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Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

darwins scone stripe journal coffee shop table

One of the most exciting things about the job hunt is also one of the hardest: imagining a new, possible life both before and during the application process.

A certain amount of this is necessary, of course. Before I apply – before I invest the time into combing an organization’s website and writing a cover letter – it makes sense to consider whether the job is a good fit. Am I qualified? Does it sound interesting? Would the commute (when we go back to office life) be workable? Does the organization seem like a place I would want to work? The answer to all these questions has to be “yes,” or at least “maybe/probably,” before I even open up a new Word doc and start trying to find the name of the hiring manager.

For me, it’s sometimes tougher after I’ve applied – or in that strange limbo period between a first-round interview and whatever happens next. Sometimes I try to picture what a day or a week in that job would look like. I always go on Google Maps to check and double-check the potential commute. If it’s an organization where I know someone, you can bet I ask them what it’s like to work there. But all of this is purely hypothetical at this stage. And it can require a lot of emotional effort.

When Kathleen Kelly has to close her bookstore in You’ve Got Mail (more on this in a future #romcomrewatch post), Birdie invites her and Christina over for tea. “Closing the store is the brave thing to do,” Birdie declares over Earl Grey and scones. “You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life!”

Kathleen is disinclined to believe her, at that moment (and I don’t blame her), but Birdie’s words have come back to me in many contexts over the years. Going to grad school, changing jobs time and again, moving to Boston, getting married, deciding to get divorced, starting a new relationship – in all of these instances, I have dared (sometimes still am daring) to imagine that my life can look different than it did. Sometimes that’s exciting. Sometimes it’s daunting. More often than not, it’s both.

It can be a real bummer to invest time and energy into applying for a job and then imagining how that life might look, only to find out you didn’t get it. (This has, obviously, happened to me more than once.) But I don’t want to stop imagining potential lives, because the alternative is to just apply mindlessly – or settle – for whatever comes my way. And I don’t think that’s the answer. I have to believe (despite the evidence, some days) that a thoughtful, curious search for a new job is better than a robotic one. I want to go toward work that interests me, even delights me, or at least has the potential to do so. And that only happens, I think, with a bit of imagination (and a lot of Internet searching/letting friends know I’m looking/pounding out cover letters).

So, at least for now, I’ll keep daydreaming a bit about possible lives as I keep tweaking cover letters and scouring job boards. Hey, at least daydreaming is fun.

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katie fur hat

For the past few years, I’ve made a list of things I want to do, try, accomplish and/or enjoy before my next birthday. Here’s an update on the (short) list I made this year:

1. Try a new-to-me author every month. I’ve hit this one several times over. My reviewing gig for Shelf Awareness definitely helps.
2. Knit myself a pair of cozy slippers (probably from this book).* I’ve knitted two pairs for friends. Now to make myself some!
3. Visit Nantucket. (We’ll wait until it’s warmer.)
4. Buy a go-to neutral handbag (black or brown). Scored a great black bag in December.
5. Fly to San Diego to visit our friends who live there. (Photos and stories to come soon…)
6. Go to the dentist (carried over from last year). Finally scheduled an appointment and had to go back THREE TIMES. That’ll teach me to put it off.
7. Visit Prince Edward Island.
8. Attend a carol service at Harvard. Inclement weather meant I gave this one a miss. Maybe next year.
9. Spend at least one lovely long weekend in NYC.
10. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Three of the above items qualify for this one.)
11. Get a massage with that gift certificate I got for my birthday. It was lovely. Ahhh.
12. Develop a regular exercise routine. I’m going to yoga twice a week, but I’d like to add in some walking when the weather warms.
13. Write something I can be proud of.* Always working on it.

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Katie Gibson-6

I’m turning 30 (!) in just a few days, so here’s my last update on the list I made last September of things to do/accomplish/try/enjoy before then.

Items completed (or jettisoned) are crossed off; items begun are starred.*

1. Go back to Europe. Specifically Oxford (where I used to live). Not happening this year, between my newish job and various financial commitments.
2. Read or donate at least half the books I own that I’ve not yet read.* I’ve cleared out a lot of books. Done.
3. Go back to the Glen Workshop. Couldn’t swing it this year. See #1.
4. Visit my loved ones in Abilene. (Loved being there over Christmas.)
5. Finish a draft of my memoir. On hold for now.
6. Pay off my student loans. DONE!
7. Go apple picking for the third time. (It was glorious.)
8. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Newport, RI; the Berkshires in MA; Portsmouth, NH; Upper Cape Cod; Camden, ME; Lower Cape Cod)
9. Read 10 new-to-me classics of any genre. I’ve read 18, including Les Mis.
10. Participate in a cooking challenge with fellow Shelf Awareness reviewers. (Read all about it!)
11. Visit New York in the fall. (A weekend full of wonder.)
12. Cuddle my sweet nephew a lot. (Yes – at Christmas and in March. Planning more cuddles this fall.)
13. Conquer the snooze button.* (Still working on it.)
14. Knit a few beautiful things. (See my late winter knits.)
15. Go to the dentist.
16. Visit Canada.* (Birthday trip in the works!)
17. Reach out to two friends every week. (Social media makes this easier.)
18. Reread the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. Done.
19. Take a vacation with friends.* (Planning on this soon.)
20. Try 2 or more new recipes a month. Delicious.
21. Develop a steady, focused routine for my workdays.* (Still working on it.)
22. Re-imagine our cluttered guest room.* (Major progress.)
23. Invest in sturdy, chic black flats. Finally.
24. Eat at the food truck on the Common. Yum.
25. Get a pedicure. Ahhhh.
26. Invite friends over at least once a month.
27. Write half a dozen more essays. (I’ve written for Art House America about laundry, mending, and prayer. Now working on a series of three essays for TRIAD.)
28. Order myself a new “brave” necklace.
29. Savor the last year of my twenties. (Absolutely.)

What lists are you working on lately?

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hot chocolate burdicks journal watermelon

Every year I make a list of things to do before my next birthday, from the fun to the profound, and post periodic updates. Items completed (or, let’s be honest, jettisoned) are crossed off; items begun are starred.*

1. Go back to Europe. Specifically Oxford (where I used to live).
2. Read or donate at least half the books I own that I’ve not yet read.* (Major progress.)
3. Go back to the Glen Workshop. Couldn’t swing it this year.
4. Visit my loved ones in Abilene. (Loved being there over Christmas.)
5. Finish a draft of my memoir. On hold for now.
6. Pay off my student loans.* (Nearly there!)
7. Go apple picking for the third time. (It was glorious.)
8. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Newport, RI; the Berkshires in MA)
9. Read 10 new-to-me classics of any genre. Done!
10. Participate in a cooking challenge with fellow Shelf Awareness reviewers. (Read all about it!)
11. Visit New York in the fall. (A weekend full of wonder.)
12. Cuddle my sweet nephew a lot.* (Loved doing this at Christmas and in March.)
13. Conquer the snooze button.* (Working so hard on it.)
14. Knit a few beautiful things. (See my late winter knits.)
15. Go to the dentist.* (Made an appointment.)
16. Visit Canada. (Maybe for my 30th?)
17. Reach out to two friends every week.*
18. Reread the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. See my post about these books.
19. Take a vacation with friends.
20. Try 2 or more new recipes a month.* (I love doing this.)
21. Develop a steady, focused routine for my workdays.* (Attempting this at a new-ish job.)
22. Re-imagine our cluttered guest room.* (This is not going well.)
23. Invest in sturdy, chic black flats. Finally.
24. Eat at the food truck on the Common. Yum.
25. Get a pedicure.
26. Invite friends over at least once a month.*
27. Write half a dozen more essays.* (I’ve written for Art House America about laundry, mending, and prayer.)
28. Order myself a new “brave” necklace.
29. Savor the last year of my twenties.*

What lists are you working on lately?

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scone tea journal l'aroma cafe boston

Periodically, Alyssa (she of the lovely memoir Coming to My Senses and the occasional blog post about perfume and other stuff) tweets a bit of wisdom that sets my brain spinning. The most recent one read like this:

Again and again, it’s the thing that feels like a random extravagance that turns out to be the key to it all.

She was speaking about a trip to New York, taken ostensibly for research purposes, but mostly for the sheer joy of it. While most of my trips to NYC feel like splurges (I am still overawed by the city’s glamour, its variousness, its size and beauty), I realized this is true for me in other instances, large and small.

For instance, my life changed when I started using real, actual Parmesan cheese instead of the powdered stuff from a can. I know. But the powdered stuff in the green can was familiar, and until I started making my own pesto, I had no impetus to buy the real thing. It’s more expensive, but – I know now – infinitely more delicious. I am never going back. (Ditto on the homemade pesto. Beats the jarred stuff by a mile.)

I’ve taken similar leaps and splurged on good shoes, the perfect (natural) face wash (which has done wonders for my skin), and other small, well-made things which have had a tangible effect on my life. But this concept goes far beyond the material or the mundane.

For instance: I did not think I could afford to travel to NYC, by myself, to the Integrate Retreat in spring 2010. It felt like an extravagance to fly somewhere exotic, without my husband, to spend a weekend writing and talking and thinking about creativity. But I had a free plane ticket, and I took a deep breath and splurged on the retreat tuition. That weekend changed how I saw myself, and how I thought about my work. (And I met a handful of lovely women, some of whom I still see around the Internets from time to time.)

chocolate room group

Several years later, it also felt like a random extravagance to hop on a bus to NYC and spend a September weekend with Allison (whom I had not, at that time, met in person). But by the end of the weekend I was newly in love with the city, and Allison and I had gone from Internet pen pals to firm friends.

NYC Sept 2011 118

The biggest extravagance in my life to date (for which, five years later, I am nearly done paying) is the year I spent in Oxford, earning a master’s degree that turned out to be totally beside the point. I was – I am – in love with Oxford, with England, with window displays of bright patterned teacups and warm scones studded with dark currants or golden sultanas, savored at small round tables with steaming cups of tea.

queens lane tea journal table

Most of all, I was in love with the idea of returning to my favorite place in the world, by myself, for a whole year. Although there was no way I could afford it, I applied to graduate school and took out loans and found housemates via the Internet, and hopped on a plane. And it has enriched and informed every day of my life, ever since.

new college quad

There’s a place for frugality, of course, a place for budget spreadsheets and careful planning and bringing your lunch to work instead of eating out every single day. There’s a place for enjoying what you have, for practicing contentment and care-taking, instead of always grasping for the next thing.

But there is also a place, once in a while, for a dazzling splurge, a sparkling luxury that either elevates the dailiness or takes you far outside it. And sometimes, those reach-for-the-stars extravagances illuminate the dailiness in ways you could never imagine.

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Every year I make a list of things to do before my next birthday, from the fun to the profound, and post periodic updates. Items completed are crossed off; items begun are starred.*

scone tea journal l'aroma cafe boston

1. Go back to Europe. Specifically Oxford (where I used to live).
2. Read or donate at least half the books I own that I’ve not yet read.* (Working on it, though the stacks grow constantly.)
3. Go back to the Glen Workshop.* (Signed up and making plans.)
4. Visit my loved ones in Abilene. (Loved being there over Christmas.)
5. Finish a draft of that memoir I keep talking about.
6. Pay off my student loans.* (Nearly there…)
7. Go apple picking for the third time. (It was glorious.)
8. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Newport, RI)
9. Read 10 new-to-me classics of any genre.* So far, I’ve read seven.
10. Participate in a cooking challenge with fellow Shelf Awareness reviewers. (Read all about it!)
11. Visit New York in the fall. (A weekend full of wonder.)
12. Cuddle that sweet nephew of mine a lot.* (Made a good start over Christmas, and planning to go back in March.)
13. Conquer the snooze button.*
14. Knit a few beautiful things.*
15. Go to the dentist.
16. Visit Canada, as we’re only a few hours away. (Making plans.)
17. Reach out to two friends every week.* (Continuing to do this.)
18. Reread the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. See my post about these books.
19. Take a vacation with friends.
20. Try 2 or more new recipes a month.*
21. Develop a steady, focused routine for my workdays: less frantic multitasking.*
22. Reimagine our cluttered guest room.* Lots of filing and clearing out over New Year’s.
23. Invest in sturdy, chic black flats.
24. Eat at the food truck on the Common. Love their breakfast granola, apple cider and rosemary fries.
25. Get a pedicure.
26. Invite friends over at least once a month.* Most recently, for four birthdays.
27. Write half a dozen more essays.* (See my second piece at Art House America.)
28. Order myself a new “brave” necklace.
29. Savor the last year of my twenties.*

What lists are you working on lately?

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quiet creativity in progress

When we would talk about our future in private, I would ask Mark if he really thought we had a chance. Of course we had a chance, he’d say, and anyway, it didn’t matter if this venture failed. In his view, we were already a success, because we were doing something hard and it was something that mattered to us. You don’t measure things like that with words like success or failure, he said. Satisfaction comes from trying hard things and then going on to the next hard thing, regardless of the outcome. What mattered was whether or not you were moving in a direction you thought was right. This sounded extremely fishy to me.

—Kristin Kimball, The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love (bold emphasis mine)

I’ve been thinking about these words since I read them in Kimball’s memoir about building a farm from scratch in upstate New York, with the man who is now her husband.

Before they met, Kristin was a New York writer, with a closetful of high heels, an apartment in the East Village and a fast-paced, urban life. When she met Mark, it was nearly love at first sight – but it still took great courage (and not a little blind faith) for her to pull up stakes and move to the boondocks with this energetic, low-tech, handsome, stubborn farmer.

Her memoir gives the gory details of their first year of farming: watching a cow give birth, finding kittens dead in the barnyard after a weasel sneaked in, all sorts of weather- and equipment-related disasters. But the book is also suffused with joy: the sheer and simple joy of creating a home, out of dirt and seeds and tools and hard work.

Although Kristin freely admitted her doubts, she gradually came to believe that this difficult, exhausting, bone-wearying project they’d taken on would be worth it in the end. More: she came to believe it was worth it in the present. Even as they ran into setback after setback, she had never been more fulfilled in her life, or believed more deeply in anything she’d undertaken.

These days, I have a hard time believing in Mark’s recipe for satisfaction. Regular life – commuting and working, grocery shopping, surviving another Boston winter, keeping in touch with friends and family, finding time to spend with my husband – seems to take a monumental effort. At the end of the day, I rarely have enough energy left over to write, or to do anything creative and fulfilling. I spend a lot of time wishing things were easier, simpler. I am dreaming daily of hopping a plane to Oxford or Paris, or the more humble plains of West Texas. Escaping my life, instead of digging into it.

But Kristin’s words, and recent posts from Addie about “the messy middle” and Sarah about finding wisdom in the everyday, are nudging me to reconsider. To try the hard things, again and again, even if they’re as mundane as getting up in the morning, dealing with paperwork and unanswered emails, or as intimidating as doing some real writing, the kind I’ve been avoiding for weeks now.

I don’t want to spend my life spinning my wheels, or avoiding the hard things because they’re hard. I want to try them, even if – or when – I sometimes fail. I want to be brave, and keep showing up for my life. Even when I’d rather be anywhere else.

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maine bar harbor smiling photo

  • survived my second (thankfully milder than the first) Boston winter.
  • admitted that, to survive my third such winter, a light box and Vitamin D pills will be helpful tools.
  • read nearly 300 books – a personal record. (Yes, I am fast. No, I don’t “speed read.” Yes, I spend a LOT of time reading.)
  • lost a grandmother and a cousin, and grieved.
  • flown to Texas three times to visit my family.
  • become an aunt twice over, to Ryder and then to Annalynn.
  • taken J to D.C., shown him the monuments and museums I love, and discovered some new places there with him.
  • spent two wonderful long weekends (one frigid, one fall-ish) in New York City.
  • drunk SO many cups of tea.
  • taken countless lunchtime walks.
  • filled up six and a half journals.
  • overslept a LOT of mornings.
  • had my soul fed, my heart uplifted and my intellect challenged at the Glen Workshop.
  • gained about 10 pounds. (Which I’d like to lose in 2013.)
  • attended my 10th high school reunion, and marveled at the ways my classmates and I have grown into ourselves since 2002.
  • kept up a pen-and-paper correspondence with the lovely Jaclyn (who also hosted us in D.C.).
  • driven to the wilds of Maine for a super-fun wedding.
  • kept showing up for my day job, even when I did not feel like it.
  • continued to work as a freelance for my beloved alma mater.
  • taken on extra responsibilities at church.
  • realized why church work is sometimes thankless and sometimes deeply rewarding.
  • missed my family, and faraway friends, deeply.
  • welcomed my sweet college roomie and her husband for a visit to Boston.
  • paid down a LARGE percentage of the balance on my student loans.
  • written 170-ish blog posts (and hit the milestone of 1,000 posts).
  • tweeted probably more than was strictly necessary. (But it’s so much fun.)
  • joined a networking group for bookish folks.
  • celebrated my third Turkeypalooza.
  • knitted 6 hats (4 adult, 2 baby), 4 baby sweaters, 2 pairs of booties, 2 cowls, 3 mini sweaters, 1 pair of leg warmers, 1 sunglasses case, 2 pairs of fingerless gloves, and 42 wee hats for smoothie bottles.
  • fallen head over heels for Lark Rise to Candleford, finished watching Mary Tyler Moore, and continued my love affair with Castle.
  • reviewed more than 40 books for Shelf Awareness.
  • met a dozen or more online friends in person.
  • become part of a book club.
  • visited Vermont, Newport (R.I.) and western MA.
  • found a question I keep asking over and over.
  • celebrated my fourth wedding anniversary.
  • relished a rain-soaked, hilarious, memorable 4th of July.
  • soaked up all I could of the London Olympics.
  • reflected on two years in Boston.
  • struggled at times to make this life fit.
  • talked about the future with J.
  • fallen in love with a slew of new-to-me detectives, including Mary Russell, Tommy & Tuppence, Sarah Kelling, Chet and Bernie, Bess Crawford, and the Spellmans. (This has been a year for mysteries.)
  • seen both The Lion King and The Fantasticks on Broadway.
  • spent many Tuesday evenings sipping tea with girlfriends.
  • wondered what is next.

I wrote a post like this last year, and it was so thought-provoking I decided to do it again. It’s amazing to look back over a year and see what’s happened, and what I have made happen.

What have you done, experienced, read, accomplished in 2012?

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brave necklace pendant stripes

Every year I make a list of things to do before my next birthday, from the fun to the profound. Items completed are crossed off; items begun are starred.*

1. Go back to Europe. Specifically, Oxford (where I used to live).
2. Read or donate at least half the books I own that I’ve not yet read.* (I’ve donated at least a dozen and read about 15.)
3. Go back to the Glen Workshop.* (Signed up and making plans.)
4. Visit my loved ones in Abilene.* (Making plans.)
5. Finish a draft of that memoir I keep talking about.
6. Pay off my student loans.* (Chipping away at ’em.)
7. Go apple picking for the third time. (It was glorious.)
8. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Newport, RI)
9. Read 10 new-to-me classics of any genre.* So far: O Pioneers, You Come Too (poetry by Robert Frost), Emma, The Hound of the Baskervilles
10. Participate in my first cooking challenge with fellow Shelf Awareness reviewers. (Read all about it!)
11. Visit New York in the fall. It makes me want to buy school supplies… (A weekend full of wonder.)
12. Cuddle that sweet nephew of mine a lot.
13. Conquer the snooze button.
14. Knit a few beautiful things.*
15. Go to the dentist.
16. Visit Canada (we’re only a few hours away).
17. Reach out to two friends every week.* (I’ve made a good beginning.)
18. Reread the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. See my post about these lovely books.
19. Take a vacation with friends.
20. Try 2 or more new recipes a month. *So far: a new ravioli recipe, Peruvian roasted chicken, butternut squash quesadillas, black bean-jalapeno soup, cranberry-walnut cake, roasted honey-glazed carrots, mustard-garlic chicken…
21. Develop a steady, focused routine for my workdays: less frantic multitasking.
22. Reimagine our cluttered guest room.
23. Invest in sturdy, chic black flats.
24. Eat at the food truck on the Common. Love their breakfast granola, apple cider and rosemary fries.
25. Get a pedicure. (I hardly ever do this.)
26. Invite friends over at least once a month.*
27. Write half a dozen more essays, a la my recent Art House America piece.* (Working on it. Look for another one soon.)
28. Order myself a new “brave” necklace. (See above.)
29. Savor the last year of my twenties.*

What lists are you working on lately?

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Fall Manifesto

fall rhythm starbucks pumpkin autumn

  • Pick apples, and then bake them into delicious desserts
  • Drink cranberry tea and chai
  • Send red leaves to friends
  • Bake pumpkin bread
  • Wear stripes
  • Breathe in the cool, crisp air
  • Make soup
  • Dig into some classic books (fall feels like the perfect time for classics)
  • Find a seasonal rhythm (see above)
  • Write and write and write

What’s on your list for fall?

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