Today's writing prompt from Holidailies is "Things I once thought I'd do that I now know I'll never ever do." I offered the prompt back when the portal kicked off so I thought I'd tackle this topic today. I've talked in this space about the delusions I had about retirement, but today I'm going to reach back to the kid you see above, washing dishes on one of our camping trips when I was in my teens. (And no we weren't having TV dinners. We were probably using and reusing those aluminum pans the TV dinners came in pre-microwave.)
So what did that kid dream about? What things never came true? What other dreams did she develop in her twenties that had no real chance of being realized?
I thought I would run my own business empire. I thought I'd become so rich that I'd have a retirement home for all my aging relatives. (I would, of course, not get old.) I'd also be so rich that I'd be a philanthropist of major dimensions and change lives on a daily basis. House the homeless. Feed, clothe and rehab them, too. Support the arts in major ways. I thought I would invent great things. And write novels, self-help books, screenplays and short stories. Most of my dreams were like that. Creating works of art and creating amazing businesses and being wildly successful and then using the money as a force for good that could only be conceived by my brilliant mind. I would have multiple houses. I would have my own gym (stocked with fluffy towels and brand new gym wear for guests in the locker rooms). I would have my own tennis court at this huge house and multiple 'suites' for friends. I'd have lots of help so I didn't cook, clean or worry about the garden or the maintenance. I'd have condos in other cities like New York and Paris. (Although dreaming of Paris was a little beyond the kid in this picture. As was, even, a tennis court!) I'd take trips with entourages of friends, though, that's what I thought. The kid in the picture took trips to campgrounds, sometimes with entourages of cousins and aunts and uncles as well as the parents. (That's my dad in the background.) We looked like we were homeless Okies during the depression, probably. Truly we probably couldn't afford to vacation anywhere else.
Did I really dream about stuff like that while doing chores at a campsite because we couldn't afford a hotel room? Yes. I did. And I continued to dream like that well past the point that I should have known better. As I wind up my sixth decade, though, I know better. Yeah, I do.
I often dreamed of businesses that I'd run. The closest I got to a business of my own was helping FFP with his ad agency which he ran for years. I labored working for the man while he created something of his own. I was too shy, too dreamy, too many things to start my own business. I dreamed, too, of businesses that were unlikely to bring those riches! Bookstores, concierge services, bars.
I dreamed of travel, but it took me until the early seventies to refine the dream to include anything as exotic as Europe. Before that when I studied history and languages and such it seemed impossibly removed. But once I'd quit my first job after college and taken off (at twenty-four) to tramp around Europe with a Eurail Pass I pretty much dreamed of going everywhere and seeing every single important thing. I now know that I'll never go on difficult journeys---no climbing big mountains or going to really dangerous places or to any country where women are chattel.
I could just see me writing all these published works when I was a kid. I thought I was such a talent. Of course, presented with a blank page things evaporated quickly. I actually finished a few short stories, essays and letters to the editor. I never could stay with a project that promised to be the size of a book. I now realize that I'm just blogging. I'm over it.
I pretty much know the extent of my realized and potential riches. They will never cover the major largess and philanthropy I dreamed about. Oddly, even though I sometimes thought I'd find the wherewithal somehow to do those big things I was, at the same time, shocked at what I did manage by working many years and getting a bit lucky, too. I no longer want large sprawling homes with guest quarters and entertainment or multiple homes. Because I know that I can't afford the staff and don't want to be bothered even supervising maintenance. I don't have a cook but, honestly, between eating out and prepared foods from the likes of Whole Foods and Central Market, don't I sort of have my cooking done? I don't have a tennis court, but I can afford a club that has many, some hard and some clay, and I can play and someone else can take care of the property. I didn't build a retirement home for my aging relatives but I did get a house for my dad and my mom to live in here and while Dad is paying his expenses and doesn't have all the help I dreamed about, he has enough for now especially when I pitch in.
You will never see me going off to Iran or climbing Mt. Everest or buying a giant home so you can visit me. I'm pretty sure I won't invent the next big thing or see a pile of books I wrote at Book People. But, I have seen some of France, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands, Russia, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Israel, South Africa and Australia. I've managed to give some money to help some groups in ways that were meaningful, to me at least.
Maybe that kid's big imagination helped in some way to realize some smaller dreams. Some dreams that are, after all, just enough.