When does a dream start? Do we need to be asleep, far away from our life? Or at least wishing to be so? Do we need to float in that space, akin to limbo, where we melt into our surroundings, eyes glassy and absent, experiencing some unmade future?
How do we become aware that our life needs a profound change? I guess for some it is a lightning moment, a flash of recognition, a sudden vision. Perhaps fueled by dramatic circumstances, such as the birth or the death of a loved one, being witness of a striking event, a tragedy or a moment of extreme joy. Or so we are often told…
The promise, nay, the illusion of such a moment of realisation is what sends many of us travelling to distant lands or drug-induced trips, into long and often convoluted rituals, and eventually towards frustration and a feeling of otherness: “something must be wrong with me, as I don’t get any signs… my Dream probably doesn’t exist, because I have not seen it hanging in front of my eyes”.
Well, is that really so? Do we, following Campbell’s monomythic idea, need a revelation in order to start with the transformation of our life’s journey? The more information I absorb on those subjects, the more I think that they are often “just” a way to keep us chained to the “old story of separation”. I do by no means deny that it does happen to people, or mistrust people who tell their stories of revelation. It is the expectation they seem to raise in us unenlightened that I find harmful. But that probably should be part of another post… or I’ll never tell my story.
Where did it all start? I’ve been asked a lot that type of question… “When did you first think of farming? When did you get the idea of quitting your job and becoming a nomad? How did it all start?”. The short and honest answers are: I don’t have a clue and it is not that simple.
I guess the seeds were sprouting all my life. Sometimes I was aware of the seedlings, sometimes not. Most times I was swamped by lack of belief, I wish I could say “mostly coming from my surroundings”. Yes, most people around me dismissed or even laughed at my ideas of living a simple life, exploring self-sufficiency, living off food. With exceptions, of course. I remember conversations where those sproutings gained in size, fueled by the energy of validation. Interestingly, those interactions were not dominated by the analysis of possibilities, the business plans, the feasibility. They were interactions where I was listened to with a respect and interest not gained by my reputation (I had not much to show to convince the listener of my, say, catering skills) but simply by being a person. It wasn’t an exchange between egos, more of a creative, playfull talk between humans. Sometimes I wish I’ve had more of those, earlier… But then I would probably not be here.
It would be a cheap and easy way out to say that I was surrounded by the “wrong” people. Or that I lack in confidence. After all, aren’t there plenty of examples of people who lived lives similar to mine and yet became able to follow their dreams? There sure are, but… how many books, movies, youtube channels, blogs, etc. about people who are not following their dreams—and explicitely talk about it—do you know of? I think most people are still trapped in the cogs of the success-is-all-and-how-much-is-your-mortgage story. I did have a blog—well, several—but I didn’t talk about the dream I wasn’t following. I didn’t even know I wasn’t…
And why? Because I was under the illusion, largely fuelled by that part of our society based on linear, simple and dramatic myths, that there was a dream. That I had to choose between the things that “made my heart sing”. And that was the problem. Because, well, there are quite a few.
Being told and believing that I should use my strengths, my skills, was not necessarily helpful. Many of those were intrinsically linked to my previous life. And the things I did not practice that much, for lack of time or opportunity? I just did not know how to put together my interest in natural medicine, or, more generally, healing people, with illustrating. Oh, and regenerating land. And don’t forget cooking. Ah, cooking. The offering of food, with its immediate feedback. To people, that other important pillar in my life.
And what was that voice calling, eventually shouting, my need to grow plants, tend to animals? How was I going to achieve all that in the urban environment I lived, within my sheltered life, surrounded by loving and loved ones who mostly found my ideas fanciful and hobby-esque? Can one have a part-time dream? I did try… Perhaps not hard enough. Or maybe I am simply not a part-time dreamer? No, again it is not that simple. There were many things in my life that did not fulfill me. They probably even made me happy sometimes, but they were not fulfilling.
Things did have to get bad for me to “jump”. I knew my life was not what I had wanted, but I adapted myself to it, and concentrated in the good and fun bits… That’s how I had been raised, after all. Make do with what life gives you, and put up a good and happy face. One day I realised I had fallen into dream addiction, when, about to sign a form to refuse artificial life support as part of some pre-op paperwork, the thought struck me that perhaps being in a coma could potentially be a door to continuous dreaming. I had been obsessed by my dreams and by stories in general for a few years. Went to bed as early as possible, and grawled at whoever dared waking me up. Gobbled down book after audiobook after film after fireside story. Anything to keep me distracted from my own life. I wasn’t bored or anything. I indeed felt lucky and grateful. But that moment in front of the rather funereal form was probably the closest to a revelation. The thought of purposedfully putting myself into a coma did cross my mind. I knew then that I’d had enough.
I had enough of that old story. But where did the new one lay? I saw no signs, no doors, no windows. Or perhaps too many.
I started with small steps in many directions. Without a master plan. Just following this or that sprouting of a dream. Almost in secrecy—afraid of mockery and its effect on my confidence. Gingerly. After two consecutive, spoiled-by-ill-health attempts to attend a permaculture course in Scotland—the land of my dreams, I finally set off, a bit more than a year ago, into what would become the start of the end of my old story. Not to Scotland, but to England. Via Wales. Since then I have been in what feels like a permanent learning journey. And, when I do let go of my expectations and simply accept what is given to me with incredible generosity, things happen that I would have tagged as “impossible” one year ago.
I know I am moving towards my dream. And how do I know? Because I have realised that there is no final Dream, no End-Point. No Vision. There are, yes, intentions, and very strong needs that pull me forward. Into an unknown and amazing land. The land of my dreams, an unchartered and ever-changing territory, like Earth itself. I am in an in-between space, I guess. But, to my surprise, right now it doesn’t bother me.
So, here’s my advice: listen less to advice and more to yourself.
Here’s what I would suggest: Try things out. Be humble, realising that there is always the potential for learning. Judge less and laugh more. Cry as often as you need to. Being sad about the lost time, about the missed opportunities is normal. Probably even good. But don’t wallow in a melancholy for what cannot be changed. Let the past be at your back, supporting you, as a source of knowledge, but not of dogma. Only the present exists. What we do with it will influence our future. How we feel about it too.
Since I left Basel in Summer 2016, I rarely remember what I have dreamed during the night…