Live Through This

Living the Dream

Kind of like the Secret, but not as Ayn Rand–y.

Illustration by Monica

Illustration by Monica

A favorite game that I play with my boyfriend has us asking each other to pick which of two jobs we’d rather have, and then explain why. For example, I’d definitely rather be the proprietor of a diner than an exotic-pets dealer: I prefer people to animals, and although it would certainly be edifying to have the intimate knowledge of a Komodo dragon’s mating habits that can only come with firsthand experience, how could that ever contend with the privilege of unlimited free cheeseburgers?

I am really good at this game. When it’s my turn to pick, I contemplate my options (Manicurist or banker? Longshoreman or opera singer?) almost as seriously as I would if these alternate-reality professions were being offered to me for real. That’s probably because I’ve been doing this little exercise on my own for as long as I can remember. Starting from when I was a little tyke, I’ve maintained a mental résumé of someday-maybe dream professions—each one representing an alternate reality that I can mentally visit any time my current one is feeling particularly gray and horrible. Here are some all-time classics from the Amy Rose Escapist Dream Job Agency:

  • Long-haul trucker with a good head on her shoulders

  • Freelance pun-sultant, aka the person you hire when you’re in need of a good portmanteau (this is almost certainly not a thing) (still want it).
  • Hostess at a Japanese hostess club
  • Spunky events coordinator at an elder-care home
  • Police officer nobly trying to change the system from the inside
  • No-nonsense electrician
  • The person responsible for coming up with those bizarro names of cosmetic colors like Ravishing in Radish or what have you (this may actually be what a pun-sultant is in reality).

I recognize now that this list is wildly disparate and in some cases impractical, but when you’re a consummately lonesome young person stuck in a town and a life you hate, as I was for the first 17 years of my life, your line of thinking is basically: I’ll do anything, provided it isn’t this. When I was a teenager, fantasy was my life force. The less any of these hypothetical future lives had in common with the one I was living now, the better. Truckers, for instance, have to keep moving—so it’s OK if they don’t have any friends. There aren’t any sisters around on the wide-open road to pluck at their insecurities. They just listen to the radio and drive. In my dreams, I did too.

When I was 15, I got my first bona-fide, non-babysitting JOB-job—you know, the kind where you’re paid with an actual check with taxes taken out of it instead of a few craggy bills counted out in front of your face right before you bike yourself home. I would be working in a library, which I decided counted as being a librarian, which happened to be one of my most fervently-imagined mind-gigs. I was massively excited, because my greatest and basically only pleasure in life was/is reading books (OK, also the occasional breakfast sandwich). I imagined that my days in the stacks would be spent squawking excitedly with people who were similarly passionate about literature. I envisioned myself as something of a beloved benefactress to my town’s more bookish citizens. I would tirelessly recommend novel after novel, generously look the other way on late fees for patrons with fascinating tastes, and make the occasional corny/incredible librarian joke when the situation called for it. (“Dewey decimal system? DO WE EVER! Oh god, I’m sorry. Yes, travel books are in the 900 section.”) I wouldn’t be just a “junior librarian”—I would be the folksy, locally adored heart of the West Caldwell Public Library and possibly even of reading itself. Despite my perfect eyesight, I considered buying a pair of those glasses on a little chain in preparation.

There were a few flaws in my vision of minimum-wage literary bliss. Chief among these is that I was working at a LIBRARY, aka an establishment famous for its strict policy of utter and constant silence—why, exactly, did I think working there would involve so much animated conversation? My actual duties entailed no engagement with fellow bibliophiles, and plenty of emptying wastebaskets, alphabetizing my fingers to the bone, and continuing to daydream about other professions, ones where I might get to interact with the world and its people with the kind of enthusiasm I had fantasized would perfectly complement my WCPL name tag.

I kind of always knew I would end up writing in some capacity, but back then, when the “real world” outside my shitty hometown was just as remote as any fantasy, my more far-flung dream jobs seemed just as possible as, like, an internship at a newspaper. And “writer in New York City” seemed just as fantastical as “professional skateboarder” (despite being far too clumsy to even land an ollie). Now that I actually have a dream job in a dream city (and a dream boyfriend to boot), I no longer need to fantasize quite as much about parallel-universe existences. My real life is exciting enough. But I don’t think I would have gotten here had I not spent so many hours and days and years back in NJ mentally dropping myself into other worlds, other lives. Ask anyone who made it out of a miserable teenagehood, and I’ll bet they’ll be able to list a hundred future selves they used to dream about. Those dreams, no matter how unrealistic, become a ladder that you use to escape.

I will always be thankful for the outlet my daydreamed professions gave me when all I wanted was anything else, and it’s nice to know that the Amy Rose Dream Job Agency will always be open for business for those moments when I still need a quick mental getaway. And you know what else? I’m still pretty certain that I’d be totally dope at naming nail polishes—just now as I’m writing this, I came up with Business As Blue-sual, aka the perfect shade for today’s modern working woman, regardless of whether she’s an electrician or policewoman or whatever. Call me, Essie. ♦

33 Comments

  • soviet_kitsch June 12th, 2013 3:29 PM

    wow, this article really hit home. i use fantasy to escape from my boring, not-at-school-because-of-chronic-illness life all the time and it feels great to see an article about how that’s actually a GOOD thing as opposed to a timewaster

    • Blythe June 13th, 2013 12:36 PM

      Did someone say “boring chronic illness life” hello darling would you like to be friends?

      • morganosaur June 27th, 2013 12:56 AM

        Oh man, I feel you. The boring chronic illness life SUCKS.

  • christinachristina June 12th, 2013 3:37 PM

    So totally loving Business as Blue-sual. I think I’ll play this game now.

    http://www.primitivegoods.co

  • Tyler June 12th, 2013 3:42 PM

    “Business As Blue-sual” is PERFECT.

  • AnaRuiz June 12th, 2013 3:56 PM

    Finally an explanation for why I’ve wanted to be a ballerina, a painter, an doctor, a teacher, a librarian, a chef, a writer a writer and a writer.

    http://anaruizwriting.blogspot.com

  • Kimono Cat June 12th, 2013 4:00 PM

    My dream jobs are:
    A job at a wolf sanctuary.
    Teaching, studying, or working in Japan (although not as a hostess!).
    Basicaly, Neil Gaiman’s entire career.

  • GlitterKitty June 12th, 2013 4:12 PM

    “Spunky events coordinator at an elder-care home” and cosmetic colour namer actually sound like amazing jobs. I’m in high school and don’t know what job I would like to do but this definitely shows that there are plenty of jobs out there (even if some of them don’t actually exist

  • Kourtney June 12th, 2013 4:30 PM

    I wish my life would get exciting already. I’m in that stage of adolescence when I’m tired and bored of everything. I want to move on to bigger, better, more spontaneous things that are more interesting than my chronic routine of going to school and hating my life. My outlet is fantasizing myself a few years older, laughing with friends and being independent and blissful – fantasizing myself in countries like Italy and India.. just fantasizing myself enjoying life and taking advantage of all the good things life has to offer.

    • Kourtney June 12th, 2013 4:32 PM

      some of my dream jobs were:

      a musician
      a screen writer
      a professional photographer
      a film director
      a writer
      a nutritionist
      and my most recent one: a psychologist

      • mardy.bum June 12th, 2013 7:30 PM

        omg except for nutritionist I’ve literally daydreamed about all those exact jobs!

        • alexisapunk June 12th, 2013 9:09 PM

          I seriously dream about directing films every day of my life! Like I swear I want to be Wes Anderson meets David Lynch. That honestly sounds like it could be really terrible or absolute genius but w.e.

  • jessmargo June 12th, 2013 4:34 PM

    Is Monica a new rookie artist?

  • elliecp June 12th, 2013 5:19 PM

    This is so relevant. I was literally just having a job-related breakdown…it’s hard but sometimes you have to accept that you’re always going to want to do something else, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
    P.s I would totally buy that nail polish.

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • Mary the freak June 12th, 2013 5:20 PM

    i really loved this! i have always wanted to work with whales, haha (:

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • KatGirl June 12th, 2013 5:21 PM

    The punsultant job was already taken by my dad (and my friends say I’m inheriting it). XD

  • decemberflower June 12th, 2013 6:08 PM

    I work at a library, too! It’s my first job… And yup, it’s kind of the worst. I come home with backaches every night- but nobody believes me! SHELVING IS PHYSICAL LABOR, PEOPLE. On the plus-side, I’ve gotten really good at the alphabet!

  • Narnia June 12th, 2013 6:34 PM

    my only wanted to be an archaeologist a ballerina, a poet and a director/screenwriter. And Amy Rose, i know im completely missing the point of the article by asking this, but how did you make your dreams come true?? College/schooling? the internet? friends?? im want to know your life path because im having too much anxiety about how ill ever become a writer, and i like learning about people who “make it” i guess.

  • Yayo June 12th, 2013 6:41 PM

    Ah, others who shamelessly live in their imaginations. I salute you.

    Business as Blue-sual is genius btw Amy Rose.

  • AnoHana June 12th, 2013 7:22 PM

    WHY IS BUSINESS AS BLUE-SUAL NOT AN ESSIE COLOUR YET???

  • Abby June 12th, 2013 9:19 PM

    I need Business as Blue-sual. I NEED IT NOW.

  • flapperhatgirl June 12th, 2013 9:34 PM

    When I clicked on the link to Essie, it reminded me of one of my sort-of dream jobs: I want to be a hand model! Everyone tells me I have nice hands…
    appart from that, I want to be a writer/anthropologist/advertising consultant/movie director/psychologist/screen writer/penguin expert/whatever.

  • Tara A. June 13th, 2013 2:02 AM

    This is so relevant because thinking about jobs can be scary, so it’s really nice to escape into your imagination and think about all of these awesome dream jobs. I think Essie’s job is amazing- I mean, who wouldn’t love to create colors?

    Also, Monica’s collage is really pretty!

    http://unlockingpandorasbox.blogspot.com

  • wallflower152 June 13th, 2013 9:38 AM

    I’m always hopping jobs cuz they always sound fun at first then after the novelty wears off it’s the same thing, I hate it and I feel like my soul is slowing dying. I have tons of dream jobs from astronomer to geneticist to person that travels the world doing good deeds to seamstress and crochet-er/seller. I think that’s why I’m 23 years old and still don’t know what I wanna be when I grow up. There are so many interesting fields to get into, how do you pick only one?

  • sissiLOL June 13th, 2013 11:36 AM

    Wanted to be a ballerina. :-) I`m too. :-)
    Stylebruch.blogspot.com

  • soretudaaa June 13th, 2013 12:01 PM

    I want to become a chemical engineer and when I do, I’ll open a nail polish company and name you as the Head of the Pun Department (real job title).

    • soretudaaa June 13th, 2013 12:06 PM

      Also I have had so many dream jobs but most of them were really glamourized versions of actual jobs (like Grey’s Anatomy-style medicine or The Killing-style detective work and stuff). Only to end up in a traditionally considered “boring” career path. And the funny thing is, I wouldn’t trade my future career as an engineer for ANYTHING. Not even popstar-dom, or filmmaking, or professional blogging.
      Which I think is pretty important when deciding a career: not to think about what’s usually considered boring as automatically boring TO YOU. Some people think accounting is boring, but you might find it a blast (I don’t know who would, but who knows? I find calculus fun so what do I know?). Your life won’t be boring because you chose a “safe”, traditional career path instead of majoring in, say, Liberal Arts or Women’s Studies. Your life will be only as boring as you let it be.

  • Blythe June 13th, 2013 12:38 PM

    Yeah I work at a library and when I’m not in a back room cutting out paper shapes, I’m killing my back, knees, and shoulders shelving books. I decided to volunteer at the library because I have a chronic illness and I can’t do much physically but LITTLE DID I KNOW…

  • taste test June 13th, 2013 7:15 PM

    I also had a shitty library job. except I wasn’t even getting paid. it was a volunteer job, and all I ever did was alphabetize the mass market paperbacks over and over and over again. I know a lot about trashy romance novels now.

    I’ve imagined tons of ridiculous dream jobs, but I think my favorite is weird subculture investigator. it could be useful to people hoping to advertise to super-niche markets, newspapers writing about Kids These Days, or TV crime show writers looking for a hip new murderer of the week!

    http://xyzzyzzyzx.blogspot.com/

  • jujumacaroni June 15th, 2013 3:13 AM

    i have always wanted to be a voice actress. or a stylist for Harajuku’s craziest boutiques ever.. or maybe a maid at a maid cafe.

    Maybe i’m just watching too many Japanese cartoons but i would love to be a hired assassin for God knows who. Lol.

    sometimes wanting to be so many things obscures your exact idea of who you really want to be.

  • mimialyce June 15th, 2013 11:41 PM

    This is phenomenal and relates to my life perfectly. I am a feminist who goes to an all-girls catholic private school in a suburban town and on my list of dream aspirations is to be a writer in new york city… oh and be the person who writes traveling guides and basically become Alice Walker