You Put The Bullet In Your Dreams


Along the Oodnadatta Track, Australia- Picture taken by Jamie Brelsford

My name is Jack and most of you know me as the insouciant dad blogger who teaches his children to live their dreams and not dream their lives. That is not rhetoric or hype, it is what I believe and what I want for them.

Part of it is because I am their father and my job is to help them grow up to become menschen, to be responsible, productive members of society. The other part is because I sometimes wonder if I am responsible for putting a bullet in my own dreams.

I don’t carry many regrets with me but those few that hang around are massive beasts that swim in the darkest depths occasionally surfacing with the goal of making me question and doubt myself.

The Butt Of The Joke

I spent the Summer of 1985 in Israel and it changed my life. I remember watching Live Aid in a pub in Jerusalem, a beer in my hand, friends to the right of me and my girlfriend on my lap.

I was 16 years-old and my parents were 10,000 miles away but I knew I had found a second home and that the benefits of being far away weren’t the only reasons why I felt so comfortable.

Certainly some of it had to do with feeling of alienation so many teenagers have. I wasn’t on the outside looking in, I was a part of something that wanted and needed me as much as I needed it.

So I decided that I was going to try to spend my freshman year of college in Israel. It sounded like a very grown up thing to do, a reasonable and rational way to try to turn a dream into a reality.

I worked hard and was admitted to a special program at a university and made plans to go, but at the last minute had to pull out because the finances weren’t there.

It was hard and it was painful, made all the more so when I found out I became one of the group jokes. My name was on all of the literature, but I wasn’t there.

Things Change and We Adapt

Several years later I have another shot to go. This time it is for my junior year abroad and I am more determined than ever.

It all looks good, but I have a serious girlfriend who is a few years younger than I am. She asks me not to go, says she wants to go with me and wonders if I will wait.

I am an idiot and I say yes.

She’ll break up with me months after the deadline has passed and going has become an option that only exists if I drop out of school.

That is when I know a put a bullet in that dream and pushed it down where it wouldn’t bother me.

It is also when I start my push to become a professional sportswriter. I love writing and I am part of the college newspaper so it seems to me like I have an opportunity.

A Narrow Window

Things at the newspaper move along nicely and I move from staff writer to editor and eventually become the Editor-In-Chief.

It is a great feeling and I am convinced I am on the right track, except I didn’t become a sportswriter.  Won’t bore you with the who, what, where, when,why and how of it–it didn’t happen and I wonder if I am responsible for that.

I wonder if I am not accountable for putting a bullet in that dream. I wonder if maybe I didn’t want it badly enough or if maybe I was afraid to really try.

It is hard to say for certain, but I take some responsibility for it because I have to.

Israel- The Third Time Is The Trick

Several years after graduation I go back to Israel for a business trip and then hang out afterwards for pleasure. Now I am truly a grown up, or so I think of my 25 year-old self.

That feeling I had before is still there and I know I have to do something about it. So I make arrangements to live with a friend in Jerusalem.

He has a couch I’ll sleep on and knows a guy who needs someone to work at his bar. It is not perfect but I figure it will be enough to get me on my feet.

A couple of weeks later I fly home to pack up my apartment and finalize the details of a big move. I tell my girlfriend about my plan and she says she’d move with me.

Two weeks after that we get engaged and 13 months later we are married.

We did go back to Israel together but not to live, graduate school and children came along and plans changed.

That Was Then and This Is Now

December 2004 changed my life but I didn’t recognize it at the time. It was when I wrote two posts that showed me the power of blogging and helped me engage in some course correction.

Those posts came about six months into my blogging career and are among the few from that time that don’t make me cringe when I read them now.

What I didn’t know was how they and blogging would help me understand the difference between what I want and what I need.

Blogging also helped me realize that I am not old now, maybe older, but not too old to run down the dreams I had or to accept that sometimes dreams change and that is ok.

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  1. Richard January 15, 2013 at 7:05 pm


    I can relate, bro. Threw away all my scholarships, sport stardom, promising career, you name it… all to end up in the IDF for quite a lengthy stint. Pretty freaky few decades, including some time away, now I’m an old guy looking back while my wife and many kids sleep soundly in our house in Israel.

    What a great life, when you do the real important, ideological stuff when you’re young,live the dreams and make them real instead of chasing some self-delusion down a dead-end alley into a rat-trap dead end hell. Even a failure is better because at least you don’t torture yourself into a flabby old drama queen wanna-be coulda-been if you’d only tried.

    Maybe a little less melodramatic creative writing on the other side of the planet from where you claim you ought to be, and a little more action would get you back closer to where you should’ve stayed since you were 16.


    • Jack January 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      I don’t know what name to call you by or how to respond. Your comment was a bit unclear.

      I made my choices and can’t go back. Maybe they were right, maybe wrong. Maybe I am just a frier.

      Regardless I am ok with them and spend little time wondering.

      The beauty of the blog is how it provides a chance to think out loud and tell stories.

      Stories are powerful.

  2. Ginny Marie January 10, 2013 at 11:28 am

    I like to think that it’s still not too late for me to live some of my dreams, even though I’m *ahem* getting older.

  3. Gina January 10, 2013 at 7:50 am

    I know you have such a passion for that place. And I hope one day that you can go back for a very, very extended stay. Things change, dreams change. Sometimes it’s our own doing and sometimes it’s not. Life isn’t always easy. I have always admired the way you keep pushing through, adapting, working hard and staying as positive as possible.

    • Jack January 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Gina,

      One day I’ll get my chance, I have no doubt about that. This is all part of the big cycle. I just do my best to roll with it because there are no other good options in my mind.

      Still laughing at the image of grandma’s purse swinging outside the train.

  4. Michelle Longo January 10, 2013 at 4:51 am

    It’s so hard to look back and realize you’re not where you thought you wanted to be and it’s because your own doing. I know that first hand. We have similar themes on the Yeah Write grid this week. I like this. Very thought provoking.

    • Jack January 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      Hi Michelle,

      Yeah, sometimes we can be our own worst enemies- it is frustrating. The question is how it impacts us and what we do about it.

      I really enjoyed your post too.

  5. Larks ( January 10, 2013 at 2:09 am

    This was a really well written post. The dreams I’ve put on hold are vastly different from yours yet I relate to this completely. I’m trying to think of something to write that isn’t cliched about one door opening and another closing or how we regret the things we don’t do more than the things we do. But I can’t come up with anything. Maybe this is one of those things where cliches are cliches because they’re true. Great post!

    • Jack January 10, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Hi Larks,

      Sometimes you have to use the cliches because they are appropriate. I really do believe in the door closing/door opening thing. Although I must admit sometimes I wonder if the door closes and a window opens, a tiny bathroom window… 😉

      Anyway, I appreciate your words, thank you.

  6. Azara January 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I don’t think it was wrong to take a chance on love. You could just as easily be looking back on it as when you met the love of your life who you’re still with, or who you let get away because you left for Israel. I liked the circular feeling in this too. There’s still time to get to Israel.

    • Jack January 9, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      Hi Azara,

      Thank you. It is easy to look back and think about what you could have done but it is never as clear as we want it to be. I might have gone and had wonderful things happen or maybe it would have been terrible.

      Or it could have been a combination of it all, there is just no way to know.

      The trick is try to remember that and sometimes it is hard to do so, but most of the time it just works.

  7. Jamie January 9, 2013 at 6:56 am

    “teaches his children to live their dreams and not dream their lives.” That’s a great line. I’ve found that when I finally started to follow my dreams so much of what I did before helped prepare me for new tasks. Most everyone who has lived a while can identify with your observations.

    • Jack January 9, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Hi Jamie,

      You are so very right. When I was in my early twenties I used to get crazed about how long it was taking to do some things and I worried about becoming an old man who couldn’t or wouldn’t do them.

      Funny thing is that I defined old man as being mid forties so now that I am on the verge of 44 I see things very differently.

      Life experience does prepare us and is so very important. I think it lends some flavor to the broth.

  8. Christie January 9, 2013 at 6:15 am

    It was fascinating to hear your story. I think that many of us can relate to all the little things that derail us from our dreams, as well as the realization that our dreams change from time to time. I have many, many travel dreams that I’ve had since a kid, as well as some new writing dreams that I didn’t have until recently.

    • Jack January 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Hi Christie,

      I am a big fan of dreams because I think they make life livable during the darker moments that we all experience.

      One of the things I love about blogging is the opportunity to share our dreams with others and to learn about their dreams too.

  9. james January 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I didn’t see this as sad so much as a reminder that the story is never quite finished. Life has a way of circling back over and over again and for that I am grateful.

    • Jack January 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      Hi James,

      It is about the journey. That expression made me crazy when I was younger but now I believe it to be true. The experiences we have along the way help shape us into the people we become.

  10. Mary January 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Here’s to “running down our dreams” no matter our age or our past choices. As someone who hasn’t always listened to my heart or acknowledged my wants/needs, I’m grateful for second, third and fourth chances. Well done!

    • Jack January 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Hi Mary,

      That is the kind of action I can get behind. Running down our dreams is something we should always want and try to do.

      I believe in multiple chances too.

  11. Lady goo goo gaga January 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Interesting….I am sure I will look back on my Kim Kardashian post someday and cringe…but until then it’s all great fun:)

  12. extremelyavg January 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    That was a sad and heart wrenching story, but it seems despite it all, you’ve stayed positive. I hope the girlfriend who asked you to postpone your dream got fat.

    • Jack January 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      It has sad elements but they aren’t all bad. There are some very fine things, good things that happened too.

      I traded in some dreams and created others. It is bittersweet sometimes, but the experiences I have are things I can’t forget.

      I won’t lie and say there aren’t things I would do over, but much would stay the same so…

  13. IASoupMama January 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I agree, dreams change. I used to dream of accepting an Academy Award, now I dream that my babies all grow up healthy and happy and live productive lives. I think our dreams change as our life changes — it’s all sort of like sifting sand through a sieve — the gems or dreams are all in there, but they are only visible after some of the sand is sifted away.

    • Jack January 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      You have time to do both- win an Academy Award and watch your kids grow up.

      That is similar to what I tell myself about some of my dreams. I am probably never going to play for the Dodgers or Lakers, but plenty of old dreams have life in them and the new ones aren’t too bad either.

      There is something to be said for life experience.

  14. Stacie January 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I like how you came around to recognizing that dreams change. I hope you get to spend some time living in Israel later, if that’s what you still want!

    • Jack January 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      Hey Stacie,

      I try to be brutally honest with myself here. I made choices and did so willingly. I can’t say they were right or wrong because you can’t see those things from a distance.

      And the beauty of having lived a bit is that I know it as well as recognize I can still do many of the things I want.

      It is a matter of choice, effort and will.

  15. Kristin January 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I would love to go to Israel one day. Thank you for sharing this difficult thing with us.

  16. Samantha Brinn Merel January 8, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I understand well the pull of Israel. I went for the first time with my family for my Bar Mitzvah, and have been back a couple of times since. And every time I leave the airport in Tel Aviv, I feel the pull. The call of the ancient land that holds the secrets of our history. No matter how old I get it never changes, and even though I most likely will never live there, I hope the pull never goes away.

  17. TriGirl January 8, 2013 at 7:37 am

    So much to think about (I went and read both the old posts–they were really really good). I am the opposite of you in the sense that I’m just now figuring out how to get my feelings in check. There’s a happy medium in there somewhere.

    I spent the last half of 2012 deciding whether or not I was following my dream. It is so easy to talk yourself out of forging into the great unknown. Dreams do change, and it sounds like yours are better than you thought!

    p.s. I went to Israel at 16 too…it was the thing to do!

    • Jack January 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      Hi TriGirl,

      Thank you. Those two posts were when I started to get a sense of what this was about and first discovered my blogging voice, shiny nuggets amidst a lot of coal.

      It is easy to look back and see nothing but good things and harder to remember some of the “valid” reasons why we sometimes hold ourselves back.

      I think the challenge is trying to find the place where we accept and admit it is ok not to chase some dreams and to figure out which merit our full attention.

  18. Jade January 8, 2013 at 6:09 am

    This was painful-in-a-good-way to read because it hits so close to home. I always wanted to live abroad, but I let a boyfriend in college deter me from studying abroad. But my story is different because I am lucky enough to have a husband who not only wanted to live abroad too, but also has a job that allows him to do so. Now we live in Thailand and it’s one of the best decisions we ever made. I’m 1,000 times grateful we made the leap – and I can tell you there are others of us out here who have done it and are doing it. It’s terrifying, but not so bad as you might think. And doing it with kids in tow is also possible–in fact, life abroad offers both you AND your children opportunities and possibilities life in the States never could. If you’re still dreaming this dream, know it’s possible to make it happen.

    • Jack January 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      Hi Jade,

      I like your story, it sounds absolutely wonderful. I obviously still think about it, but the kids have been the primary reason I haven’t pushed.

      That is not to say I won’t ever, but I want to be ‘relatively’ certain we do it in a way that they will grow from in a good way.

      It is exciting to think about.

  19. Mayor Gia January 8, 2013 at 4:42 am

    I’m glad to hear you’re getting a lot out of it!

  20. Tony Dowling January 8, 2013 at 2:07 am

    Sometimes you nail it Jack. This is one of those times

    (thanks for the links to the other posts too, also excellent)

  21. Betsy Cross January 8, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Seems to me that the answer is to saty away from girls. 🙂

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