goddamn dreamer

This post is for Cate, who commented here. 

I am a dreamer.

I want big things. I want gorgeous settings. I am idealistic. I am impractical.

I am old enough to know better, so I don’t think I will ever know better.

I am fragile. I want to be famous. God, that’s embarrassing. At least there’s this: I don’t want to be famous and get invited to all the best penthouse parties and know all the names of the owners of the sexiest clubs. I don’t want fame to follow me outside, into the street. I want to be a famous writer. I want people to read my words and disappear briefly inside them. That’s what happened to me, as a kid, reading fantasy novels. I slipped inside another world. I want to do that for people.

I am a failure. I tried being practical. I tried growing up right. At fifteen, I got my first serious job. I worked through college. For a while, I was making more money than all of my friends. I was a little smug about it, when a guy who liked me bragged about how much he made at his job, repairing computers, and I made more. Don’t say anything, I thought. Don’t you dare say anything. I really wanted to say something. I only let myself get A’s, and I only considered Ivy League grad schools-- I got into the one my professors wanted for me. There was this straight, groomed path, and I was on it, and I was going to take my degrees out into the world and knock on a bunch of impressive doors with them (they make a more important sound than just my bare hand), and things would fall into place.

And then I couldn’t.

(that’s my backpack. And my chocolate milk. This is where I was writing yesterday)


Three internships, at a desk wedged in a corner with no windows in sight, a job, commuting to work in a car with a guy who kept talking about his penis– how amazing his penis was. It was the most amazing one ever. He was almost positive. No, he was entirely positive. Working for organizations that were trying to improve the world in little, gradual ways. I was the stupid one. I wanted to change the world myself. I was the irresponsible one. I couldn’t adjust. I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t believe that after everything, this was the way life would go. That after all of the adventures that played out in my head, this would be the reality.

I am scared of the smallness of life. The trip back and forth to the ShopRite– back and forth again, endlessly. I am scared of small yards with fences around them. This is where your life stops, the fence says to me. Right here, by the swell of the septic tank, up against the back of the neighbor’s flaking gray shed. This is it. So when I write about my friends who are moving to the suburbs, it’s not so much the house, but the borders that bother me. It makes me angry– why don’t I want the things that other people want? Why don’t I even like them? I don’t like House. Or The Office. See?

Sometimes I think everything I want started when I was eight or so. When all I did was read. Once I found a book that I loved more than every other book. It was the story of two kingdoms at war. The humans and the demons. The demons were a species that lived in caves, the humans lived above ground. The human princess was a fiery, opinionated young woman who snuck outside the gates of the castle  and met a young, furry, short demon man who thought that war was unnecessary. They fell in love. And then his people found out what he was up to, and tortured him. And just at the last moment, the princess rushed in and rescued him. I think they lived happily ever after– but more than that, I remember the look in his eyes when he saw her, her hair streaming behind her, exploding into the underground chamber where he was being held captive.

I read the book once and then returned it. Later, I couldn’t remember the title. I combed through the shelves in the enormous public library. Week after week. The title was his name. I thought his name started with an X, or maybe it was a Y. Or a Z. I never found it.

So my life’s goal is to write a book that good. I want to write a book for my eight-year-old self to read. I want to write her perfect book.

Maybe I shouldn’t have read so much as a child. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone into the forest and pretended, alone for hours and hours, that I was a powerful mage. That I was a human princess who loved a forbidden demon man.

Maybe then I would have had more practical goals. Maybe then I wouldn’t have stood at the edge of Morningside Park, by the statue of some old dude who no one cares about anymore, at the end of grad school, and said, out loud and with total conviction: “No.”

I wouldn’t have decided to do something immature and ridiculous and impossible to respect by the people who would later ask me what I was doing with my life and then smile blankly and look awkward when I told them.I wouldn’t have taken a huge risk despite not being a risk-taker. Despite being cautious rather than bold and hesitant rather than cool and anxious rather than confident. I wouldn’t have decided to start again, after all that work. To write all the time, instead of doing something that would involve real money and the possibility of promotion and the security of social status and the hard-headed realism that separates so many successful people from people like me. From people who dream and dream and stubbornly refuse to wake up.

This is all very confusing. I mean– I don’t know who to aspire to be. The people I admire most are happy people who have never done anything that will end up in a history book and don’t care, and also the people who click automatically onto that tight, greased track that you ride at the top of the world.

But really, no one, not even those greased track people, is remembered by history.

Once, a couple years ago, across the country from here, Bear and I sat on a stone bench on the crest of a tall hill overlooking everything, and we talked about life.

“No one is ever famous enough to be remembered forever,” I said.

A hawk wheeled by in the wide blue sky, and then sank, thoughtless and hungry and deceptively gentle, towards the trees that carpeted the floor of the world.

“Who is ever remembered?” I said. “Like, five people, and we don’t really know their stories. There’s something about a cherry tree. There’s something about a kite and a key. And no one can even spell Gandhi.”

“I think we should just let ourselves be temporary,” said Bear. “That’s the great thing about life–we don’t have to hold onto things. We can’t even do it when we try. We should just think about being whatever we need to be next. And then one day we’ll die and it’s over– you never have to worry about anything again.”

“That’s the terrible thing about life,” I said. “You can’t really ever make a difference.”

But for some reason, it didn’t feel so terrible, in that moment. It felt a little like a relief. I won’t be remembered. Thank god. Because if it was really a possibility, then I’d have to try to be perfect all the time, so that the best of me lasted. But instead, I want to write and write– little books about girls who fall in forbidden love in a world where there are no fences and no litter. And definitely no septic tanks, but also some secret, potentially magical form of plumbing that makes it non-gross.

So maybe my dreams are smaller than I think. Maybe they are more practical.

Maybe this ferocious struggle I wake up inside of every day– the effort to figure out what I should be doing and the old, sour fear that I made the wrong decision when I said “no” to the path I was on and suddenly veered off into the part of the woods the Eagle Scouts haven’t marked yet– maybe that’s just looking through the wrong end of the telescope. My life is bigger than that. There are mountains in the distance, and the ocean, and I am going to follow my stupid, incessant dream right up to it. Because sometimes life isn’t about failure or success or one path or the other. It’s not about doing the right thing or being remembered or the title you have or don’t have or whether or not you got the degrees you were supposed to or if those degrees opened the right doors. It’s about what you are, fundamentally, underneath all of that.

And I am a writer who needs to write a book about a girl who lives in a big, open world.

I am a goddamn dreamer.

*  *  *

What about you? Any dreamers out there? If so, how does it impact your life?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in a black shirt and jeans. Really simple. I wore it by accident, but it works!

P.S. Here’s my piece about weight gain on the Frisky. I have to write a lot of pieces about it, because I’m self-centered. And I love the topic.

Here’s a new cake pic for the gallery! I LOVE it. Send me yours soon! And if you’re on Twitter, follow me! I tweet stuff. Sometimes it’s interesting!


Kate on February 2nd 2012 in being different, fear, life, work, writing

45 Responses to “goddamn dreamer”

  1. Cari Ellen responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 3:54 pm #


    I would think I was your biggest fan if I didn’t know your Mom. And I am with you – Life IS but a dream!

    PS My daughter is 10, when will the book be done?
    PPS For the answer to that question, see my FB post today :)

    Cari Ellen

  2. Melanie responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    First of all, you always talk about how you’re not brave or bold, but this post shows emphatically why you ARE those two things. The choice you have made takes guts few people have.

    This quote is so right on: “I think we should just let ourselves be temporary,” said Bear. “That’s the great thing about life–we don’t have to hold onto things. We can’t even do it when we try. We should just think about being whatever we need to be next. And then one day we’ll die and it’s over– you never have to worry about anything again.” You go Bear!

    That is a spectacular cake picture.

  3. katilda responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    beautiful: “I want to be a famous writer. I want people to read my words and disappear briefly inside them. That’s what happened to me, as a kid, reading fantasy novels. I slipped inside another world. I want to do that for people.” i’m a dreamer too. an idealist in a big way. i always have trouble relating to realist people because they start talking about facts and numbers and dollar signs when i’m still talking about what shoes i will wear when i conquer my new adventure. i don’t want to think about dollar signs when i’m busy thinking about shoes. when i’m ready for it, i’ll figure out on my own that a plan isn’t feasible….then i’ll fix it until it is, or i’ll shrug it off and move on to the next one. my parents were really good like that: they knew me well enough to know that i’d figure it out on my own, and the last thing i needed/wanted is for someone to tell me i was being unrealistic about anything. i prefer to parade it all out and address the rain later, in short.

  4. Erin Block responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    “I want people to read my words and disappear briefly inside them.” yes yes…me too. Fantastic post, Kate…and I disappeared briefly into your words and found a bit of myself there waiting.

  5. San D responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    How true the idea of when you leave, the tide wipes your footprints from the sand. I know I have made a mark in some of my students’ lives, and they all vow to speak at my funeral and say “she made us laugh and think, oh, and she loved to eat”. All you can do, is do what you love. Fame, fans, money might follow.

  6. Also Kate responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    Oh, that piece on Girl Talk knocked me over. I’m going to bookmark it, as a reminder to read it every few weeks and take a couple of deep breaths. Why is this stuff so hard? How is it possible to be a feminist and hate it when other women hate their bodies and yet also hate mine, as a reflex? I didn’t even realize it was a bad habit until it was too much of a habit to break.

    When I was 8, I wanted to be a published author when I grew up, and also at some point the President of the United States. Now I just want to not lose the job I have that I don’t even like. How do we get from 8 to mid-20s?

    Kate, have you ever read the book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making? If not, email me your mailing address (assuming you’re comfortable with that) because I will send you a copy. It’s what this post made me think of, and I like the author a lot so I want to keep supporting her work, and also the world needs more feisty heroines.

  7. Kate responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    I love the idea of picking the shoes you’ll wear on your next adventure.

  8. Kate responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Bear just gchatted me, embarrassed over that quote. “Do I sound like I’m trying to be wise? Do I really talk like that?”

    I told him, “You just actually sound wise, sometimes.” Nothing wrong with that. Thanks for liking the quote!

    And ISN’T IT? I’ll tell the woman who sent it in, in case she’s not reading these commments.

  9. Kate responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    @Cari Ellen
    Oh, believe me, I’m your fan, too!! Maybe I can feature some of your photos on here sometime, if you’d be into that?

    The book will be done this year! (I think)

  10. Kate responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    @Also Kate
    Thank you!
    And I just emailed you my address :-)

  11. Lynellekw responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    When I was about eight, I read a book called “The Girl Who Read Her Name In A Book” and it was about a girl who explored a forest and crssed a river and found a little empty house. When she went in the house, she found a book, and read it. It was about a girl with the same name as her, who explored a forest and crossed a river and found a house with a book – and the girl’s name was Lynelle. At least, I think I read that book. Or it might have been a dream. Once upon a time, I wanted to write, too. But I don’t enjoy the WORK of writing – I mostly enjoy reading. Then I wanted to be a vet, but then I realised how great your marks have to be to get into vet science. So then I wanted to be a physiotherapist, but by the time I changed my mind on that one I didn’t have any other ideas, so I started a Science degree and then went back to highschool. Then I wanted to be a Speech Pathologist, so I did the four-year degree and discovered how much I hate therapy and how repetitive it is, and instead I became a customer service agent. Now, ten years down the track, I think I’d like to do an accounting qualification but I’m not sure if my health can stand up to it, and I’m wondering what dream to dream that won’t leave me feeling lost and confused and just a little bit of a failure. Every now and then the memory of the girl who read her name in a book comes back to me. I can never quite remember if it was a real book or a dream, but I remember how I felt – amazed and comforted and certain that, somehow, this meant my life was meant for Good Things. That’s the feeling I’d like to recover.

  12. Maggie responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    Kate, this was a great piece. I had a tiny meltdown in therapy yesterday wondering if there was something wrong with me, begging for permission to follow the path that makes me happy, the one that doesn’t really look like a path at all, instead of the one that I feel like I’m supposed to want. He laughed at me, which was just what I needed to see how ridiculous the question was.

    I have so many friends who have beautiful resumes — hell, my brother just got tenure at Yale — and who are brilliant and talented artists and who do things that seem like pure magic to me. More and more, I’m happy with my own choices and aptitudes. I never question whether I’d be happier if I lived differently, if I were different, but I do question whether it’s acceptable for the way I live to make me happy. (Is this okay? Am I doing it right?)

    Also, your writing has come a long way lately. More and more I’m see your power and your voice and your convictions, even when you’re admitting confusion or embracing uncertainty. Thanks for the work you do. Even if you don’t think you’re famous, we are reading about the girl you are right now, seeing ourselves in you and feeling comforted and challenged and amused by the written works you create every day. We’re already reading your words and disappearing briefly inside them.

  13. Linnea responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    This is so lovely, and feels like it could have been written by a part of my soul. Thank you for writing it. I too have tried to be practical and make a lot of money, but it is more fun and more true to be a dreamer.

  14. Kate Not-Of-The-Cake responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    I love this entry so much I want to buy it a cupcake and give it a hug. I feel this all the time – that I’m on a path that no one else seems to choose, that hates suburbs and fences and loves cities and big crowds and loud music and and getting too drunk even when you swear you’ll only have one and everything that you’re supposed to stop liking for some reason even though it continues to be awesome. I respect that everyone has the right to make their own life choices but I see people wearing all the same clothes and acting all the same ways and I think that in every decade of their lives they’re going to keep doing all the same things they’re supposed to and it’s sad that more people don’t choose to be just a little different. I’m so glad you’re out there writing about following dreams even if no one else thinks they make sense. :)

  15. teegan responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    when we first got together, hubby questioned me constantly about my readiness to give up my vagabond young person dreams to settle down with him. he was 30, he was ready to marry, ready to have kids, ready to make a home, and he didn’t want me with him if i honestly wanted to be working at a retreat center on a strange island or traveling south america or writing in a tiny tiny closet in brooklyn or walking across the country.
    so i had to think about it.
    and think and think.
    (he asked a lot).
    but the thing is, knowing him, knowing that between 20 and 30 he got married, worked in half a dozen places, helped raise kids and grandkids that weren’t his, got angry, blocked out his anger, left his wife, and met me for a fresh start made me realized that life isn’t over at 30 (or 40 or 50). we have so many years left. and i can be the mortgage paying young wife looking forward to children very soon, and i can raise those children.
    but as far as adventuring and writing the great american novels? we do go adventuring. and owning a home near the ocean we can rent out (for pretty decent money) means we can keep adventuring without worrying about where our next gelato or cup of mate or dish of pad thai will come from. we can even take the kids with us (how cool is that?).
    and so far, i’ve worked jobs that have made me under $10 an hour (well, i make a little more than that with tips now). but just this week i started freelance editing for twice that, with a hint dropped that if i do well for the next few months, it could be a real full-time position by summer. and i’ve written one novel. and i’m writing another. and i’m learning all sorts of cool things, like how to make awesome quilts and how to can tomatoes and how to garden and how to reliably build a fire and how to pay a mortgage and how to knit baby sweaters and how to make saag paneer and how the wind always makes the beach feel ten degrees cooler than it does at my house three blocks inland. my life isn’t over because i haven’t achieved everything at 25.
    i’m in the middle of the awesome.

  16. Melanie Kristy responded on 02 Feb 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    I love this post, Kate. I often feel like a failure for not being who I “should” be or who I imagined I would be.

    I really love reading your blog, so I gave you an award over on mine, check it out if you can: http://melaniekristy.com/2012/02/02/awarded-a-giveaway/


  17. Lesley responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 12:29 am #

    YOU ROCK! Ah! I just found your blog…hm now I’m not even sure how. Yesandyes maybe? This is what happens when I go down amazing rabbit holes of great writing late at night haha.

    But your thoughts spilling out in this entry echo so closely what I’ve been thinking lately — about the bigness and smallness of life, of wanting fame but simultaneously wanting to settle into a quiet life. Of wanting no fences but wanting a place of my own, yet also wanting to explore, and loving the earth all the while.

    You’re inspirational and I am definitely going to be reading more of your blog!!

  18. Rachel @ Musings of an Inappropriate Woman responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 6:05 am #

    I want to write a book for my eight-year-old self to read. I want to write her perfect book.

    I can relate to this. Except that I am trying to write the perfect book for my 22-year-old self.

  19. Lynn responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Bravo :)

  20. Lili @ Relatable Style responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 7:52 am #

    This is a topic I’ve always been thinking about a lot in my life, even more closely relating to what Cate originally said. I think I was a lot like her in some respect.

    I have always been told that I can and I will go places. My intellectual abilities are the one thing I can rely on and they are my greatest and most steady source of self esteem. I don’t mean to sound like a billboard for myself, but I know I am smart and I can most definitely put my foot down.

    I desperately wanted to make something out of this. When I was 14, it was my biggest wish to be someday remembered for something special I did. I think I may even have said to my mom that I wouldn’t even care if it was something evil, as long as I wouldn’t die unnoticed when I’m old (I’ve since shed that thought ^^). In school or at uni, I always pictured myself to become a hard-working and no-nonsense breadwinner.

    This is not actually how it happened. I don’t exactly overwork myself these days. I’m 30 now, and four years out of uni (higher education is a longer process in Germany). I work as a researcher and lecturer at uni and work towards my PhD, all in part time. My job is pretty relaxed, I know I could do a LOT more in a LOT less time, but why jump higher than it is required? I tick all the boxes this way too. I write a book on the side and have a blog and just started another internet project which will be more high-profile (thanks to the other contributors, not because of me). This all can hardly be considered as barrel bursting, but I often feel like it it nonetheless.

    I have always seen myself working hard at something. Like really hard. Now I have a 20-hours-a-week job that keeps me fed and a roof over my head and will finally result in a title, and enough time and space for other projects and endeavours. I’m not sure if my research is all that meaningful. It sure isn’t wasted, but not exactly nobel prize material.

    So basically, my youthful dreams of myself when I’d be grown up vanished once I saw how shitty most jobs that you work really hard for are, and how hard it is to get… no, find! a job that you are interested enough in to put in all that work. I haven’t even seen one I’d burn up for, let alone apply. Problem is, in any other job I could not stand to work myself to the bone.

    In consequence, I don’t. These days, I think I put more emphasis on quality of life and being happy. My physical and mental balance means a lot to me. But every now and then, I think back to my former ideal, an ideal I *know* I can be if I only wanted to. In fact, I enjoy hard work if it’s work I enjoy. Of course it does not help that my boyfriend, with whom I’ve been together since high school, is a highly ambitious and highly successful entrepreneur with his own marketing agency. I know I couldn’t do what he does, but he is living what I thought I would! I’m curious to see which path my career will take, as I have no specified goals, not even a field to work in. I enjoy research, but I’m not sure it’s the be-all end-all.

    So that’s how it played out for me, after being a lot like Cate in my earlier years. I sound resigned sometimes, although I’m not sure myself why that is. Do I have reason to be? No. It’s maybe just that strange dream or image of myself that comes back to haunt me every now and then.

    By the way, I once read a very true statement on a related issue. It may even have been here, I don’t remember. It was “Our mothers told us we could be anything, we heard we have to be everything”. That is so true. “Mothers” of course can be substituted by “society” if your mom didn’t.

    Also, I think Bear’s statement is genius. “I think we should just let ourselves be temporary.” I instantly felt relaxed and a little more positively distanced from that 14-year-old go-getter inside me.

  21. Jonathan responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Today is the first time I’ve read your blog. I found it through a friend who posted a link on facebook. I’m not sure if it helps any, but you have yourself at least one more reader. I love your posts and enjoy your writing!

  22. Kate responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 11:44 am #

    I love the way you talk about your life. I love that you live by the sea and are learning how to quilt and are a freelance editor. What a good way to put it– in the middle of the awesome. That’s so true.

    I think too often I feel like I’m somehow already at the end– like I should be here, or should have done this. But this was so refreshing, to hear from someone who knows that she’s in the middle of an incredible adventure. Maybe even the beginning? Are you pregnant now?

    But I have to ask: do you miss being on strange islands? Because that part sounds good, too. And writing in Brooklyn is good, too. I know a lot of writers who wouldn’t have it any other way :-) And sometimes it’s hard to change your goals. Do you think you’ll go back to those goals at some point? Or have they just been so successfully integrated into your new goals that you don’t think that way anymore?

  23. Kate responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 11:51 am #

    I think this goes back to what Teegan said– you’re in the middle of an adventure. You don’t know where your life will take you from here. And it sounds to me like you’re doing so, so much! I don’t think dreams go away– I think you often just find ways to fit them into your new life. You never know which project will be the one that feels fulfilling or touches the most people. It’s awesome that you’re starting those projects in the first place.

    And yeah, I also felt like I could be anything and maybe should be everything as a kid. I didn’t see why I shouldn’t be fantastic. But to be perfectly honest, some days I still think I AM fantastic. I trust myself to be good at what I do. And I think when you keep doing what you’re good at, and you keep putting yourself out there, the rest often follows.

    But also, you might learn along the way that you don’t have to be famous, you just have to reach other people. Or you don’t have to have a statue in your honor, you just have to have created things that you’re incredibly proud of. It’s hard to tell sometimes how you’ll feel in a couple years..or ten. Or twenty.

  24. Kate responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 11:53 am #

    @Melanie Kristy
    Thank you so much!! I’m really flattered!

  25. Kate responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 11:55 am #

    @Lesley and Jonathan
    Thanks for participating! I love it when people let me know that they’re new here. Sign up for email updates/follow me on twitter, and stay in touch!


  26. Kate responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 11:56 am #

    @San D
    Love that line. I want people to talk about how much I loved to eat at my funeral! You’re awesome. And you certainly have touched so many lives, in such an incredibly important way.

  27. Kate responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 11:57 am #

    @Kate Not-of-the-cake
    It wants a cupcake!

  28. Christina McPants responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    When I was 10, I read a book from the library about a girl who had a psychic cabbage patch doll. It was the first book I read straight through and I stayed up until midnight to finish it (the night before we were supposed to go to an amusement park). I loved the book deeply and once I sent it back to the library, I never found it again. (until google – hello Jeeter, Mason and the Magic Headset)

    I spent a lot of my youth wanting and trying to be a writer, only to get to the point where I realized that while I can tell a decent story, the stories I have to tell aren’t particularly unique, interesting or compelling. I can write a decent blog entry, but I’m not a great plotter. And more importantly, I don’t have the *need* to write the way a lot of great writers do. I don’t wake up with a story I need to tell. Letting go of that dream has been surprisingly easy and surprisingly hard., mostly because I don’t know what to aspire to anymore. How do I make myself different if I don’t have this? Otherwise, I’m just a handicrafting, married lesbian who works in fundraising. The life I end up making may just look like everyone else’s, something I railed against for years and years. I’m still reconciling that and it’s hard.

  29. Kate responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Yay, google!

    I’m not sure I’m a great plotter either. Actually, I’m writing a post about that now! But I am not going to stop until I can plot a book with my eyes closed. Because that’s totally a thing.. :-)

    And if you’re OK with where you are, that’s all that matters. If not– books don’t have to be so original. In fact, they almost never are.
    And a married lesbian wrote a really great fantasy novel called “Ash” recently.

  30. Erinn responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    This post is wonderful. I so often feel this way as well, like I want something bigger, more meaningful for my life. But, then the beauty of things is that this meaning is in all the small things even more so than what seems big and important to us. I think the photos you took really capture that well, especially the first two and how the sky and light in them just emanate this sense of potential.
    Anyway, after reading this, I think you would really enjoy Jeannette Winterson’s writing (especially a short story called “A Green Square”); it’s marvelous, fantastical fiction.

  31. margosita responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    “Why don’t I want the things that other people want?”

    I’m sure you do. It might not look like what other people want, but no two people see the same fence.

    Or something.

    In any case, dream dream dream! Nice post.

  32. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    of all the posts i’ve read thus far, this one really speaks to me…and it sounds like you’re figuring out that the walls and boundaries are within, because a fence is just a fence.

  33. Laura responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    Me! I think most people blessed/cursed with the dreamer gene let it leak out in little ways, so it’s really exciting that you’re letting it run wild. Damn the pragmatist dam! When people ask me if I think I can really make a difference or change the world, I always panic and come up with all sorts of practical excuses to explain why I’m doing what I am, and then when the conversation ends I spend unhealthy amounts dreaming of all the ways I’m going to prove them wrong with all the impractical, probably impossible, things I’ve convinced myself I can do. Most of the time they don’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t have ridiculously large dreams for themselves too. I was going to say that we should form a coalition of people who are scared of white picket fences, but isn’t that what NYC is? Dreamers forever!

  34. Mandy responded on 03 Feb 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Once again, I recognize my younger self in your post. It took me a very long time to figure out my path, and to figure out which were the dreams that fit me best.
    I’ve become a lot more relaxed about my life as I’ve gotten older–but I, too, want to touch the world, and to leave it a little better and brighter.
    And, I think I accomplish this in a lot of small ways, like dropping pebbles in the water. I don’t know how far the ripples travel, but they do travel.
    Every client who comes to me for a massage leaves feeling better than when they arrive. And, I’m sure that positive change makes a few ripples felt by those around them.
    I donate blood, which saves lives–more ripples.
    I try to treat those around me with respect and humor, which can also have a ripple effect.
    I’ve given up on being a tsunami, or even a big surfing wave. Because all of those ripples add up.

    And, guess what, Kate-every time you post a blog, you are making positve ripples in the world, too. Your dreams, your writing, are making the world a little better than before.
    If you don’t believe me, look at all of the comments.
    Dream on!

  35. teegan responded on 04 Feb 2012 at 11:18 am #

    first off… yes! we’re pregnant! seven weeks on tuesday, so it’s still super early and if we were crazy cautious we wouldn’t tell anyone yet, but i started out healthy to begin with and i keep myself in pretty good shape and my mother & mother-in-law had healthy pregnancies, so… screw it. yes! there should be a new little one to share our home in late september!

    second, i do still want to work in an isolated retreat or write books in the middle of a city. but i look at my life now as part of my training/preparation for that. i’m trying to volunteer/work for nonprofits and any writing/music/arts oriented people i can to get connections and learn the business for that retreat center in the future. i’m writing whenever i can, partially in the knowledge that every line teaches me something, partially in the grand hopes that one of these stories or novel queries i send out will get a positive response and send me on my way to literary stardom. not to mention the fact that having children, living in the world, learning about marriage and the ups and downs, are all things that will help me write more truthfully, more truly.

    the other way that this is prepping me for the future is that we’re paying a mortgage. we bought a house at the perfect time, and every month we put money into something real (instead of rent that -poof- disappears).
    we both moved when we were 8/9 years old, and hated it, so we want to be wherever we’re going to be by the time our kids start 1st grade (so they have time to adjust). so in five years when we’re looking into selling, after we’ve (slowly slowly) fixed up this little house, we’ll have a tidy bundle for a down payment on our next house. if we move to western nc or western massachusetts or whatever rural place, real estate will be cheaper.

    which means there will be less pressure to be making as much money. and it’s likely we’ll never have a high annual income. ideally, we’d love to get as close to off-the-grid as possible. grow as much food as we can. keep chickens for eggs. trade homebrewed beer and homemade bread and fresh veggies & eggs for other things we can’t produce. and by then our kids will be learning about these things. maybe one will be in charge of the chickens and the eggs or one will be growing prize pumpkins or one will be fostering abandoned dogs. between traveling and our (hopefully) self sufficient lifestyle, they’ll be developing the skills and mindsets they need to succeed in anything.

    and maybe it won’t be somewhere on the appalachian range. maybe we’ll be in a little house in copenhagen or in an old lighthouse off the coast of maine. but saving our pennies, paying our mortgage, building our diy skills all make that future more feasible.

    sorry if that’s a bit life story-ish.

  36. Cate responded on 04 Feb 2012 at 12:06 pm #


    Thank you so much for replying to my comment! I struggle with this question a lot- and I do wonder if everyone else is like me, too, except we never share it and we all get to go round feeling like islands instead…

    It’s comforting hearing how much other people seem to be the same! Your post spoke to me entirely, as I knew it would. The progression from being a little girl with a lot of hope and promise to a big girl with a fear of picket fences (my boyfriend, I think, would be happy growing up and moving to suburbia… I find the idea all too terrifying!).

    If we can share our childhood heroines (actually, she’s my all-time heroine- discovered in childhood!), mine is Alanna of Trebond from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet. She was ‘just’ a girl but she managed to become a knight, save a kingdom, ride off and have amazing adventures, have lots of amazing friends, change the way society thinks, but also have an amazing relationship (or several…). I think these books are so much more popular in America (I’m from England, where they are very niche), so you may know them? I always wanted to be Alanna. Actually, I still do :) .

    Thank you for so perfectly encapsulating this problem, and your solution (in so much as there ever is a solution…).

    I remain your avid reader,


  37. teegan responded on 04 Feb 2012 at 12:30 pm #


    i loved alanna, but i loved daine more (from the ‘wild magic’ series). she was a little on the quieter side but still kicked butt – more my style!
    pierce does have some great novels for girls, and i liked that she didn’t avoid the fact that when the girls grew up, they did have real romantic relationships that sometimes encouraged and sometimes complicated their powerful feminine tendencies

  38. Kate responded on 04 Feb 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Oh my god, Daine!! The Wild Magic series was like, the most important thing in my life for a while. I DEVOURED it.

  39. Kate responded on 04 Feb 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    I was obsessed with Tamora Pierce!
    Thank you for writing back, and for reading!

  40. Rachel responded on 06 Feb 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I’m a dreamer too, more of the day-dreaming variety. But really, who isn’t a dreamer? I long ago accepted the idea that even if my dreams don’t come true, they give me something to think about when I’m bored. They make me happy and give me an idea of who I am and what pleases me.

    Kate, I don’t think people who write perfect books, magazine articles, etc,set out with an intention or goal. I don’t think that’s how it starts. I think whatever happens, happens as you go through life. The best written works in the world, I’m sure, were mostly accidental. I’m sure even the authors of such works did not set out thinking they would write a book that would change the world.

    Separate your hard goals from your dreams. For instance, if you make you goal be to be financially solvent (that’s what I’m working on!), then perhaps all the avenues you’re taking to make money will lead down a writer’s path. Or perhaps, you will be able to use your excellent writing skills in a new position. This is just one of many many ideas.

    There are endless possibilities for you. Good luck, hope everything works out :) And I really do hope you write that perfect children’s book too.

  41. sam responded on 09 Feb 2012 at 2:15 am #

    Kate, thank you. This reached me at the perfect time: up in the middle of the night, brain churning with anger and humilation after not even getting an interview for a promotion at work for a job I essentially already do. And it’s not that I felt entitled, it’s that I realized that I’ve never asked for what I want before, just been a workhorse on behalf of others. And it’s time to start asking. And that emboldened me all day, this realization, but come night it was back to swirling shame and disappointment. Thank you for reminding me that it doesn’t matter, and that it all matters, and that we make our own meaning.

  42. Jen responded on 11 Feb 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Hi Kate, you write so beautifully and honestly. I think you should do whatever you want and dream your own dreams and feel good about it. You are obviously doing everything “right” or you wouldn’t have so many people reading your blog and connecting to what you are saying. You are a writer and you do touch people’s hearts with your soulful discoveries. The unroasting you do is such a cool idea too. You’ll be remembered not only by your blog followers, but by your loved ones. So, just be in your life and have some laughs. You are doing great just the way you are!!

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