Harlem, by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
I feel like all my dreams are on hold. Put off into the future for one reason or another. I feel like a derailed train. Or a train bound for the wrong destination. Have I missed the last switch-track? Can I get back on the rails and moving again?
I wish I had known in college just how out of step I would feel doing "traditional" work. I tell people there must be something wrong with me because I think it's crazy to spend a life toiling away in an office. Maybe I just have a sucky work ethic? Maybe I'm un-American. I used to dream about staying at home and homesteading, only when I was feeling particularly stressed out and crazy. And I've told myself it is a silly fantasy. But I think more and more about it lately. I think about how much better of a parent I could be if I didn't work full time. I think about how self-sufficient and environmentally friendly and *healthy* my life could be. If I could be home. Instead of in an office, dreaming of the things I would do if I had the time. There is never enough time; I am forever away from home. And when I am home, all I have time to do is play catch up with all the chores that I've fallen behind on. Because I was sitting in an office somewhere doing nothing particularly important. Just wasting time.
I want more time for gardening, time to learn canning and other food preservation methods, I even want to learn how to spin wool! I'm going to try to slowly learn these things anyway, but it takes so much time and there's so little I can do in one sitting. I want more time for projects around the house, things I know I can do or learn to do. I want to feel useful, like the things I do matter. I want to wear the clothes that I like, instead of whatever is "professional" and "office appropriate". I want to sing, prance, curse, and laugh as loud as I like. All things that you reeeeally can't do in an office. I want to do work that feels satisfying. I want to stop feeling like I'm wasting my life. I want to *live*.
It's not that I don't want to work. I do. I just want to do different work. Work that serves my family and maybe my community (if I could ever get good enough at something to sell or trade). I'm happy with my hands in the dirt. I feel accomplished when I'm covered in sweat after finishing a task. Why did it take me so long to figure this out? I feel like I'm living someone else's life. Is this a mid-life crisis?
Unfortunately, my desire to live a simpler life remains a dream deferred. We cannot get by on just one paycheck yet. Not with student loan debt. Not if we want to adopt. And I hate that it feels like I am choosing between having children or living a more enjoyable and satisfying life.
Langston Hughes was right - it sags, like a heavy load. I will keep dreaming though because right now, it keeps me going.