Life without dreams is a lot of goal-less work. The financial turmoil has shelved lots of dreams, American and otherwise. This blog is inspired by my book, Dream. Invest. Live., and I admit reluctance to pointing that out. Two years ago may not have been the best time to publish a book about personal finance. But I also believe that challenges aren’t to be avoided. So I’m taking my own title as advice and going back to word one in the title: Dream – as starting over.
I am a long term optimist and a short term realist. The country is in better shape than the government. People are becoming more resourceful. Companies are making money, and regardless of economic statistics, are evidently hiring because I see friends shifting careers and breaking out of ugly situations. In the long term, we, because the government is us, we, will fix our problems. In the short term, dysfunctional institutions have yet to dissolve and emotions have yet to abate, so I am looking for a good job while this turmoil swirls down. (unsubtle plug: skills resume, chronological resume, artist resume)
Sleep happens, even in tumultuous times, and dreams do too. Describing dreams is always risky because the dreamer replays the imagery and symbolism while searching for words that might capture the concepts, but the listener only hears the words which may weave a different and unexpected tale. Let’s see how well I do. This week I had two dreams. In the first I was inside a rust-belt industrial shop as the floor turned into a whirlpool. A couple of people were staring at and concentrating on the center, and were being pulled into the vortex. I didn’t want to get sucked into that, turned the other way, saw a window and jumped through two panes of glass to escape as the floor began to move beneath me. I don’t know if they followed me.The second dream was completely different. George W. Bush dropped by to convince me to take the job of Aide and Advisory to the British Prime Minister. Different dreams but a common theme: my best path may be in unexpected directions. (But really, George Bush? Where’d that come from?)
This week measured my optimism. Despite the fact that my net worth dropped by half, a stock market recovery is delayed by quarters, and my country’s credit rating has dropped to AA+, after an initial total body shudder I saw an opportunity for the universe to amaze me. That shudder was significant. Gastro-intenstinal distress is annoying. The next day I surprised myself. Rather than looking at what could go wrong, I looked at what could go right. I was amazed at the possibilities. (Someone suggested I get a job as a part-time CFO. That would be fun. Then I found a job for a rocket aerodynamicist. Yep. And there was that possibility of a job on the island . . . )
There will always be an American Dream. We may mourn the evaporation of the dream of suburban or ex-urban home ownership, but that dream was recent. It came with expectations of hard work resulting in tangible benefits. Prior to that, during the Depression, hard work didn’t seem to show a benefit, merely survival. Dreams took a nap for a while. Scroll back before the Depression and the dream was of quick wealth in the Roaring Twenties. Prior to that the dream was the dream of homesteading. The home wasn’t as important as the land. The United States of America was a dream of democracy, though packaged as a republic. The first Europeans saw the American continent as opportunity to escape from the constraints of aristocracy and theocracy.
Dreams change as we live. Life is what happens while you are making plans. Especially in times like these, plans change, life changes, dreams change.
People’s dreams seem to be shifting to eliminating excess, aiming for sustainability, and finding values in themselves rather than in institutions. Or maybe that’s just what I see because I live on an island. Islanders are resourceful because islands have limited resources. Islanders frequently move to islands to live lives away from the mainstream. I see the shift here, but I hear about it otherwhere too.
The world seems to be in a whirl. America’s bond rating has dropped for the first time. The climate is swinging through unseen extremes with little chance of settling into something that meets our predictions. Power centers are in motion and are harder to track despite the great visibility within the information age.
Trying to understand the grand and global shifts can be futile and headache-inducing. That’s too much to shove into one skull. I guess, but I don’t worry, because I know I can’t know every nuance and possibility. I can, however, find enough to fit within one skull. I start by thinking about one life, mine. What do I need? What do I want? What do I have? What else do I need to do? Me first is not a long term strategy, but in a disaster even the Red Cross advises people to make sure they and their immediate environment are safe first. If you’re already in the lifeboat it’s easier to save others.
In times of stress the human body can withdraw into the fetal position. That only works if the crisis is short and life returns to normal. Laying still may not be safe. Standing still may not be safe. Finding a new dream or revising an existing one can point me in a new direction that turns crisis into opportunity.
The universe may amaze me, but I might have to dream a bit different, think a bit different, and look in new directions. Does anyone have a good link for the job of Aide and Advisory to the British Prime Minister? I’d give it a whirl.