When You Lose Your Head in the Clouds
For as long as I can remember, my school reports nearly always said the same thing: good student, does her work, but she is constantly lost in daydreams; her head is always in the clouds. And I grew out of a lot of things but never that.
When I was studying I loved my degree. I finally felt like I had found my academic niche, found what I was good at. But despite feeling content, I could never stop daydreaming, planning and hoping for the next stage, the next thing. I was always, always, always, trying to tread the line between enjoying where I was and dreaming for what could be next; usually I was failing pretty spectacularly. I sometimes worry that I was so focused on what I would do after graduation that I didn’t stop often enough to appreciate that my education was a gift and that I would never be able to live quite like that again.
And now I’m finally where I’ve wanted to be for so long and doing what I hoped for as a post-grad: I’m living in a city that I fell in love with, I’m surrounded by people who make me laugh every day, and I have a pot plant I haven’t killed yet.
But unsurprisingly, this stage of life is sometimes hard and occasionally just boring, so I’m living up to the standard I’ve created for myself over the last however-many years—the second that life isn’t fun and exciting and everything I imagined, I’m clocking out and my head’s in the clouds again. Regardless of my best efforts and despite every naive hope I had that this time in my life would be the one I could actually stop and enjoy, it’s proving difficult to ever feel like I’m where I really want to be. I’m finding myself so overrun by my tendency to dream that I’m forgetting that this wonderful life, hard as it is sometimes, is the one I selected for myself.
Sometimes I become overwhelmed by the feeling that life is a competition and I’m losing. I am as far away from a steady and realistic career trajectory as I was when I left high school, I have less money than I did when I was a student, and it feels like everything I turn my hand to, someone else has done better or sooner. My plans for my ideal future life are still far away; I never feel as accomplished as everyone around me; I get stressed about failures before they even happen; and every attempt to be bolder, stronger, better, seems to go unnoticed.
The truth, of course, is that life is never perfect and will inevitably fail to be the idyllic dream we hope for it to be, but that doesn’t make rejection, failure, and disappointment any less painful. And maybe the hardest part of being a graduate is that enduring all this somehow seems lonelier than it ever did before, now that we’re all in the real world and making our own ways in life.
My epiphanies, my constantly sought-after, sweet moments of clarity, tend to come when I’m walking. Walking to work, walking to the shops, walking for the joy of walking.
Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left.
Life is not a competition. And a head in the clouds is not a cure for dissatisfaction.
Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left.
Though not my natural tendency, I’m learning that a head constantly in the clouds is just… not that useful.
This reality check came rushing into a tired mind and a bad mood and into the middle of a meander through town. Yet-to-be-achieved dreams are hard, and can be both heavy burdens and huge sources of hope, but mostly they are just everyday weights we all inevitably carry. Swallowing pride isn’t easy when it feels like choking on bile, and disappointment can prick like angry tears, but there is still work to be done even when it seems fruitless.
I have learned that when I feel like there isn’t a space for me in life, when it feels like everyone else has their place and they’re thriving in it, nothing will solve my problem apart from carving out a space of my own. Blood, sweat, and tears are a lot less dramatic and glamorous than they sound when it feels like no one sees your effort and when your achievement seems like a goal everyone else has reached already, but every day of work can become something worth celebrating.
Often, the work is boring. It’s practicing self-discipline and forcing myself to stick to a budget when I’m doing my weekly shop; it’s forcing myself to leave the house and get some fresh air on my days off because I know I’ll be cranky otherwise; it’s making sure I go to bed on time because I have work the next day I can’t be late for. It’s repetitive and mundane, but the uninteresting work is what makes me better. Getting lost in dreams of what’s next is pretty much inevitable for me, but even harder than being unsatisfied is being unable to reach my dreams because I haven’t put in the work for them. At the end of the day, feet on the ground will take me further than a head in the clouds.
[Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.]