08 February, 2009

There are No Fair Weather Dreams

I am not a winter girl. I have never been about winter. Born in the second half of May, there is a great longing that begins inside me right around the end of December that is not quelled until I can open the windows for an hour or so each day to start airing out my house. This doesn't usually start in Pennsylvania until the end of March, sometimes the end of April, but these last two days the weather has actually been mild. After spending the last three weeks on edge over temperatures borderlining the negative, yesterday's rising temperatures inspired a bit of hope in this winter weary heart.

My husband thinks I'm crazy. I can't imagine leaving this side of the country because I would feel empty without the change of seasons, but winter weather wears on me so quickly. For years now I've joked that in another life I was a bear because I hibernate the long winter months away, preferring to stay indoors in my comfy clothes, rather than venturing out into the ice and snow. My temper is also just a tad bit higher during the winter months, like a mama bear just daring someone to push her too hard.

The thing is, winter has been a tough time for my family for as long as I can remember. My husband took on a job in the same field as my father because it paid well at the time, but even as a child the housing industry lulled during the winter months. I remember my dad getting laid off from his job, the long months of unemployment barely enough to get our family through. Now my own family struggles through winter under the same pretenses. It's been worse this year than it has been in the entire time my husband's been employed there. For the previous three years he was working half weeks, three day weeks and collecting partial unemployment. This year, he's only worked three days since the New Year dawned.

Despite the financial lag, I enjoy having him around. We get to spend a lot of time together, something that is tough under the strain of his job. During the summer he often worked ten hour days and was required to work at least four on Saturdays. I miss the money, the stability that comes with it, but on the other hand I am reminded of how much he never wanted to take that job in the first place. He is an artist and musician. Plagued by the calling of his craft to create, not being able to answer the muse's whim can be somewhat devastating to one's creativity. Now that he's home, he's been juggling creative projects slowly, trying to regain a sense of what was lost during those long years of slaving for something he really didn't even believe in.

We all do it, and of course I have heard it said, "What else can you do?" I disagree, even though I've been in this situation myself. Suffered through the wrath of disappointments, the hardship of struggling financially through the winter months when work was slow for both of us, but to sacrifice so much of one's self for material gain seems a shame. While I was in college I worked two very flexible jobs, one on campus and one in a restaurant and bar I had worked in on and off for about five years. It was still not enough.

It got me to thinking about all of the gurus out there that talk about doing what you love. There is even a book titled, "Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow." How many of us sacrifice that which we know in our hearts we are meant to do out of fear of failure? Even as we know that if we put our hearts into our dreams, anything is possible. I realize it's difficult to keep that frame of mind when times get tough... even now as the news touts the economic disaster that is our time, there is still possibility. We just refuse to grasp for it out of fear. The thing is, as long as mankind has been recording his history, there has been art, music, stories and even sports.

Sure, we need manufacturers, farmers, computer technicians, teachers... and there are people who are born with that passion in them as well. My mother, for instance, has said for the last fifteen years that all she ever wanted was to be a teacher. So she went back to college, got her degree, became a teacher... And it wasn't easy. Sometimes it's still difficult for her, especially now as it's so hard to find permanent work in our area, but there is potential, and she knows it. My own history hasn't been easy. Since I was ten years old, all I ever wanted was to be a writer. It's how I express myself, how I communicate. I can say things so much more eloquently if I type or write them out, but my own mouth is like a curse, often spewing forth things that don't make sense at all compared to the thoughts I have inside my head. So I've written... I've had my share of minor successes and continue to have them even now. I went to college thinking maybe I should study something that might actually bring me a job, but halfway through my first semester I knew that I was lying to myself. I declared English/Creative Writing as my major despite the hesitation of my advisers.

Why would you want to get an education that isn't going to serve you? That was what one adviser asked me. He told me stories about another girl who majored in art, but worked at Wendy's fast food restaurant now because who was going to hire an art major. But the thing is, my education does serve me. It serves my soul. I know in my heart that despite struggling from time to time, I've made the right choices. I have been true to myself, and I hope you have to. If you haven't, maybe it's time to start listening to your calling. There will always be a need for people to step into places they don't belong, but even greater is the need for people to step into who they are meant to be.

Be yourself. Be true to yourself, and even as the winter months are long, and you find yourself feeling like a bear trapped in a hibernation stupor, remember that the spring will come again. The sun renews the soul and your dreams are waiting for you to remember them.


Believe in yourself
To the depth of your being

Nourish the talents
Your spirit is freeing

Know in your heart
When the going gets slow

That your faith in yourself
Will continue to grow

Don't forfeit ambition
When others may doubt

It's your life to live
You must live it throughout

Learn from your errors
Don't dwell in the past

Never withdraw
From a world that is vast

Believe in yourself
Find the best that is you

Let your spirit prevail
Steer a course that is true

--Author Unknown


Rachel Cotterill said...

Thanks for the pep talk! I think I needed that, I'm trying to juggle all the people I am, at the moment... it's not easy.

Nicole Ireland said...

Beautifully written, Jenny. You are right on so many levels. This is one of my favorite blogs you've written.

You know I can relate to the whole following your dreams thing. I can't imagine not being able to write. It would hurt. It's such an important part of me. Without it, I'm not Nikki. I'm just half a person. You know?