On Dreams

1 Oct

When you grow up, they give the excellent advice to chase your dreams. Unfortunately, no one ever tells you that your dreams never stop changing. It’s one of those lessons that, if you’re lucky, you’ll learn. And if you’re very lucky you’ll learn not to see it as “selling out” or “settling” or any of those other things high school tool-bags call it when you accept something “less” than what you set out wanting. The fact is that what you want, much like you, is constantly changing.

I used to want the most mundane of the American dreams: white picket fence, wife, and kids. As I grew up, I realized I needed a job in there somewhere. Shortly after that I realized an office job just wasn’t me (I know there are few young people who think an office job is “them” but I also know few people who think I could ever be happy like that). I found the girl, I found the career path, and I figured I was heading where I wanted to be. Set a course for success.

Then my life made like a housing bubble and imploded.

When you see people after natural disasters, they are always picking through the ruins. They are sifting through the shattered rooms, searching. They soon realize they aren’t looking for their old lives… it’s readily apparent looking at that broken, splintered house that you’ll never live there again. The door frame that held the marks for your son’s growth since age two is gone. What they are looking for is something to salvage. They are trying to find what parts of their past will be going forward with them into their future.

Much like them, it took me a while before I realized that’s what I was doing. My life before then was gone. I know that’s a very, very “big” thing to say. But it’s true. Thankfully she and I both had the shared presence of mind not to draw it out any longer than necessary: it was my idea to stop talking, and despite my regret, she stuck to it. I couldn’t pretend that old life was getting built back up. It was over, in every sense of the word.

To be fair, she was only part of the mess my life had become. But she was the part I had always wanted. Not her, specifically, though I did love her very, very much (enough to let go when she made it clear that’s what she wanted). No, I loved the life I had made with her. I loved the picket fence and kids and all those other dreams I had quite nicely painted her into. But those weren’t her dreams.

And they aren’t mine now either.

I don’t know how long that will last. It’s always difficult to tell if you’re rejecting something simply to avoid a memory or if you really have changed enough not to want it. Some things, it doesn’t matter, cause you only liked it for them (I will never, if I can help it, watch Gilmore Girls again). Other things you learn to like with them (the amount of “crappy pop” I still listen to is shocking). But some things, like the dream of having children and getting married, you bring to the relationship. And when those things fall to the wayside, it’s hard to place the reason.

For now, I know I can’t ever place that much of my happiness on someone else. I was dependent on her love for my happiness and that’s unhealthy. For both people. It’s not unique to her; I’ve done it to every girl I’ve ever loved. It only became a “real” problem when I stopped being able to take care of myself at all (hah, massive depression is surprisingly massive). But it was the underlying problem behind every single disagreement (we never “fought”) we had. At least on my end; nothing like a break up to make you realize you really don’t know how another person thinks.

I have to work on that, and I can’t think of any way to do that which doesn’t involve being on my own. I can’t keep chasing a dream that depends on someone else. I’m too passionate about my dreams, too much of a perfectionist. I’ve got to find dreams for ME that are about ME. That way my dreams don’t become someone else’s cage. For God’s sake, she told me she felt liberated when she left. That’s a clear sign I wasn’t (and probably still am not) ready for something serious.

It has the added benefit of limiting how much someone I love can tear my heart out through my throat.

Beyond the logical/emotional there is the simple fact that it has lost most of its appeal. I’ve found other things I want, other things I love. Finally, FINALLY, I have dreams that are about me.

This summer I traveled (the popularity of my posts during it helped inspire this blog). My best friend since I was twelve got in a car with me and we drove West to see the country. It was, up until this point, the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. And that’s probably because it was about me. It’s one of those formative moments whose importance is still growing, as I understand what a turning point it was. It proved a lot of things to me:

I can do things on my own. I didn’t have any “adult” help beyond suggestions for places to go. I planned everything, and for the most part, it worked out. That’s huge. I did it. And not just anything. I did something most people dream about their whole lives.

I also loved it. It was exhilarating and I have never felt more free. We had no one demanding our time, no itinerary, nothing forced. Those two weeks were about what WE wanted to do. I loved seeing new places, meeting new people, and spending time with my best friend. It was an adventure. We took risks (some insane), and it was the most fun I’ve ever had.

I don’t need a girl to be happy. I know that’s a very basic and “duh” kind of thing. I also know most people never really internalize it. Before her, I had, but after three years you kind of forget it. This trip helped me remember. I had a blast, really for the first time since it ended.

She’s still a big influence on me, but that’ll happen when you spend half of your “adult” life with someone. At one point, that would infuriate me. “She shouldn’t have that power” blah blah blah. She doesn’t have any power. At least, she’s not around to exercise any she may still have, and even if I follow through with my new dream of studying Journalism in Bloomington, I don’t think that’ll change. But she was the one who initially wanted to see the world (I hated it at the time). Hell, she was the one who actually did something about her dreams.

So I learned something from her. But mostly, I learned from me. I learned, as I built myself back up, that I had changed. That I wasn’t who I was then. Which is good. I’ve “grown up” a lot. I don’t hate myself anymore, which is an odd thing for a total melt-down to do. Applying for school, getting accepted, applying for financial aid, getting it, moving, and all the other “adult” things I’ve done on my own since then… those are mine. I did it, and I did it well. It’s weird viewing basic life functions as an achievement, but when you’ve always hated yourself savagely you don’t do much to help. Now that I don’t hate myself, I’m doing a lot I couldn’t before. I’m dreaming bigger.

I’m going to write a novel that makes the news. Hell, I’m probably writing one right now. I’m going to make the news, as a journalist too. I’m going to write things that change lives. I’m going to do it with all of those who stood with me through this breakdown. And through the ones that follow. Because life isn’t a flat road. And the route isn’t ever certain. I may change my mind about where I’m going, or how I’m getting there. But one thing is for damn sure:

I am going to get there.

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2 Responses to “On Dreams”

  1. Robin October 1, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    Nicely done, son. Nicely done.

  2. Lori (Clemence) (Crawford) Pounds October 2, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    “I’m going to write things that change lives.” Not just change lives, but validate them.

    Wonderful piece of work.

    (Your mom can tell you who I am. 🙂 )

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