I started this blog a few years ago when my husband’s goal to become a professional athlete seemed like a pipe dream. We were young and poor, nomadic and impulsive (myself more than him.) We slept on a mattress on the floor, ate beans and rice everyday and lived in a run down house across from a baseball field that moonlighted as an open air saloon for the homeless. We had a little girl, and were just trying to figure out how we wanted to build our lives as a family.
When I started writing here, I was still struggling to find myself amidst the chaos of new motherhood. As most parents know, it is hard to maintain a clear determination of who we are when most of the day is spent mindlessly (yet lovingly?) cooking, cleaning, tending to/and or ignoring shrill cries, playing pretend, being a taxi driver and making sure everyone is moderately happy. (Over the years and subsequent children, my standard for childhood happiness has gone from “make every day the best day ever” to “did everyone get fed today?”)
We were married young, (22 and 24 years old) and luckily, we grew up together rather than apart. My husband toyed with a lot of career ideas in the beginning; chef, singer-songwriter, medical doctor (yes, he really has all of those talents) but he always came back to running, as far-fetched a dream as it seemed to actually “make it” as an athlete.
But, as I mentioned, we were young, poor and didn’t have much to lose, and so we decided to go for it. Of course, over the past 3 years my husband went to school to get his doctorate in Physical Therapy as a back-up plan. People still laugh when he says that his degree is a second option, but believe me, he isn’t kidding.
The other day, an acquaintance asked my husband about his running career, and what “the dream” was for him. “I’m living it,” he responded without an ounce of irony or facetiousness.
The acquaintance looked around our humble home that boasts a Play Doh caked carpet, mud-streaked windows and doorless kitchen cupboards (not the trendy kind, the kind that results from a 2 years long paint job saga that we haven’t cared about enough to finish.)
He could probably see the goats grazing around our wild forest/barn hybrid backyard, with a fence-hopping neighbor chicken or two pecking around to see if the insects were better in our yard. He likely noticed the artful toddler penmanship on the couch he sat on, or the myriad scuffs on the worn entryway dresser we thrifted from a garage sale.
We could tell he was searching for an appropriate response, one that would mar the surprised look on his face. “Awesome!” he said, then quickly changed the subject.
When people think of professional athletes, they think of the Mayweathers (respect) and LeBrons. But running is not boxing or basketball. There isn’t millions to be made in the sport. People do it because they just straight up love it, even if they know they’ll never be rolling in Bentleys and makin’ it rain with Benjamins.
Although I wouldn’t call myself a runner by any means (but I have grown to really love trail running over the past few months), the years of being an endurance runner’s wife have taught me that running is more than just a sport.
To the true lovers, running is an emotional outlet, a therapist, a means of constructive masochism, a way to moderate (or facilitate) extremism, and a socially acceptable way to hermit while allowing lone wolves to find like-minded friends all rolled into one activity.
Yes, we would likely be rolling a little deeper if my husband had decided to become an MD and I had pursued a writing career right off the bat, but at what cost?
The truth is, we are living the dream. Our dream. My husband is able to make a living doing what he loves, working on a daily basis with more grit and self-motivation than most people can find in a lifetime. That in itself is a dream we try not to take for granted.
I’m able to stay home with my three young girls, which I see as an absolute privilege. I get to invest time in writing, even if it brings in 0$ , so that when I’m ready to pry my loving motherly death grip from my children (or when they’re all in school, or when they tell me they’ve been sufficiently smothered) I can continue my dream career as a writer.
Sure, our house is modest, our car is old and we don’t have some of the luxuries associated with The American Dream. But we are doing what we love to do, and getting by at the same time.
We’ve come a long way from where we started as a couple of kids trying to make sense of adulting. We’ve learned that often, happiness is born from struggle. We’ve discovered ourselves, both individually and collectively, through really hard times. We’ve stumbled and built ourselves back up more times than we can recount, but each time we emerge just a little bit wiser, and a little bit stronger.
Most importantly, we’ve learned that there is no dream without hardship.
I guess my point in writing this is to say that “the dream” is relative. “Making it” is also relative, and as long as you feel fulfilled, happy and accomplished doing what you do, that IS the dream.
I know I’ve said this before, but as I grow up, I realize the importance of staying true to what I believe and honoring what resonates to my core, regardless of what others think.
If makin’ it rain is what resonates, power to you. If being a struggling artist makes you tick, go for it.
At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make sense of adulting in our own ways, and I’ll likely still be trying to figure it out when I’m old and grey.