Have you ever found yourself dreaming of what could be, but somehow settling for what is? I have…until I realized that I didn’t have to.

Those of you that know me know that I’m a dreamer. I have a mind full of dreams and desires that I fantasize about on a regular basis—specifically, what a life free of the American Dream would look like. The cool thing is that I’m also not someone who overthinks things. Needless to say, my dreams (somewhat) turn into realities. For example, during the first week of June in 2014, while in a tiny cabin shower aboard a cruise ship that was parked in the port of Ketchikan, Alaska, I dreamt of not returning to work that Fall and instead, traveling the world. I envisioned myself with my hiking pack, exploring cities and countries –sipping latte’s in European cafés, and trekking South American mountains. The super-awesome part? I actually did all that. The not-so-awesome part? It lasted almost a year…most of it was glorious…a lot of it was hard. After eight months of traveling without a full-time job (I would babysit when I was in the States), I started running out of money. I soon came home and forfeited my dreams of making my adventurous life permanent (for the moment). I resettled into my regular life as a Behavior Therapist…and almost immediately began dreaming about leaving once again.

“So…when are you going to settle down?”

I heard this constantly. My answer usually consisted of an annoyed, eye rolling, “what do you mean?”

“You know…settle down…get married?”

Of course I desired to get married. Of course I desired to find my soul mate. I desired to stroll through the streets, hand-in-hand with my lover, while we stare adoringly into each other’s eyes and spoon-feed ice-cream to one another. You know, I desired to fall in love (that’s what it’s like after all, isn’t it?) Who doesn’t want these things at some point in their lives?

But you see, my struggle was that I also dreamed of seeing the world. I fantasized about falling in love with different cultures, peoples, and languages.

The more I was asked the dreaded question about settling down, the more I felt I had to choose one or the other. What would I decide to fall in love with? Would it be the man and the marriage—the 9 to 5 life complete with its white-picket fence and its dog? Or would I choose to fall in love with places—its beauty—its people—its culture?

The former sounded so…normal…so boring. If marriage meant giving up what I wanted most in my life, then why in the world would I want to get married?

But since the world around me made it clear that I couldn’t have both the experience and the marriage, I just HAD to pick one. And you know what the easier choice is, don’t you? I chose (for a moment) what the world expects. Before too long, I, too, gave up my dreams and…settled. I somehow got swept up into a relationship with someone who didn’t care about the people and the culture. His dreams consisted of money and success and comfort. I can’t express enough how glad I am that the relationship was short-lived (you can read about it here). As soon as it ended (and even while I was in it), I was back to dreaming. This time, the fantasy swirling about within me was starting a life in New Orleans. After about a month of consideration, my dreams became a reality and I was headed to the Big Easy permanently—convinced that I had chosen to give up my dream of marriage and pursue my little heart’s desire of experience.

It was a week into my newfound NOLA life that I met Taylor. The first day I met him I found out that he, too, had dreams of traveling the world. I found out that he, too, was a writer (check out his blog here). We quickly became friends and spent hours at coffee shops researching different countries—their demographics, their culture, how much it would cost to get over there, and how one could make living there a reality.

The funny thing about Taylor was that he, too, had recently gotten out of a relationship with someone who didn’t share his dreams of seeing the world. We both, before meeting each other, had resolved in living a life free of the chains of “settling down.” We spent hours having (somewhat bitter) conversations about why in the world people get married. “Why would you deal with someone’s crap for that long?” we asked each other. “If marriage means settling down, and settling down seems really lifeless, then forget that” we would affirm to each other, as we sipped our coffee, convinced we had it all figured out. We resolved that we would un-settle for a life free of all that love-stuff. We even decided once while sitting at a local coffee-shop that we would spend the summer traveling together…as friends, of course. (our ranting’s even led me to write this blog post about marriage)

But of course, you know how this story ends…or well, begins.

Three months after Taylor and I’s friendship began over dreams and coffee, we decided to begin a romantic relationship that would continue to flourish over dreams and coffee. And six months after that, we decided to begin planning a marriage…where we could pursue, together, our dreams (over coffee).

The two once-bitter, anti-marriage dreamers would oddly enough decide to un-settle for a life of un-settling down together. Of course, we don’t know where life will take us…really, we don’t. We have so many plans, ideas, dreams, and desires, that our choices of where or what next (and then where/what after that) are almost overwhelming (in a good way). But while there is a lot we don’t know, we do know that we don’t want to give in to what the world says we should want. Maybe we won’t ever own a home…or a dog…or live in the same place for more than a couple years. But the best part? We won’t have those things…together. That’s what marriage is about, anyways, isn’t it? Doing life…together. Fighting the good fight…together. Not giving up your dreams…but pursuing them…together. Struggling and rejoicing and exploring and figuring it out…together. Taking chances…together.

I share this with you dear friend, because, I have a very important thing to emphasize. While it may be extremely cliché, it can’t be stressed enough: don’t settle. Don’t settle for what the world thinks is safe, or normal. Dare to dream, dear friend. And as you dream, take those chances. It DEFINITELY won’t be easy (as I tend to think sometimes), but the messiness will make it ever so sweet, and ever so beautiful.