As it turns out, you don’t make a whole lot of money writing books.
Which means I’ve been shopping at Wal Mart a lot lately— buying Wal Mart brand food, using Wal Mart brand cosmetics, and suffering from Wal Mart brand guilt as I begrudgingly support the evils of cheap, consumer-driven “Empire.”
What will my progressive friends think?
Last Wednesday, I arrived at the big box store south of town late in the afternoon, just as school let out and everyone in Rhea County decided they needed groceries. It was cold and raining and I was in a bad mood because the womanhood project requires that I grow out my hair, which is thick and unruly and frizzy in the rain, and so just five months into the project it looks as though a small animal has died on my head.
My list was long, but I was determined to spend less than $50 this trip, so I stood in the pasta sauce aisle comparing prices for at least fifteen minutes before moving to the dreaded cereal aisle where I had an existential crisis over the barrage of choices I face in a day.
After about an hour, I managed to snag a respectable spot in the checkout line only to realize that my in my preoccupation with the sauce I had neglected to purchase the pasta.
I bet this never happens to Donald Miller.
I tossed some Wal-Mart brand fettuccine in the cart and returned to find the line stretching into clothing department, all the self-checkouts closed due to technological malfunctions. So I sighed, secured my spot in the back of the line, got out my phone, and proceeded to check my Amazon rank (up), my blog stats (down), my twitter mentions (empty), and my inbox (full).
As I was scrolling through the emails, one jumped out at me on account of its multiple exclamation points. It was an encouraging note from a college student who attended a school at which I’d recently spoken. She said that she admired my writing, loved my topic for book #2, and had been inspired to pursue her own goal of becoming a published author.
“Rachel,” she concluded, “YOU ARE LIVING THE DREAM!!!”
I couldn’t help but release a long, deep laugh.
She’s right, of course. I’m doing what I always wanted to do—making a living as a writer, traveling the country talking about my books, working on projects that I care about. I suppose that in between the parking lot and the pasta aisle I’d just forgotten that after the excitement of achieving one’s dreams comes the rather unglamorous part of living them. This is true for everyone, not just writers.
The dream of motherhood includes projectile vomit.
The dream of marriage includes arguments over toilet paper.
The dream of a career means eating lunch at your desk.
The dream of homeownership means leaky dishwashers.
The dream of justice involves failure.
The dream of unity involves compromise.
The dream of leadership includes criticism.
And the dream of publishing, apparently, includes Wal-Mart brand granola bars.
But that’s what’s great about dreams. They don’t happen to some sexy, put-together version of ourselves. They happen to us.
We just have to avoid getting so fixated on the next dream that we forget to live in the first.
What dream are you living now?