Wednesday, 17 March 2010

So full of hopes. . .so full of dreams

I’ve been feeling rather glum for the past few days. It’s funny because sometimes you’ll be skipping along, humming merrily to yourself, and building castles in the sky. Then, without invitation, the blues will invite themselves around for a visit. They will move in and sleep in your bed and sneak scorpions and rats and serpents into your dreams. They will dismantle your carefully crafted feelings of joy and gratitude and eat all the chocolate you’ve stashed in the secret cupboard. The blues are tricky that way, insidious and sly, skulking in corners. And then Wham, they are pummelling you over the head.

At least, that’s the way my blues act but I’m sure yours are much more polite. On a typical day last week, I was tidying up when I caught sight of Truly’s pencil case. It has jaunty musical notes on it and it says . . .So full of full of dreams. In the second that it took me to read the words I felt unbearably sad. I tried to remember how it felt to be 14, your whole life in front of you, and so full of full of dreams. But I couldn’t remember. The pugilist swung and took a cheap blow to the vital organs.

After a few days of downward spiralling, I surfaced again and I started to wonder how my grown-up reality measures up to my teenage dreams. I grew up in a small town, not to be confused with a suburb, which would imply that there was a big city nearby. There wasn’t. When I was 14, I was tall and gangly, skinny and flat-chested. I had no eye-hand coordination and was hopeless at group sports. I never had a date in high school and I wasn’t a cheerleader or a Prom Queen. Before you worry that I was Norman No-Mates, I did have friends. We were the kids who wrote for the school paper, who campaigned for an unpopular cause, who were in the drama and debate clubs. The boys treated me like a buddy, someone they could study with and then cheat off of in exams. Small town, big dreams.

1. I wanted to be a writer. I would write the great American novel and be lauded for my intellect and witticisms and unique observations.

2. I wanted to have a boyfriend. I wanted to know the agony and ecstasy of love.

3. I wanted to travel and see the world. Growing up, I was an armchair traveller. Nothing much ever happened in my town. Almost everything I knew about the world came from the books I read. I have always been a voracious reader and read an inordinate number of books written by dead white men.

4. I wanted to live in a big city. In my town, there were two types of people, the ones who didn’t leave and never got out or the ones who got out and never came back. I resolved to be in the latter group. I was obsessed with the old black and white movies and pictured my life to be something out of the ‘Thin Man’ movies, Nick and Nora sharing witty banter over the clinking sound of martinis being mixed.

5. I wanted to live in Africa someday, saving children and striving to eradicate poverty and poor living conditions. I wanted to fight for a cause and volunteer my services for the betterment of mankind. I wanted to be a Libertine, even if I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

Well, the years passed as they so often do and I did not make my living as a writer. Instead, I was a waitress, a glorified secretary, and an analyst in an investment bank. It’s perfect fodder for the writer who saves unfinished books on her laptop but, thankfully, has given up on the cheesy poetry. So I started a blog. Baby steps. Someday I will write that book.

I got a boyfriend and then a few more. I tasted the ecstasy of first love, the heady pleasure of love that sustains you more than food or drink or even the air you breathe. And I suffered the agony of lost love and then the profound sweetness of finding love again.

I spent my Junior Year abroad and backpacked my way around Europe, hitchhiking and riding the rails, staying in every flea bag hostel across Europe. Since then, I have travelled to 4 different continents and 25 countries, maybe more. I rode an elephant in Indonesia, swam with dolphins in Mexico, reached up to the Hand of God at the Sistine Chapel, ate sushi in Tsukiji market, and skied in the Alps.

I lived in New York City for more than a decade, Tokyo for two years and London for eight. I drank martinis at The Plaza and swilled longneck bottles of Rolling Rock in the dive bars of the Village. Instead of the sprawling duplex overlooking Central Park, I lived in a sixth-floor walk-up in Chelsea but it was rent stabilized. I danced the night away in seedy nightclubs, on the deck of a houseboat on the Hudson River and under the moonlight in Central Park. I idled away countless afternoons, people-watching in sidewalk cafes on Madison Avenue and ‘thrived on a riff’ in smoky jazz clubs. I was a gangster’s girl, a bar fly and a late night diner frequenter.

I have never lived in Africa and I have done very little to ‘save the world.’ But in January I joined a volunteer organization which helps underprivileged children get a better start in life. A staggering 2 out of 5 children living in London are living below the poverty line. The program has many aspects but I’m working with the literacy program which will get kids into books. And, hopefully, the program will provide them with some of the tools needed to not only dream big but to be in a position to make their dreams come true.

Have my hopes and dreams been fulfilled? Yes and no. In so many ways my life has exceeded my wildest dreams. In my life, I have had the fortune to witness miracles. I have held hopes and dreams in my arms, my two healthy newborn daughters. I have seen the magic in the ordinary, through their eyes. Twelve years ago I survived a head-on collision, at an angle and speed that statistically had a 2% chance of survival. When you are travelling on a six-lane interstate, going 75 mph in the dark and you stare into the oncoming headlights of a drunk driver, you pretty much hit your knees and thank your maker for the life you had. The world went very dark and very still. And then came the fleeting moment of basking in a warm light and feeling no pain, only to have a voice whisper that your time had not come. My job in this world, whatever it is, was not yet finished.
So full of hopes. . .so full of dreams.


  1. Just popped over from Josie's to say Hi and Bloody Hell, with writing like that you should have ooodddlllleees of comments! What a fab post, I really enjoyed it.

    I've added myself onto your followers. Look forward to reading more.

    MD xx

  2. MD, thank you! I really appreciate your lovely comment. I'll be over to visit you soon.

  3. That last part made me cry! What does 'thrived on a riff mean?' You are a very entertaining writer, you should write a book! Ha-funny every time!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I love your Blog... can't wait for your next post.

  6. Wow! Love your blog and enjoyed your post very much. You have lived. Not yet ready to move on because you have a lot of living to do and you have a purpose too. And I suspect it's something more than motherhood.

    CJ xx

  7. suester, thriving on a riff was a Charlie Parker song.
    Debbie, thank you!
    Crystal Jigsaw, thank you so much. The challenge is to find that purpose, not that motherhood is not wonderful, but we all want something for ourselves as well, don't we?

  8. I could have written this post. Except I never wanted to live in Africa. And Ive never had a scary accident (knock on wood). But the rest is totally me! I relate, on several levels.

    And really well written. I want to know the books you read. I want to know MORE. Want to meet up some time? Some expats east of London are trying to organise a meet up in May, interested? You can contact me on my 'contact' page of my blog if you are.

  9. Michelloui, I'll contact you through your contact page. I'm glad you enjoyed the post--thank you!

  10. Sorry to hear you've been down too. It's good though to look back on one's life/dreams & what one has done & achieved etc.
    Thatorgansiaiton you've joine dsounds great.
    I always htoguht I'd end up in Africa too. I did work in South Afric afor ayr, but since moving abroad post children, only managed asia & eastern europe!

  11. Paradise, We still have time for Africa! For once, it actually cheered me up to look back and reflect on my dreams and my current situation. Hope you're feeling brighter as well.

  12. What a brilliantly written post. I know what it's like to have those childhood dreams. I too wanted to be a writer and the novel is lying unfinished. But you have crammed a hell of a lot into your life already - I am envious - and you've only just begun.

  13. deer baby...thank you. I hope I have many more years to realize all my dreams. And maybe someday we'll both finish and publish those unfinished novels.