I think a lot about dreams. Following them. Achieving them. Making new ones.
The first dream I remember - one that felt aligned with my life purpose - was to be a big sister. I achieved that at age 4 1/2.
There was a very long time when my dream alternated between being a celebrated science fiction and fantasy novelist and being a Broadway star. I think that dream was, I don’t know, from maybe ages 8 to 18?
I toyed briefly with a screenwriter dream when I was in college, and then after that I kind of didn’t have a dream for a while. After a few years of teaching, being a librarian became my dream. And when I went to school to achieve that dream, I found a new dream: working for LEARN NC full-time, instead of in my position at the time as a graduate assistant. I spent a year working as a school librarian and then achieved the dream of getting a full-time gig at LEARN NC. I had that job for two years before it became clear that our supporting department’s priorities were changing and the organization would not be supported in the coming years, so I left for what I thought was maybe a dream, but was definitely an interest, getting my doctorate.
Getting my PhD wasn’t actually a dream and still isn’t, but it does remain an important interest, and one that I intend to achieve by May. But I still HAD a dream once I started on that one and confirmed it was more interest than dream, and that was to be a mom.
Of all the dreams I’ve achieved, that one was the hardest to accomplish. But I did it, and it has been every bit as fulfilling and exhausting as you might imagine.
So for 3+ years, I’ve been flailing a bit for a new dream. Was it to swim in a mermaid tail? Or with manatees? No. Those were more interests than dreams. (The difference between an interest and a dream in my mind/experience is the level of visceral desire involved. If you think in your head, “Wow, that’d be cool! I hope I get to do that!” it’s an interest. If you feel in your gut, “That would fundamentally change who I am and how I define myself in a way that I really want to be changed,” that’s a dream.)
But today I found it. I was reading Derek Sivers’s description of his book Hell Yeah or No in which he writes that after selling the business CD Baby and realizing that rather than just building a business again he could make a real change in his life,
For the next ten years, I wrote for hours a day in my private journal, asking myself questions and answering them. Then often taking experimental and radical actions based on these thoughts.
The thoughts and experiences that seemed useful to others, I’d share on my website, which are now collected here in this book for you.
I read that and I thought to myself, “I want to write useful things.”
Then I thought about the word “useful” for a moment.
I decided no, that’s not it.
I want to write helpful things.
It might seem like a small distinction, but to me, if something is useful, its value is defined purely by utility. What can you do with this information? Something that is helpful might be useful. But its value might be defined by something else. It might be defined by how it makes you feel: less alone, understood, moved. That’s a little different than useful.
Writing these things, of course, isn’t enough if they just stay with me. Rather, I want to write them, but I also want to share them.
So that’s the dream.
I want to write and share helpful things.
Let’s get started.