I Will Never Homestead in Alaska

7 06 2012

You may not know this about me, but at one point in my life I had a plan. It was a simple plan: with my friends, Pam and Steve, I would move to Alaska after college. We would claim a tract of free land and establish our homestead. We’d live in a tent while we built our cabin by hand. Steve was strong; we were certain he could wield an axe and fell the giant trees needed for our roofbeams. Our friend Todd, a.k.a. “Mole”, horned in on our plan by offering to design our dream log cabin (he did, in fact, go on to become an architect).

Once the cabin was built, Todd would put his drafting table in a sunny spot in the great room and Steve would hunt and wrestle bears while Pam and I would garden, can, cook and bake bread. We would live a simple life, self-sufficient, in constant communion with nature. Never mind the fact that Pam and I both envisioned ourselves in long-term monogamous relationships with Steve (poor Mole). The vision was an idyllic one. We spent months daydreaming about it on the huge hammock in Pam’s yard.

Life intervened, and like many other ideas and plans, this one fell to the wayside. A year or so later, I was convinced I would become a speech pathologist. Even later, I applied to graduate school in English and wasn’t accepted, my fledgling hope of becoming a professor of literature denied before it fully took root in my psyche.

I have thought about this quite a bit since I read the blog post written by my friend Cindy Petersen (here), in which she shared her story of believing that restaurant ownership would be her best path to an autonomous career. She did a lot of work toward that dream, and it still didn’t come true. She could have stopped there, but the resonant part of Cindy’s story is that the work was all preparation for a better dream to unfold in her life.

In my homesteading dream, I lived in a snug little home and ate locally grown organic food. To some extent, that is a picture of my current life, minus the Alaskan wilderness. In my early career thoughts, I wanted to help people who needed my skills, perhaps college students. And that has turned out to be my vocation for twenty years – I’m an educator without being either a speech pathologist or a professor. And I believe my students do need what I have to offer.

It is part of our nature as human beings to dream big dreams. When we’re young, it never occurs to us to dream of being ordinary. And these days, we are all constantly harangued to dream big, live with passion, don’t settle for anything less than the whole enchilada. However, most of us live what, on the surface, appear to be very ordinary lives. As I have gotten older, I have begun to realize that the best lesson to take from this is: Trust. Trust that my inner self will guide me in the directions I need to go. For example, I have always wanted to be a writer. In my dreams, I have imagined “writer” to be synonymous with “author of great literature”. I have written about this dream ad nauseum in a lifetime of journals. It is only now that I see an inner wisdom has guided me – I am a writer: of reflections, personal essays and memoir. And I am finding deep satisfaction and fulfilment in that.

In the midst of these thoughts, I was reminded of the lyrics from a Don McLean song, “Crossroads” (apparently my Alaska homesteading plans aren’t the only high school reminiscences coming to mind this week!):

You know I’ve heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.
But there’s no need for turning back
‘Cause all roads lead to where I stand.
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.
 

By all means, dream big dreams. I will continue to myself. But while I am dreaming, I plan to remind myself: “Don’t stop and simply gawk at the shiny dream. Instead, keep walking down your road, trusting that you’ll end up in the right place. No need for turning back.”

 
 
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10 responses

7 06 2012
srfcreativestudio

You always give me so much to reflect on, sometimes it’s a good thing that our dreams don’t work out Love the guest post Sun and your blog today – and isn’t it funny that it took you awhile to realize that it isn’t being published that makes you a writer, you have always been one – I had the same kind of revelation late in life that I didn’t have to make it big to be an artist – I simply am one and always have been! Keep them coming! I anxiously await every Thurs for your post!

10 06 2012
jenion

Steph, thanks for being such a great/thoughtful reader of my posts. I chuckled when I read the part of this comment about you having a revelation later in life that you didn’t have to make it big to be an artist – if you aren’t an artist, no one is! It has been such a pleasure to watch your work develop and your skill level grow, though you have always produced work that speaks to me. So happy to know you, and doubly blessed to call you family 🙂

7 06 2012
crgardenjoe

I hope I’m not the only one who “heard” McLean’s guitar in his head while reading your post. Now I want to finish my book orders (which I’m doing late on campus) so I can go home and dig out that album. Yup. I still have Don McLean albums. And a record player.

10 06 2012
jenion

I hope not, too, Joe! I’m glad you still have the albums, I spent hours on youtube listening to the lesser-known songs (I mean lesser-known than American Pie, of course). In high school and college, there were many hours of soulful laying about with McLean’s music blasting out of the speakers!

7 06 2012
MRB

I haven’t had time yet to truly reflect on “Crossroads” (playing on the 8-track in the Pont) but can say definitively that the daydreaming services a purpose. It’s the one constant that binds the people/places/events in our individual lives into that collaborative sense of being – otherwise known as friendship. Thank you for sharing, my friend!

10 06 2012
jenion

MRB: it seems there are many constants across the decades of our particular friendship. All those nights driving the county roads in the Pont, windows down, music blaring – wish there was a way to recreate that feeling of incipience. Probably one of those things we can only feel at 19 or 20, because our futures are on the horizon but haven’t yet arrived.

7 06 2012
Amy Ressler

I recently read the play, Mere Mortals with the student in my Intro Theatre course and we had fun talking about this topic as presented in a dramatic (comedic) style, as you so eloquently stated, “it is part of our nature as human beings to dream big dreams.” My sister used to point out to me that I’d have a lot less stress in my life if I could just settle for a “little life,” instead of a “big” one! In any case, I feel that life is pretty big no matter what (I hope) and that we all come to enjoy and be mindful of every moment of our “little” lives. Blessings! Amy

10 06 2012
jenion

Amy, I LOVED reading this comment! I might have a sense for why your sister made her suggestion – after following you on Facebook, I am half-exhausted just imagining the speed at which you must move to do all the things you share! However, I would never advise anyone to settle for something other than what their spirit calls them too – even if it saves them stress 🙂 I know from my own experience that that road leads to a half-life. “…and that we all come to enjoy and be mindful of every moment of our ‘little’ lives”…a perfect prayer!

8 06 2012
Mom & Dad

An absolutely marvelous reflection . . . with lots of (organic) food for thought.

12 06 2012
Tune for Tuesday: Get Your RR Earworm Going! | Crgardenjoe's Blog

[…] and “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” has served me well when faced with a tired little person! Jenion put me in the mood for this tune—the Arlo Guthrie version was a hit in the 1970s—but I like to […]

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