“One of the scariest things in our lives is actually doing what we know we want to do.” – Cheryl Strayed via Tim Ferriss.
On my run the other day, I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Podcast, the episode in which he interviewed Cheryl Strayed at SXSW. It made me reflect on a number of things — passion, personal truth, and mortality, among others — and I found myself thinking of my mother.
I’m fortunate to have a wealth of wonderful memories of my life with my mother before she died, too early. (Although, I’m not sure there is ever a right time to lose a beloved person.) Our relationship was never perfect, of course, but in the grand history of mother-daughter love, we were lucky. She was giving, steadfast, and always there with anything I needed.
So my thoughts today are not of my relationship with my mother per se, but of a resounding lesson that she taught me.
My mother always told me of her dream to open a small shop in downtown Vail. She had studied retail, in that era when women were common on college campuses but still encouraged away from the harder sciences. Her early interest in astronomy quashed, she went in a different direction.
She loved to ski, although by the time I was old enough to recall watching her on the slopes, she was happiest with a relaxing day spent between the moderate blue runs and some apres-ski dining, shopping, and wandering around the various ski towns of Colorado. She told me stories of earlier outings, of her times keeping up with the guys on steeper runs and more extreme terrain. But when she could choose, she was a lover of the enjoyable middle ground of skiing, the blue skies and good snow and great views trumping an athletic challenge.
Her dream stemmed from this love of the mountain town, the ski culture, and of course, the fashion of skiing. She was drawn to all of these things, and could see a version of herself living happily and successfully as the shop proprietor.
But, like so many people, my mother’s life took her in a different direction, and she never did open up a ski shop. She was an established mom and keeper of our home; she had a career in real estate and flipped houses before it was cool. She focused on funneling her love and passion into mothering and caretaking.
But mom’s unfulfilled dream made an impact on me. It’s a story that has sat quietly in the back of my brain over the years, and something I remember often when I’m faced with an idea or a possibility. When my husband and I decided to move west, it was a story I reminded myself of, a seed of encouragement to follow a dream and see where it takes me.
Which brings me back to Cheryl Strayed’s comment. It’s kind of amazing, actually, how much we run in the opposite direction of what we know we truly want. How much we allow the fear and the stability overwhelm our inner voices. Just like so many others, my mom she chose a different dream, a different desire, and made the best life she could in that direction.
But she also taught her daughter to pursue her dreams, wherever they might lead. She gave me the confidence and the support and the love to leave home, to travel the world, and to do it now. Not to wait, but to choose today. Because we never know what tomorrow will be, or where our lives may change trajectory — either on purpose, or based on things beyond our control. Dreams can carry expiration dates, and we may even find our dreams change and watch our reality reshape itself. But regardless of the outcome, in all of the stories I’ve read and people I’ve spoken to, it’s always worth making the effort. And as I grow older and follow where my heart takes me, I try to live out my dreams not only for myself, but in honor and remembrance of my mom’s dreams, too.