Saturday, December 5, 2015

Life Dreams

Back in 2010, I decided that I wanted to draw a map of what my life could look like. I've long been interested in—obsessed with?—the "ideal life"; not in that Martha Stewart Living kind of way, but rather asking myself, what are the things, moments, places, and people that make my life glow?

I've explored this a little on Twitter—I've been doing these word collages called "things to consider" for a few years, in which I just list different things that have been creating brainwaves for me lately. Sometimes these lists are themed—food, clothing, colours—but usually they're just lovely little dots in the matrix of my imagination. When I decided, last year, to organize them all into a spreadsheet, I found plenty of common themes among the nearly 2100 (!) different entries. I love gold jewelry (fifteen entries), the colour black (24 entries), babies (nine entries), plants (70 different entries, including marigolds, succulents, lavender, and wet grass), and the beach. Yoga turns up a surprising number of times for someone who does it only a couple dozen times each year, and the category of TV/Film generates only eighteen entries—and yes, of course I categorized my dreamy life list. I am a right brain/left brain cartoon character.

Having this wealth of information is probably self-indulgent, but it's also a great way to track the patterns in my life. Back in October of last year, when a friendship was falling apart in a grueling way, I found myself thinking about things like "being sad and being okay." In May of this year, I mentioned "hope" during the weird unknown cavern of time while we suspected I might be pregnant but before we could know for sure. A series of tweets about "feeling afraid," "fresh starts," and "home offices" in the weeks before I quit my job reinforced exactly how miserable I was. The seemingly minor details that make up the majority of the entries only make the real stuff stand out more.

So what to do with this information? Well, because I am the person I am—a dreamy planner, a reluctant doer—I drew a picture. I mined the tweets for information, and then applied that information to a dream.

In 2010, I still lived in student co-op. I had just started dating this new dude. I hadn't even really started my post-university work life yet. I was an unformed lump of clay. But I had a vague sense, even then, of the types of things I needed my life to contain. Having been a lonely child, I needed friends in my adulthood. Having no drivers license, I required a bike. Having a fetish for both beauty and function, I wanted a kitchen full of glass jars. Some things on this initial plan seemed frivolous, like face paint, or nearly impossible, like a writing job. But those have manifested in the most amazing ways.

In any case, fast-forward to today. MUCH HAS CHANGED, friends. That boyfriend? We shacked up and got hitched. Three jobs later, and I'm finally earning about one-third of my income from writing, which is a great holy-shit/stability balance for me. I have a closet full of weird black clothes, a great gaggle of friends, and—pregnancy aches and pains notwithstanding—time and energy to exercise.

(I never did get that topiary, though.)

This half-decade review opens up new questions: what about the next five years? How do I balance the need for beach time, and nature in general, with the wish to live in a city? How exactly does one find the well-curated jewelry collection (and not go berserk with jangliness when you're trying to wear it) without blowing grocery money on turquoise and gold bangles? Will I ever take a satisfying bath in our postage stamp-sized tub? So many questions!

The sixty-four thousand question is: do I have the hustle to answer the questions this wish list asks? I can write a book, but can I publish it? Read—and write for—great magazines? Maintain important friendships in the face of a growing family? Is the simultaneous yen for both babies and alone time the dream of a madwoman? Can we bump up our income so that luxuries like fancy knitting supplies, cargo bikes, and travel money aren't a hardship? I am lucky in that many of the things I need in my life, like big hair, a lovely marriage, and a paleo kitchen, already come Kaiko-standard.

Putting the wishes, the achievements, and the relationships that I value down on paper has the effect of making them feel real, and possible if they aren't already real. It's like a magic trick, or a roadmap, or a message in a bottle to my future selves. Seeing it all laid out makes me believe that someday, that little dream house can be ours.

Images by Kaitlyn Kochany