people I hear using this contemporary colloquialism, she actually means it in its positive connotation. She is the exception to the rule. Almost everyone else I encounter who says “living the dream,” is usually trapped in a self-imposed situation that they don’t like. Example; I recently had a drink at a bar where a very cantankerous young man snapped back at me with “living the dream” when I asked how he was doing. It was obvious from his tonality and mental state that he was hating life and what he was doing–or not doing–with it. “Living the dream” is sadly more often a nightmare for most people who wantonly throw those words out into the ether and don’t know that they could indeed be living the dream if they just decided to do so. I find this troubling.
I have to stop myself when I ponder young people’s jargon. I’ve been blessed to be alive for almost 50 years now and I’ve learned almost everything I know the hard way. Had the catch phrase “living the dream” existed when I was young, there is a very high likelihood that I would’ve used it too. When we are young, we have a tendency towards cynicism. Moreover, when some old-timer would tell me a thing or two, I always thought I knew better. Factoring this equation, I know that if you’re my age or older, I’m preaching to the choir. However, if you are a young person hungry to acquire some wisdom without falling on your face in the process, please read on.
Life is like a vacation; it has been designed to be amazing but it’s always too short. At the beginning of a vacation, we have a list of things to do and in spite of our best efforts, it’s over before we know it and we find there isn’t time for our list of to-dos as we pack our bags to go back to our ‘real lives.’ How I wish that when I was young, someone told me how short life was in a way that made me actually believe it. I really had no idea. Fast forward to now; there is so much I still yearn to do. So many dreams to experience. So many lives to touch. It pains me to have to confront the reality that I don’t have the time to even scratch the surface anymore and only choose the goals and dreams I know I still have time for and the ability to achieve. I’m feeling keenly aware of the fleeting nature of life lately and I find the more I express gratitude for it, the faster time slips through my fingers. It’s paradoxical recompense for taking pause to appreciate life’s blessings. That is a phenomenon I wasn’t expecting. and it compelled me to write this blog.
Whatever it is that makes your soul sing, do it now. Do it with gusto and dedication. Be true to your soul. So even if you have to take a job you don’t love, or do something you don’t like on the way to your goals, know that it’s a small price to pay. Remember success is a journey and not a destination, so when someone askes how you’re doing, you can answer them sincerely with “I’m living the dream” and mean it with every fiber of your being, like my friend at the green canteen.