Why You Must Unclog Your Pipe Dreams

I did a decidedly weird thing when my Grandmother was 100: I sat down and interviewed her, right there in the dining room of her retirement home, with my voice memo app recording her answers to my ~748 questions over a soft-foods lunch. She handled the interrogation interview like a champ! We all knew she was living on borrowed time, so I felt the need to capture her insights about what it was like to be born a hundred years prior (she didn’t recall), whether there were sparks when she met my grandfather (“no, not really”)👈😬, and if there was anything she wished she’d done differently in her century-of-a-lifetime.

And that’s where I perked up. I *LOVE* stories of regret (given my penchant to prevent them), especially when served alongside assisted-living-center butterscotch pudding.

Grandma, Jodi, and Dad!

Wasn’t Grandma cute?! Jodi (wearing the skull shirt she’s had since 2009 and won’t ever get rid of) with Grandma and Dad. (Grandma is on the left.)

My Grandmother said she had always wanted to go to Hawaii. Ha-fucking-waii (my paraphrase—so not hers)!

I gasped, audibly. Born of the belief that “it’s never too late to get your 100-year old ass to Maui,” I started in on the “Get Thee to the Islands” campaign. The Hawaii Tourism Board would’ve been so proud of me for trying! But Irene wasn’t biting. She was settling into her pudding years, understandably not-so-interested in the six plane rides a trip from Windsor, Ontario to any of the Hawaiian islands would’ve entailed.

So while that ship had sailed, what stopped the ship from sailing (er, plane from flying) earlier in her life?

I suspect it was a pipe dream she fantasized about but knew would never come to life—a category of regrets unto themselves we must defend valiantly against: the fanciful notions we tend to dismiss as “not for us.”

Do you have pipe dreams? Dreams and ideas that you long for/ muse about/ daydream over . . . and put up on the shelf with all the other pipes and pipe paraphernalia (no, not bongs)? Thinking your dream is “the kind of thing other people do,” that’s “not for me,” “I should focus on more responsible things,” or God forbid, “it’s just silly.”

A sample platter of supposed pipe dreams:

  • “I’ve always wanted to live in Europe, but it seems so outlandish.” (OMG THIS WORLD NEEDS MORE OUTLANDISHNESS!) (And really, how outlandish is Europe anyways?)
  • “I want to do standup comedy, but that’s something funny people do.” (Anyone can be funny for a few minutes on open mic night, right?!) (Even if you bomb, THAT WOULD BE SO FUNNY!)
  • “I’ve always wondered about becoming a foster parent, but don’t see how it would happen.” (Yeah, no one knows how things happen before they look into exactly how to make them happen. Oh, how we let the intimidation of “not knowing” stab our dreams in the neck to bleed out and die on a cold bathroom floor 👈😬?)
  • “I’ve always imagined myself getting a black belt in a martial art, but it seems like that’s for more athletic people.” (Oh come on. If I, the least athletic person alive in our solar system, can rock climb, you can start with a white belt in the dojo and kick your heart out towards every week that black belt.)

Obviously some dreams are cockamamie—like imagining yourself as a backup dancer for Beyoncé if you have zero rhythm, or wanting to be a spy with the CIA if you are over 35 (I AM SO MIFFED THAT I CAN’T BE A SPY JUST BECAUSE THEY’VE DEEMED ME OLD AND CRUSTY)—but we know better than to keep the flame of these dreams alive. They’re fun and frothy fantasies and deserve a place in our heads, sure . . . but they’re not what we’re discussing right now.

Pipe DreamsWe’re discussing dreams that have an iota of a shot to be reached. Goals that we could try hard to nail if we gave enough of a shit. Ideas for our lives that we know would bring us joy/ fulfillment/ wonder/ satisfaction/ might scratch an itch emanating from somewhere deep inside.

If there is anything you’d find yourself lamenting at the age of 100 that you didn’t try to make happen, can I suggest you take one step towards making it happen . . . now? In your pre-pudding years?

At my Grandmother’s funeral (after she reached the ripe age of 103), I was able to secure a lock of her hair (thanks, Aunt Linda, for getting it for me because I was too chicken to arrange it with the funeral home dude), and two months later when The Husband and I visited Kauai, I dropped the little gray tuft over the mountains from the doors-off helicopter ride that flew us over the island. Quaint? Sure. A wee bit sad? That too. Let’s GO TO THE PLACES WE YEARN TO GO TO, instead of having our intrepid granddaughters drop our hair from the sky.

So . . . what pipe dream are you going to unclog today?!

Jodi Wellman

P.S.: Check out (okay, and maybe preorder) my upcoming book, You Only Die Once: How to Make It to the End with No Regrets!

P.P.S.: Let’s do Instagram together!

P.P.P.S.: Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!


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