Where Dreams and Dairy Cows Coincide

My childhood was immersed in stories.

I read veraciously. I wrote obsessively. I actually got in trouble for reading too much (when I was supposed to be bathing, when I was supposed to be getting dressed, when I was supposed to be sleeping). Super nerdy. As I added facts, literary devices, and vocabulary words to my holster, I began to write my own stories. I wanted to write a novel, become a foreign journalist, publish poems.

When I went to college, I had big dreams of the city, journalism, and power suits. I knew the pickings were slim for jobs in my creative field, so I planned to move far, far away. But then I met a handsome farmer. We moved to the country. Our lives unblinkingly surged in another direction. The longer I was on the farm, the more my dreams became entangled in my husband’s dreams. These new dreams weren’t better or worse, they were just different.

I think I was always in danger of becoming complacent.

I worked through my issues with cows, country, and the lack of Chicago (my marriage depended on it). I found the strength to support my husband’s dreams, often above my own. I teetered on the edge of martyrdom, but I managed to find happiness in my new home. I dealt with the transitions much more gracefully than anyone expected I would.

But something inside of me cooled. The passionate, wild, idealistic dreams of my post-college months succumbed to “realistic” dreams that would put food on the table and give me a modicum of self-respect. I found a job with people I liked. I learned to cook, loved on my dog, and fixed up our old farmhouse. I knew that my creativity was most likely going to be used on my own time, so I started a blog.

It was almost enough.

I still felt twinges of loss—the growing pains of new dreams—but I was happy. I knew that dreams change, twist, evolve, and even disappear over the course of a life and there was nothing wrong with that.

This all changed when I heard about an amazing job in our small town. It was the kind of job I dreamed of as a young college grad, full of writing, graphic design, social media, and zeal. It was the kind of job I could see myself growing into for the rest of my career.

So I applied. Somehow, I got it. After only seven months in my current job, I am moving on again.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from the Dairy Man and his farming family, life’s greatest riches come to the risk-takers. Very few people have the world dropped into their lap. Ultimately, every dream requires a dangerous first step … and hundreds of difficult steps after that. My father-in-law milked every day for seven years when he started the dairy. That’s every single day; twice a day; no weekends, holidays, or vacations. For S-E-V-E-N years. He made profound sacrifices that would one day lead to a booming, successful business. He risked everything he had. It would have been impossible to predict success or failure, but his dream sustained him.

As the wife of a dreamer, I’ve had to find peace in the truth that we will have to take risks to achieve my Dairy Man’s dreams. Businesses don’t grow without sacrifice (time, money, relationships); career aspirations aren’t realized without leaps of faith; passions are not satisfied without following a dream.

Farm life has taught me flexibility. God has shown me that the best-laid plans are subject to his will. Life happens, love happens, cows happen. At the end of the day, however, I know that the farming man who is brimming over with vocational passion will rejoice that I have found mine. We celebrate each other’s dreams.

I’m excited to start this new chapter of my career, but I’m also terrified. I thought this particular dream had fizzled. I accepted it. I felt God’s gentle nudging in a new direction. I clung to the best parts of myself, but I also acknowledged that I needed to evolve. I wasn’t willing to live a lifetime of dissatisfaction by doggedly clinging to old dreams, so I made new ones.

But this new dream is better than I could have imagined. I can feed the long-forgotten creative corners of my soul and still live in our small town, take long walks down dirt roads, and support my Dairy Man.

No matter which direction life takes us, we dream on.

Life is what happens.

Change.

This is a word that has defined my life ever since the dairy man came into it.

Almost nothing that college-aged Jess expected out of life came true. I didn’t move to a big city, I didn’t become a journalist, and I don’t own a single pair of Manolos. I drive a well-loved car that is almost always muddy/manure-y and have an old farmhouse instead of a ultra-mod loft apartment.

But, much to old Jess’ surprise, change is not a bad thing.

The quote that best sums up my life thus far is from John Lennon: “Life is what happens when you make other plans.” I’ve spent so much time making plans and life has happened in spite of them. God laughed at my plans. Somehow the things I was trying so hard to avoid ended up bringing more joy than I could have ever imagined. This life is different than I planned but, in a lot of ways, it’s better.

A recent change of note is the end of my life as a long-distance commuter. I started a new job this week for our county in an office a mere 15 MINUTES from home. After over a year of driving 80+ minutes to work (one way!), this is insanity.

It was crazy difficult to leave the people I worked with for the past three years, but I know this change was the right one. That being said, I’m having a heck of a time wrapping my mind around it. Work ends at 5 and I’m pulling into my driveway at 5:15. What do people do with all of this time? I have big plans for exercise, puppy playdates, and tackling my book list. But a small part of me still feels a twinge of panic.

Even though I moved to the country a little over a year ago, in a lot of ways, I didn’t move. I still had the same job in the same city (emphasis on CITY); I saw the same people; I could eat at the same restaurants. I had to drive a lot further to get to these things, but they were still available to me on a daily basis. In many ways, I was the same old urbanite. I still don’t know my way around our small town because I’m never here.

Now I’m moving. For real. My whole life—home, job, and friends—will be up here. I know the city isn’t that far away (as evidenced by the fact that I used to drive back and forth to it every. single. day), but it’s not going to be as easy to get there. I’m starting a new chapter: “City girl really really moves to the cornfields.” My job change will have a ripple effect into every part of life.

But change is a part of life.

Because let’s be honest here; the Jess of my college years would have laughed hysterically at the prospect of living in the country, tromping through cow poop, and being married to a farmer. But here I am. This is my (happy) life. Somehow all of these changes make my heart swell with contentedness. I have found bliss in the most unexpected place.

And now I have more time to be here. A frightening blessing. I still will not learn how to milk (because, as a wise farm wife once told me, “If you know how to milk, you might have to!”), but I’m looking forward to joining the gym, cooking meals that take longer than 30 minutes, and writing more. While I’m sad to leave my half city life and my wonderful coworkers (one fabulously snarky boss in particular), I’m excited to start this new job. I’m excited to build new relationships. And I’m excited to take a leap that more fully invests me in this life up north with my dairy man.

Bring on the changes.