'We all need our dreams'. That's what Sam, the heroine of my new book 'The Vets at Hope Green' says to her boyfriend near the beginning of the story when he thinks she's being unrealistic - and she repeats it, much later, to her grumpy boss. On both occasions, Sam's expressing a wish for something she realises she might never have: a different lifestyle, a home of her own, a dog ... And on both occasions, those men in her life seem to be scoffing at her for not being realistic.
I won't give away the plot by telling you whether any of Sam's dreams come true, but her habit of imagining a different life for herself is such an important element of the story that it set me wondering: do we all have these ideas in our minds about what we'd like to happen in our lives? Is it a good thing, or does harbouring fantasies that might be unrealistic, about 'better' lifestyles for ourselves, actually stop us from enjoying the here and now?
I guess dreaming about our futures is more common in younger people, near the beginning of their life's journey. Let's face it, by my age, most of us have either achieved what we hoped to, and feel content with where we find ourselves, or we're beginning to run out of hope that we'll have time to get there! And of course, each individual's dream will not only be different from everyone else's, but they'll differ in how modest and achievable, or ridiculous and unlikely, they are.
Speaking for myself, as a younger person I never dreamed of being rich or famous, nor of achieving any kind of greatness (so that's just as well!). I certainly never dreamed, as a child, of getting married and having a family - that ambition only surfaced when I actually met my husband-to-be, and from then on, having a family and looking after my children pretty much took precedence over everything else for a long time. If I had any dreams for the future at that stage, it was probably to see all three daughters happy and settled in their lives - which, thank God, is going well! - and to be free of financial or health worries.
As for travelling the world - a common enough dream these days - when I was young, hardly anybody even had foreign holidays. So my younger self would be gaping in amazement at the amount of travelling I've ended up doing in my very much more mature years. We couldn't do it when we were young, so we're trying hard to make up for lost time.
Career-wise, my only real ambition was always to be a writer. What kind of writer, I wasn't very sure. I thought I might be a journalist, but instead I worked as a secretary, and wrote in my spare time. It wasn't till relatively late in life that I finally became a published novelist, and I'm constantly having to pinch myself because I'm so thrilled that this particular dream came true.
And I think that's the whole point: although I hoped for it so much, I never actually expected it to come true, so I enjoyed the dream but got on with my life anyway. I guess it's fine to have these fantasies and dreams, as long as we're happy enough, in our way, without them coming true. It's only when longings and dreams take over from our real lives so much that we become miserable if they're not happening, that it can turn into a problem.
I worry about contestants on TV talent shows who say, when they're voted off, 'But it's my dream! It's all I ever wanted to do!' - as if the depth of their passion should be enough to make the judges vote for them. Sadly, we don't all get what we want, and I think children should be taught that, if we want them to be happy in life. Without a combination of talent and luck, desperate ambition and longing simply aren't enough.
So should we all give up our dreams and just settle for what we are, what we have? Surely not! Dreams, ambitions, hopes for the future are wonderful, aren't they, as long as we can recognise that they might not happen. And meanwhile, old-fashioned though I'm sure it sounds, I do think we should try to be content with what's good in our lives already, whether it's good health, a happy family, a job that doesn't actually make you totally miserable - after all, those modest blessings that we often take for granted are desperate dreams for many, many less fortunate people in the world. Starving, homeless people in war-torn countries would be at a loss to understand someone crying hysterically because they didn't win a TV talent show, wouldn't they!
What were your own dreams when you were growing up? And have any of them come true? I'd love to hear about them!
'The Vets at Hope Green', Part 1 - 'Escape to the Country' is published as a digital part-book on 19 January. Parts 2 to 4 to follow.
Order here from Amazon now.
The paperback edition of the whole story will be published on