In Lesotho, on a curved section of the round hut in which I lived for two years, I cultivated a collage of photos torn from magazines my mother sent me. A woman in a white tank top with a blue print skirt and chunky brown jewelry. A black and white image of a young girl sitting on the edge of a dock. A pristine white kitchen with plants and white china. Ann Patchett in perched on ladder in the Nashville bookstore that she owns. A friend of friend visiting from the U.S. described it as a touchable version of Pinterest.
There was a theme to the wall, and occasionally I found photos that I liked but didn’t necessarily fit the theme, like a portrait of Adele or a motivational running saying. I kept those, too, but they were taped to a different piece of the hut. The images in my collage were quite specific, a representation of the life I wanted.
On quiet mornings, I would stare at that collage while I boiled hot water and then, sitting on the stoop outside my hut, staring off into the big blue sky as herd boys and their sheep drifted past me, I envisioned all the little pieces of that dream life. Organic grocery stores. Coffee shops. Yoga classes. Sunrises on the beach. Nights under city lights. Dinner parties with friends.
At the epicenter of this fantasy was my living space, filled with plants, books, candles, music, and warmth. In a city but with touches of nature. My utopia was quite simple, but many nights the thought of it put me to sleep, next to the mooing sheep and Basotho women.
Truthfully, the dream wasn’t developed in Lesotho out of cravings for American comforts, rather its one that I’ve harbored for years. A young woman in an urban setting, living happily because the entire world was at her finger tips. Sitting in high school math class and wondering, why of all the places I could grow up, it had to be Pierre, South Dakota, I began to piece together the possibilities. In college, the dream was more fluid but cemented itself into me the closer I grew to graduation. It stole my attention in the big and small moments of my day, and I often saw glimpses of it in Brookings alleyways and Sioux Falls coffee shops.
I chased this dream, or rather I lived life with this image of what I wanted always in the back of my mind. I made a series of choices that maybe didn’t lead me immediately to my destination, but ones that I thought had the power to at some point.
It’s Sunday morning. I am sipping coffee, and instead of the bells and bleats of sheep, I hear a city beginning its day after the night rain. Before this moment, I did yoga while my love sleeps, waiting for him to wake up so we can make pancakes next to soft music. As of yesterday, our apartment is officially settled into and the freshly hung photos are comforting.
This is it. That life I had pined over for many restless nights and dull days. It’s arrived and is my actual life.
Now of course, it’s neither perfect nor conclusive, and my life isn’t magically 1000 percent better now that I am living out some of those fantasy images, but that dream did mostly come true. I have a little city apartment, my favorite coffee shop is two blocks away, and my nights are full taking advantage of what this city has to offer.
There is more to life than where you live and the little things that fill up your days, but I’ve set the framework for where I want to be. I had a vision and I set out to make it come true, or as true as I could, and here I am. My life is far from a dream and sometimes I feel like I am churning my wheels in mud on the way to a place I do not know, but at times I need to step back and realize how great it all is, how far I’ve come on the path I set for myself.
I write about this as a reminder to myself. A reminder that dreams take time and maybe you take a few missteps (or a couple of plane rides to Africa) but they can manifest in such glorious ways. A reminder that I am capable of what I want, even if it feels far off and not in accordance with my timeline. A reminder that at once I didn’t think I could have this dream life but now I do.
There are other things I want out of life, too. Many of them may never happen, but maybe some will. And they’ll come in expected ways and unplanned paths, but that will be the exciting part.