I successfully chased my Big Life Dream, and I hated it

September 21 | Guest post by Rowen
"Dream big fuck off" by NeedleBrain

I wanted to travel the world. I had a very limited budget and a special needs cat who is seriously attached to me. I knew how to sail. Turns out old boats can be had pretty cheap. Cats do well on boats. I didn't think I'd have any trouble finding people who wanted to come for the price of groceries and help. Obviously what I should do was sail the world!

So I set my mind to it — damn the naysayers. I was going to do this thing. So I saved up for several years, bought a boat, fixed her up, moved aboard, left my job, and started traveling.

Now, reality had already set in by my first week at anchor in the form of a nasty fall storm. A boat behind me dragged their anchor and hit me. It only did minor damage but it's a terrifying experience that I wish on no one. Fast forward to the following June and you'll find me alone in a little town on Vancouver Island with no way to see friends, having not had a fresh water shower in a month, being hit viciously hard by depression and anxiety, and finally admitting… I seriously hate this.

On a small boat you are constantly concerned about running out of resources: fresh water, food, fuel, power in your batteries, and the all-important rum (which allows you to tolerate the rest of the shit). There's also the big factor of being at the mercy of the elements…

At some point I realized that what I was actually getting out of this was not worth what I was giving up for it… and I needed to stop.

I love storms when I live on land. On a boat they can kill you very quickly. At best they mean a sleepless, nervous night. If the wind and tide won't cooperate you're simply not going to get where you intended. Some days you can't even make it to shore. Now add that every. Tiny. Thing. Is a giant pain in the ass. Want clean clothes? Pack them up, put them in the dinghy, row to shore, carry them to the laundromat a 30 min walk away, wash them, then go back. Repeat for every errand. Cooking is done on a propane camp stove that constantly sets off the smoke detector. You have no refrigeration.

But the biggest thing was isolation.

When you chase an big life dream, especially an offbeat one, people will not get it. They'll tell you you're crazy and you should stop, or they'll promise to be involved and never be there. You can't rant about your newest project because they don't understand. No one wants to date you if you're leaving in a few days or months. And it's a lot harder than I ever thought to find crew.

At some point I realized that what I was actually getting out of this was not worth what I was giving up for it. That this was making me miserable way more often than it was making me happy, and I needed to stop. Which meant that, all of a sudden, everyone was telling me how dare I give up on my dream, and blah blah blah.

So here's what I learned from dream chasing and giving up:

  • You absolutely can, and should, chase huge dreams — dreams that scare you silly, dreams people tell you that you're crazy for considering. You will grow and learn so much in the process. Screw the haters. It's not their life.
  • You are capable of amazing things. Put yourself in hard situations and rise. You've got this.
  • Utilize your transferable skills. This is job interview 101. Skills from one thing apply to others and get built upon. You are never, never done learning.
  • It's okay to be wrong. It's okay to try something and not like it. It's okay to change your mind. Sometimes it takes more strength to do so. Just like life is too short to not follow your dreams, it's also too short to stay with something that's totally wrong for you.
  • People will tell you you're doing the wrong thing no matter what you do. They don't need to understand and you don't owe them an explanation. Screw the haters. It's not their life.

Now go forth and try something amazing! And if you hate it, have the strength to move on and try something else.

  1. I can relate. I bought a van last spring to embark on a big, long road-trip and while I didn't actively hate it, it's a far cry from the pure bliss I had envisioned.
    I'm still going to try vanlife next summer, but the reality check I got this summer was both disheartening and exciting. Disheartening because I really wanted to love my van but it has turned a big hassle at times (it's a money pit, and it's so ridiculously slow it's taking forever to actually get anywhere during my road-trips, almost doubling travel time as compared to a regular car – talk about my dream to make a cross-continent road-trip!), and exciting because it made me realize it's okay if you don't end up loving big life projects.
    What matters is to try, and then if your big life project isn't for you after all, then move on to the next life project. That was liberating for me. Good luck with your boat and kitty.

    5 agree
  2. A related take: sometimes the roughest thing that can happen to your passion is to have it successfully become your job! There's no quicker way to change the way you relate to something you love than to get money involved. THAT is some tough realtalk for creatives who have the big dream of turning their side-project into their career. Sometimes hobbies, vacations, and creative expressions are meant to stay passionate side projects… because they don't translate well to full-time.

    I think about this with dance a lot — it's my favorite hobby, and I've had friends ask if I'm going to start teaching and I'm always like HOLY HELL NOOOOOOO!!! I'm almost covetous about my creative endeavors that are NOT tied to daily life or money or career or other people's expectations. Some things are best when they stay a quiet passion instead of a fulltime life.

    15 agree
    • Oh yeah. This is why I never pursued music as a career, I only wanted it as a hobby. Talk about WAY too much pressure!

      3 agree
    • This is why I will never be a professional caterer or a cook in a restaurant. I love food, I love cooking, and I'm very good at it. I do not want to do it for a job!

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  3. "It's okay to try something and not like it."
    YUP!
    I would encourage anybody who's young ( or who just feels young ) to keep trying things to see if you like them.

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  4. Thank you so much for this! I wish you luck with your endeavors and your sweet kitty! Regardless of whether or not you like the decision, I believe you are learning things about yourself and will be infinitely stronger for it!

    I have a similar, though less adventurous story: in my high school senior year wish book I wrote that one of my dream jobs was TV news producer, and that my dream city to live in was Nashville, TN. At 33, that's exactly what I'm doing. I've been here nearly a year, and I have this very weird mix of not liking it, but not being sorry I did it. I always knew I wanted to move away from the area where I grew up, and I'm just now doing it. But after 32 years in the same place, and 10 years at the same job, I had friends that were like family, who I miss every day. I often think about 22-year-old me, and how she'd be SO mad at current me for not appreciating what I have…but big city traffic, stress, cost of living, and loneliness (though I have my hubby here) for me just doesn't outweigh being 500 miles away from the home I didn't realize I loved so much until I left it.

    However, one of my best friends asked me the million dollar question: "what if you hadn't done it?" Yup–I'd always wonder and never be fully happy had I not taken this leap.

    So I relate, and I appreciate you sharing your story so much!

    1 agrees
    • Yes! I think it's much better to have tried something, even if it doesn't work out, than to have 'what if?' regrets.

      We moved from the UK to Singapore ten years ago, supposedly for two years (we haven't left yet). This was definitely a factor in the decision – I rather regret doing it than regret not trying.

      1 agrees
  5. The 'not knowing' can become unbearable when it comes to life dreams, so even if you end up hating it, at least you know! It releases you from that tension and aching feeling that you can get from unfulfilled dreams. On another note, and kind of what the OP was saying but expanding a little about other peoples' opinions: People love to live vicariously through others who actually dare to take risks or have the dedication to follow through with their plans. I've experienced people being angry/annoyed at me for wanting to leave my job ('dream' job, that I studied hard for and worked my way up to over 10 years.. but it is very stressful and I have more responsibility than I'd like) because other people would 'kill' to have it. Well then, I guess they are welcome to it! I can't live the dream for them. I can't stay doing something because it would make somebody else happy. There is a lot of negativity around 'lacking ambition' or 'settling' but what's wrong with simply wanting to be happy?

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    • "what's wrong with simply wanting to be happy?"

      OOH OOH, I've read some interesting writing that focuses on the difference between "being happy" and "being content." Happiness is something we strive for… it's fleeting and we chase it. Contentment is just sorta *there*, ready to be accessed at any time.

      There's lots of great reading out there if you google "happiness vs contentment," but I especially love this bit:

      What these survivors have clearly demonstrated is that accepting and respecting oneself, coupled with determining what is personally meaningful, stand a greater chance of accomplishment, even if never completed, than a relentless and ultimately futile pursuit of happiness. What’s more, contentment has the potential to serve as a robust foundation upon which episodes of joy and pleasure can be experienced and cherished.

      From here: http://theconversation.com/happiness-is-an-illusion-heres-why-you-should-seek-contentment-instead-43709

      2 agree

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