There’s an apartment across the street from the train station that always captures me with its charm. It sits above a bookstore — thankfully those still exist — and has a little wrought-iron patio. The current owners have decorated it with a few plants, outdoor furniture, and candles.
Each time I wait for the train, I become fixated on this quaint little place. I imagine how I would decorate it if I lived there: all the books I would buy downstairs from cashiers who would know me as a regular; the park I would walk my dog in, who is mysteriously well-behaved in these fantasies; the time I would spend on that outdoor patio, watching the trains go by, drinking coffee, which I no longer drink, reading, writing.
In other words, my ideal life.
I have a terrible habit of losing myself in real estate listings. I love looking through the pictures, reading the descriptions. It doesn’t matter if it’s well above my price range, I love the imaginings they evoke.
Ten years ago, I transferred to a university in Paris as part of my grand scheme to become ineffably French. In my mind, I would live there for five years, ten years without interruption — I forget the requirement — until I could acquire citizenship. I would speak perfect French, no accent, crack jokes with the baker, sit in cafes, and be one of those mysteriously well-paid writers.
When I moved, I knew immediately that my life would be so far off from this fantasy. Isn’t that how it usually goes?
My apartment was tiny, tinier than an apartment in Manhattan. In one of my favorite jokes, I had an electric toilet, something I’d never experienced before but learned a lot about the first time the power went out. The baker down the street was always scowling and once wouldn’t sell a loaf of bread to a regular because she was short 10 cents. And no one smiled, or laughed, or yelled, or anything. It felt dead.
After a dream the other night where I was coordinating a visit back to France, I started thinking about this time in my life. Even in my dream, I felt disappointed, and the skies were gray with frustration. I wanted more than what I was seeing.
Which is exactly the thing, as a daydreamer, possibilities become an antidepressant, a rising sun on the horizon. Eventually, that sun sets. We come down from the high of possibility and see reality in front of us.
The key is, while not perfect, that reality sure isn’t disappointing. In daydreams, we find hope. In gratitude, we find happiness.