The waitress arrived with my second Aperol spritz—an Italian wine cocktail. We looked at each other and smiled.
I alight to this café often to spend several hours at a time writing, so we “know” each other in that way that people who see one another regularly “know the face,” though we’ve never spoken beyond her taking my order.
“You write a lot,” she offered in her first, non-waitressing sentence spoken in my direction.
“It’s my job. I’m a writer.”
“Can we change jobs? I’d give anything to drink and write in a café all day.”
She looked serious, then smiled and walked away.
It’s at that moment that I stopped and looked around: a cloudless sky; a warm summer breeze; drinking and noshing al fresco on a small traffic circle in a part of Prague that looks and feels vaguely Parisian; a gurgling fountain on a tree-shaded island in the middle of the traffic circle providing the soundtrack to my afternoon of work.
And, honestly, I use “work” very loosely there.
What I do never feels like work—at least not the way work used to feel when I was schlepping into cubicle farms in New York or Dallas or Southern California and having to be at my desk by a certain time.
Even after nearly three years of living and working in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, I’m still awed by this life I have. My waitress’ comments made me realize that sometimes I take this life for granted because, well, days like this one are pretty much my everyday existence.
It’s like people who live on the beach. They take the sand and surf for granted because it’s every day for them, and soon enough they forget how many people are jealous of the life they think of as normal.
At that same time, however, I know that this life—meaning whatever life you want—is available to anyone who wants it…to anyone who pursues it. No doubt, some will think, “Easy for you to say, Jeff.” And I understand why some will think that.
But I will also disagree with that thought.
We are in charge of our own lives. We are the masters of our own castles. And we alone have the power to shape the life we want to live.
Don’t like the life you’re living, the job you’re working, the city/country you currently call home?
The power of change rests with you.
Now, I’m certainly not saying such change comes easily or immediately. Shaping the life you want typically means hard choices and biting bullets and whatever other cliché fits the moment.
Surmounting those challenges, however, just means the life you ultimately attain is that much sweeter.
Since the earliest days of my career as a journalist, I wanted to live and work overseas. But, frankly, I didn’t put real effort into that dream because, honestly, I thought my dream was just that—a stupid dream I could never really hope to achieve.
So, I wrapped myself up in building a family, and buying a house, and chasing that other dream—the American Dream that American society crams down our throat.
I played at being happy with that life. And, to some degree, I generally was. But I always knew that a crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Jeff was missing. Living aboard and experiencing life beyond that of a temporary tourist was fundamentally important to the experiences I want to collect before my subscription to oxygen finally expires.
I reached a point where I told those who I thought mattered—those who were connected to the world I wanted to live in—that my dream was to live and work overseas. I did so because I figured the news would percolate in ways that would ultimately reach the right person…and ultimately it did.
So, I guess I’m offering you advice that is terribly trite but oh-so-true: If you can dream it, you can live it.
You just have to want it, and you just have to actively pursue it.
And soon enough, you’re sitting in a café, sipping on your second Aperol spritz, hoping a jealous waitress doesn’t spit in the third one you will have later because she’s miffed your living the life she wants…