I’m a very down-to-earth person. To avoid disappointment, I try to keep my expectations low. Although according to my mother having no expectations keeps you from having ambitions, that’s not the case with me. It keeps me from dreaming.

For example, when deciding on my major, I rule out the degrees that won’t provide me with enough stability. That’s why I will most likely never become a musician or a writer. My dad said that my way of thinking prevents me from choosing the path in life that I would actually want to follow and maybe he’s right. But at least I will have enough money to finally fulfill my ambition of becoming a vegetarian and adopting more dogs.

After a lifetime spent trying my best not to be boring, I’m beginning to realize that being pragmatic might have restrained my imagination. I remember reading Elle right after New Year’s. There was an article on bucket lists and how everybody’s bucket lists always look the same. Bungee jumping, traveling the world, learning a new language… All these things that people never did, but somehow always wanted to. Well, my bucket list had none of these things on it. Except for learning a new language. But only because it looks good on a cv. Other things included doing volunteer work (not in Africa or anything because that’s too far, but somewhere local), taking dance classes and having sex, just in this lifetime, at least once. Ever.

So I didn’t really know how to reply when one of my best friends asked our group of friends whether any of us had big dreams. Most of them had a response at the ready. Studying at Hogwarts, publishing a book, becoming a movie director and moving to the US. To be honest, none of these dreams were that unrealistic. Except for going to Hogwarts, of course. But when my turn came, I panicked. What should I say? And then I remembered.

When I was eleven, my parents, my brother and I went on a road trip through Italy. I got my period on the day we were passing through Switzerland on our way to Pisa. My brother and I were cramped between the suitcases in the backseat and it was boiling hot in the car, even with the windows open. My dad bought everyone an ice cream at the tank station, which we had greedily eaten after I had changed my pad in the dirty public toilet. Although the journey wasn’t really comfortable, everybody was still happy and relieved to get away from the cold and rainy Belgium.

In the backseat, my brother and I usually watched movies or listened to music. But my mom always looked out of the window, hungry for incredible sights. All of a sudden I felt her hand on my knee. With my earphone on I couldn’t hear a word she was saying. I remember listening to Avril Lavigne. Mom was pointing out of the window and my eyes followed her index finger.

What I saw was ravishing. Ranges of mountains, green everywhere, and little cottages at the foot of the hill we were driving on. I remember a lake, it must have been the Geneva lake, and its clear water, almost see-through. It looked so peaceful and enticing that I remember thinking, “So this is what rich people must live like.”

Lying in bed that night I was dreaming of my life in Switzerland. I would have a cabin in the woods, very Waldenlike, very secluded. The part of the woods I lived in would be constantly snowed under. Although I’m more of a dog person, I wouldn’t want to walk it in the cold, so I would have a cat. To make it cozy, I’d bake a cake every day, preferably a chocolate one. I wouldn’t have any DVD’s because my house would be old-fashioned. Which means only Harry Potter VCRs. I would have a book shop a few miles away that I would ride down to every couple of days.

“That’s a nice dream,” my best friend said. “And you know, it’s quite realistic.”

“Wait, I’m not done yet,” I told him.

So one day it will get extremely cold. It will be on Christmas Eve. And then a hot stranger will get lost in the woods, a Heath Ledger lookalike maybe. Heath Ledger himself is already dead, that’s why I will have to make do with someone who only looks like him. Of course, that stranger will come knocking on my door to get help. I would offer him my chocolate cake and together, we will watch a Harry Potter VCR and fall in love. Then he’ll abandon his regular life and move in with me in my Swiss chalet.

To my surprise, my friends weren’t that amazed at all. They only had a few practical questions.

“How would you get to your book shop? I mean, if everything is snowed under?” my friend asked. I hadn’t given it much thought. Obviously, an ordinary car wouldn’t do.

“You could ski to the shop and back. You could ski to the grocery store too,” another friend offered.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I would do,” I answered and, to be honest, I wasn’t that cynical about it. That one question made me remember that I wasn’t only a down-to-earth person. I was also the person who was planning to live with some hot guy in a cabin in Switzerland, eat chocolate cake and ski to the grocery store. Perhaps I could be both.


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