“The old dreams were good dreams; they didn’t work out but I’m glad I had them”


An old college friend came to visit Ellie and I this past weekend…he drove more than 8 hours to come and chill for about 40 hours…and I use the term “chill” very loosely – because a precocious two-year-old leads to many things – but chillin ain’t one of them.  He also came to catch up and to actually meet Ellie in person, after hearing and reading oh so much about her.  

But before we get to our reunion of sorts, I must explain the backstory.  

We were in college, and had a creative writing class together.  He met my large personality with an even larger one, and on one particular Spring afternoon, he was wearing a bright red polo shirt that and a huge opinionated demeanor, that pissed me off.  We went toe to toe about hunting laws and fire arms – and although I have no idea how this conversation made it’s way into our creative writing class, it did.  

And, if I recall correctly, I believe he was making the argument that hunting needed to remain legal so that men had an outlet for their innate aggression, proposing that restricting hunting could result in some other forms of violence.  

I called bull-f*cking-shit on him, and unleashed the furry of a young, liberal, gender studies minor, with short hair and a nose ring.  We debated, I believe the professor sided with me, class was dismissed and I made my irritated way out of the classroom…with him following closely behind.  At one point, I looked over my shoulder, making eye contact with him and he said something to the effect of, “Even though you don’t agree with me, you still have a great ass.”  To which I responded, “YOU are disgusting.”  And I went on my merry way.

A few days later, his roommate thought my broad shoulders were an indication of athletic ability and asked me to be on their co-ed softball team (something most all of my male friends still sort of regret, but use as a form of endless entertainment) and I said yes, because I thought this friend was cute and I did in fact enjoy softball.  The friend offered to introduce me to his roommates so I felt more comfortable on the team, and when I went over to his apartment – wearing a sports bra and a bandana – I saw the guy from writing class.  

He laughed, I feigned irritation with his existence, he offered me a Natty Ice beer, and an amazing friendship was born.  I’m not exactly sure how it was born – but it was.   

In college, we would sit on his front porch drinking beer, after beer, late into the night, talking about what we wanted our lives to become, where we pictured ourselves to be down the road, and never really taking into consideration the million variables that actually exist in a life outside of our own heads.  When I was studying in London, and the planes crashed into the towers, he was the person I called after calling my parents.  He sent me a CD of country music to make me feel better when all I wanted to do was end that semester and go back home, where I felt safe and protected.  He was one of the first people I called when I found out I was pregnant, and we all can imagine how those conversations went.  He has seen me through every relationship (attempted or otherwise ), every job prospect, every moment of self-loathing and boasting…and I would like to think I have seen him through much of the same.  And so many, many times, when I would cry about how things didnt work out the way I had planned, he would say, “Ah…Car…you need ro remember ‘The old dreams were good dreams; they didn’t work out but I’m glad I had them'” (which is apparently a quote from Bridges of Madison County).

Sometimes his repetition of that phrase would just make me cry harder, as I explained that this was not how I waaaaaaaaaaaanted things to work out, and other times, the reminder would make me feel so much better. 

And when he was here this weekend, we laughed just like we used to, and fed each other advice – solicited and un-solicited – and talked about our future plans.  At one point in the weekend, Ellie was napping and I hopped into the shower, thanking god that if she woke up, there was another adult to watch her while I finished shaving my legs.  I thanked him for being a second set of much needed and welcome hands…even if only for a short time.  And I brought up those times on the porch…where we planned our lives – and how I am nowhere near where I thought I would be.  I was determined to become a network news producer, and to win an Emmy, and to do so by the age of 30.  But if someone told 19-year-old me that just days shy of my 30th birthday, I would be well on my way to single motherhood, and then navigate my way through my career and single motherhood in New York City…I would have laughed in their face.  

And then I went on to explain that despite that, and despite how damn hard things have been at times, lately I have really been feeling that I am every moment before this has led me to exactly where I am right now.  And where I am right now is really, really happy.  

The feeling hit me like a ton of bricks at an important work meeting I had last month, and I looked around the room, taking in the magnitude of it, and I thought “Oh my god, THIS is exactly where I am supposed to be.  And I would not be here right now if everything before today hadn’t happened.”  And since that moment, that feeling of being exactly where I need to be hasn’t wained in the least – in fact, in the past couple weeks, it has been becoming more intertwined in everything I do.

And when I was talking to my friend, I not only thought about what I thought life would look like when I was a sophomore in college…I also thought back to what I feared life would look like when I was single and pregnant and scared out of my mind, and I flashed back to the post I wrote the night before I delivered Ellie…recalling how afraid I was that life as I knew it was over.

And here is what I realized – Life as I knew it was over.  

But that wasn’t a bad thing at all.  Yea…the constant recalibration that takes place time and time again can be a bit difficult, and yes, I get wistful for the days that I could sleep in, and not worry about school forms, or ear infections, or spare pairs of underwear…

But without all of those things, I wouldn’t have what I have right now – which is an amazing life, with awesome friends and family who have stood by me through some crazy shit, and who always extend an invite to myself and my daughter (even if it isn’t a kid party)…and who have, more importantly than anything, taught me how to love and be loved.  

And so, just as my friend’s refrain holds true “The old dreams were good dreams; they didn’t work out but I’m glad I had them” – I might also add, and I also add – “…And I am better for them not having worked out.”

I can only hope everyone is so lucky.

Ellie and Cara NYC


***Tiny disclaimer: the accounts above are verified by my memories only, and may, possibly, vary slightly in other people’s memories – that are directly or indirectly referenced in this post***