I have this frequent daydream, common to harried nerd moms the world over. Sometimes I allow myself to close my eyes for a moment and I imagine myself in a charming tiny cottage by the ocean in a sunny and sparsely-populated funky beach town – maybe Florida, maybe California, maybe somewhere I’ve never been before. It’s warm, but not blisteringly so, the soft breeze off the water gently blows through the cottage windows just enough to move the curtains. I can smell fresh flowers and Coppertone, hear the roll and crash cycle of the ocean, seabirds, the occasional car, flip-flops on a creaky wooden boardwalk, a child’s excited chatter. I dress as I please, in nothing more substantial than cut-offs and a t-shirt, barefooted, no need for makeup or a watch. I get up when I like, go to bed when I am tired. There’s nothing more I have to do than make myself a sandwich for lunch, and sweep the sand that travels in on my feet out the doorway again.

In my living room, there is no television, no phone, no internet, no newspaper with “Hell In A Handbasket” splashed on the front page. There are books – as many as I can haphazardly stack – oh, how there are books! All the books I’ve wanted to read, all the books I should read, all the books I want to read again. Every day, I select one to take with me to the beach, with a towel and some sunscreen and a big bottle of ice-cold water. I read, and think, and read more, watch the seabirds dive for fish, take a swim, towel off, maybe doze for a bit, then pick up the book again. When I am sated, I pack up my things and return back to the cottage, take a cool shower, and sit down to write. The days go by, quiet and thoughtful and unhurried and alone but for thousands and thousands of words coming in and going out, uncomplicated by schedules or traffic jams. I think about this scenario and I feel comforted, happy, peaceful, glowing from the inside. And then I think, well, good luck with that, honey, because by the time you ever get to do that your eyes will be totally shot and you won’t be able to read jack shit, and California will have fallen into the ocean. And then my laundry buzzer goes off, sounding a lot like “HA HA! HA HA! HA HA!”

Ah, but really, our daydreams are so useful. They tell you something about yourself, and maybe even inspire you to actually do something about making them a reality. In some cases, they aren’t impossible, but would you have the determination and the focus to achieve them? What would you be willing to sacrifice in order to do the one thing you always wanted to do? And if you decide it wouldn’t be worth it, I guess that tells you something about yourself and your life as well. Think about it this way: what if you could do one thing you always dreamed about, for one year, and it would have to be based in some kind of even vaguely-real possibility. No “hookers and Jack Daniels and 200K poker tournaments with a robot butler and a jetpack” for you, sir, or less likely in that example, ma’am.

Would you travel the world? Do nothing but work on your golf game? Volunteer to build homes for the indigent in Mexico City? Start a business? Write a novel? Go to school? Sleep? Teach English in Japan and stuff yourself with sushi? Work out five hours a day and get the perfect body? Rent a theater and see the top 1000 films of all time? Train for an Ironman competition in Hawaii? Become a political activist? Paint? Find the best apple pie in all of America? See, this can get tricky, picking just one thing do to, because there are so many excellent activities. But for semi-reality’s sake, we can say that picking only one thing makes it more likely to be able to achieve and appreciate at the end of the year. My literary beach world does mash-up reading, writing, and suntanning, but I think it’s a reasonable combo. Adding in some of my other big passions like making music or photography would confuse the effort and value of that particular sabbatical. But would it be too hard to give everything else up to focus on the one?

And, we might point out, this is not a family-and-friends deal. This is you, just you, on your own, doing your own thing. And this is what would stop most people cold, far past the hardships of trying to save money to pay for your dream, losing career momentum when you left your job for a year, or being able to choose what to do in the first place. Could you leave your kids for a year? Could you count on your friends still being there when you got back, or wouldn’t you want to risk it? Would you have a spouse or a significant other that wouldn’t say, “see ya, JERK!” and take a hike? Could you put aside all those connections and roots to satisfy a different piece of your soul? Determining when it is appropriate to call in the village for support or buy the single-fare ticket is difficult and risky. Sometimes you just aren’t going to be able to know what was right until you’ve lived with a decision for awhile. Hindsight, baby, hindsight.

Something I would love to do for a year would be this: director David Lynch’s Interview Project. It’s a simple premise: travel the United States and make tiny video profiles of random people you encounter. To make it more than a home movie, though, takes an intuitive sense of whom to select to interview, how to shoot it to be both honest and visually-beautiful, and how to edit it to achieve the most emotional depth. Lynch’s son Austin is one of the people driving the project and it is clear that he has inherited his dad’s quirky style and gifted vision. There is a poignancy to this effort that is always inherent in the idea of the unheard voice: that most people will live and die known by few. I always side with the view that underneath the mundane, if you dig, you will find the most compelling stories. The Interview Project is in the running for a Webby Award and today is the last day to cast your vote. I encourage you to register and vote for it, and let them know that you appreciate what they are doing.

For now, my daydreams are back-burnered, sort of. Every so often, I do get that beach thing, albeit with Slushie-mouthed children wanting to bury me in the sand. I read books when I can, at about a page a week it seems, but I do get to write, as might be noted here. Heh. I try to do what I need to do and try to do want I want to do, and that takes effort. It doesn’t ever just fall into place, so don’t count on the lottery or fate or Aunt Swiss-Bankaccount to make things happen for you, although that in itself is a sweet, sweet thought.

Think about your daydreams a little bit. You might just be able to figure out one or two along the way.