Imaginary Lives

It’s Monday morning, and most of us probably wish we were somewhere else. There are a few reliable places that come to mind: your warm and rumpled bed, the kitchen table with a second cup of coffee, the bar and the friends you left the night before.

But if I drop a little deeper into the longings of Monday mornings, I get a picture of places that are further away. Cities never visited, country roads never traveled, lives never lived. How does a new week manage to bring up so many fresh possibilities, and at the same time remind us that they are so far away?

Julia Cameron writes about imaginary lives in her book The Artist’s Way. She asks an interesting question: If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them? Don’t overthink it, don’t judge, just list them. Here are my five, in no particular order:

Okay, I lied about these not being in any particular order. If I had one wish to fritter away on something besides the important stuff, like asking for world peace and for movie studios to please stop making Adam Sandler movies, this would be it. I would wish for a soulful singing voice, hands that can play any instrument I pick up or sit in front of and a pen that writes the most poetic verse. It seems magical to me that the combination of some strings on a guitar and a few vocal notes can move me so much that I want to punch a hole in the nearest wall. So basically, my greatest goal in life would be to make someone else want to punch a hole in the wall because of something I’ve done. [NOTE: It’s likely that I already accomplished this years ago as a teenager.]

If you’ve ever watched an episode of This Old House, then you’ve watched .01% of the number of episodes of This Old House that I have watched. My favorite segments happen when Norm Abram takes some old piece of driftwood and turns it into a 19th century setee or Danish Modern salt and pepper shakers. The focus and skill of master craftsmen leaves me in awe. If you had the skills necessary to build your own house, or at least a small cabin where you could live some version of Walden for a year, what else would you need in this life?

You would also need food. Most of us have no connection to the foods we eat anymore, and that means a lost connection to our life force. Farming is hard work. I think it requires a certain kind of grit. The kind that can withstand both mother nature AND the banking system. Is there such a thing as “small batch” farming or does that only apply to whiskey? I’d want just a couple of acres of golden carrots and a cute full-brim hat.

I have never seen a real-life librarian shush someone, have you? I think their job could be described as something like a “knowledge problem solver” which sounds amazing to me. Being a curator of the assembly of human thought in physical form feels something like a sacred calling.

Humanitarian Aid Worker
I care deeply about those in this world that are vulnerable. Sometimes, when the news gets particularly terrible or I am faced with stories like these I feel like selling all my possessions and heading to the Mediterranean to spend my days pulling refugees from the ocean and letting them know there are still good people in the world.

The point of this exercise, of course, is to find ways to bring to your real life the things that excite you about your imaginary ones. But I would suggest that maybe the more urgent and important question is what has been stopping you up til now? That’s where the real exercise begins.

Now I want to hear from you! What five lives would you live? If you’re game, tell us about them in the comments.


5 replies on “Imaginary Lives”

Love this!
My five would be:
A marine biologist studying orca pods in Alaska
A singer/songwriter like yourself
An author for children and adults
Oversees missionary for orphans
A car mechanic because I would love to be able to work on my car myself instead of dealing with possible shystery people.

In no particular order because I am horrible at picking favorites. In fact, these 5 will just be the first food five I think of, with ten more ready right behind them…

* aid worker/ development worker in Africa. I’ve done this, and it is still my dream job
* singer songwriter or sound person for a singer songwriter or other music industry job. Because, well, music. Btw , I’m with you about Adam Sandler. Or, more specifically, the lack of Adam Sandler
* bike tour guide
* us national team soccer player
*I’m with you on librarian
* I think this is harder when you’re a mom. Because most of these wouldn’t allow me to be there for my kids. So, I guess, any of these things that allowed me to bring my kids, happily, along. Which is a complete fantasy!

Absolutely Jill, when I have kids I’d want to bring them too! Right now I’d just love a job where I could bring my dog along. I think Will would be a good stage dog. I’d get him a little shirt that said ROADIE.

I love this post, Jenna! The life paths I’ve chosen in the past have always involved salary and benefits considerations, but I am retiring March 3, 2016! I plan to volunteer my “path taken” skills teaching children to read and to love literature. And here’s the deal… I plan to dabble in at least 5 “paths not taken” as I won’t have to worry about having the skills necessary to actually get paid for my efforts!

1. Winemaker
2. Potter
3. Wood carver
4. Writer – children’s literature and travel
5. Illustrator

I promise not to use the fruits of my labors as future birthday and Christmas presents! xo Mom

Comments are closed.