Living the Dream & What It Takes

In another lifetime I was a delivery driver. It was a horrible, back breaking job and I worked way too hard for way too long. The men I knew there used humor brilliantly to deal with what it’s like to work a 14 hour day that starts at 2 am and involves pushing a hand cart through snow banks. Ask them how they’re doing and they’ll bury you in sarcasm. “Just living the dream, brother.”

The day I quit that job to start college they were happy for me and so they joked about how I’d be back. I made them promise to throw me down the three flights of stairs from the office if I ever showed up again.

I worked that job because I believed I had no other choice. I bitterly believed that dreams were for other people – lucky people, people with education or privileged backgrounds. A dear friend got it through my thick (scared) head that I had options; I was simply too afraid to see them.

Today I have the joy of helping folks of all ages find paths to a better/happier life. The bravest ones dare to work toward their dreams and are willing to give up the security of playing small/playing it safe. They work to overcome their insecurities, and to feel okay about taking risks. All of this requires a willingness to be mindful. Anything we wish to change, we have to be more aware of.

“The aim of life is to live and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, divinely aware.”

– Henry Miller

Having a dream naturally makes one feel both more alive and more afraid. How we choose to deal with fear determines most of what’s possible in our lives. Whether one runs toward it or approaches it with trepidation, we must not make the mistake of facing it alone. When we hide our fears from others, they run us.

“Running on empty. Running low. Running dry.” – Jackson Browne

Fear and uncertainty leads to anxiety, which fuels self doubt.  I urge folks to favor their instincts over their intellect and to put stock into what they know intuitively.  Worrying simply creates the illusion that we’re prepared. Experience has shown me that the things most likely to kick my ass are things I could not possibly have seen coming.

I’ve learned that the best preparation is surrounding myself with talented and passionate people. What we can do together is so much greater than anything we can do alone. I need a lot of support personally and professionally. I need reassurance, encouragement, challenges, and guidance. I have to be on the same page with myself in order to identify what it is I need today.

Overcoming my fear of vulnerability allowed me to open up and simply ask for what I need. It made everything less stressful and enriched all my relationships.  It made me more honest and more genuine in every interaction.

I’ve accepted that there are a million things that I’m just not good at. These used to be fodder for my insecurities. Today I choose to focus on what I do well. By accepting my limitations, I became free to ask for help with everything I suck at. The support staff at our counseling center is a great example. They may think that doing an Excel spread sheet isn’t a big deal but it is to me cuz I can’t do that.

I’ve become comfortable with a perspective that allows me to separate what I have control over and what I do not. Everything about fear made me want to micromanage. I’ve learned that giving people autonomy provides them freedom and motivation to do great things.

I’ve found that no matter how healthy I become, I never lose the ability to get in my own way.  I need to have friends and colleagues who can challenge me and give me feedback about what they’re seeing.

I’ve learned to laugh at myself, my mistakes, and even at the things that scare me. “One more time” has become my motto. This is one more time that I can’t see how it’s going to work, how it’ll come together and yet I know that it will. It always does.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.