I daydream. A lot! Whether on my commute, running, reading, or talking to my wife (#husbandfail) I am known to drift off to another universe. That universe has multiple scenarios. I am at a Pearl Jam concert and Eddie Vedder, the lead singer, announces that their drummer Matt has turned ill suddenly and unless they can find a replacement in the crowd the show will be cancelled. Who, me? Oh, no, really! Anyone but me. No takers? Ok then! I proceed to blow minds as all the members of the group and the 20,000+ audience marvel at my power and metronome timing. Or I am giving a book signing with 500 people snaking a line around an independent book store in NYC - all of them here to meet the bestselling author the literary world is raving about. People like Don DeLillo and Ta-Nehisi Coates mingle in the VIP area, eating expensive canapés made of exotic ingredients especially flown in from some Scandinavian country. I might even go hog wild and envision myself breaking the tape as I win the world's most prestigious ultramarathon, the fabled Western States 100.
I've always dreamed like this. I remember during mass, back in Ireland as a kid, I'd be a bunch of nervous energy. The priest droning on about us all going to hell whilst I sat there communicating with aliens. Aliens need antennae to connect with humans, you see, and the only antennae I had were my fingers which I moved in a circular fashion just above my ears. The ferocious slap my mother gave me in the carpark after the service was a clear indication that my ability to connect with extra terrestrials was not appreciated by her, the priest or the congregation.
Dreaming is good, if it's the right kind of dreaming. Aspiring to be better and dreaming big is an active way of waiting in this world. We put our heads down and strive to become better as husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, creators, friends, and many other ways. But there is also another kind of waiting, passive waiting. This is not healthy because it gives us a sense of entitlement. That because we have worked hard, we deserve our dream to be the reality. And when that doesn't happen? Cynicism, begrudging, and bitterness take over.
Many of us, at various points in our lives, wish we had it different. We get nostalgic about a certain period and would have a do-over of a specific part of our lives if we could. I do it. I did it way too much towards the end of last year. Mainly because my dreams weren't planning out quite the way I wanted. I was watching Shrek 4 with my kids last weekend and it was pretty pertinent to me in a lot of ways. It starts with Shrek at home in the swamp with his wife and three kids. His bundles of joy become tiring as does the grind of daily chores. He wishes for just one day where he could be himself again. To be an ogre and be feared by the townsfolk. He is granted his wish but it's a trap. His life is taken from him and he realizes what the world looks like if he had never existed. In a mad dash to get back all he has lost, the movie ends where it began, with him surrounded by his loved ones and the realization that all he ever wanted was right there in front of him. He had taken it all for granted. Passive waiting on the life you think you deserve is a fool's errand. Everybody around you is in the same boat and as for your job? My buddy Tim says, “what you do, is not who you are.”
As for nostalgia? Let me finish with this: Last week we decluttered a bunch of shelves in our apartment and I found my old pay slips from when I had a bar in Notting Hill. Jeez, the amount of cash I was making was obscene. I thought, Man, I wish I was making that kind of bank right now. Work has been slow for me recently and I've had to make sacrifices in certain areas. Of course, this made me think of all the money I made back then. I mentally rewound to that time in the bar and what did I see? Misery. Pure and utter misery. I had an alcohol and cocaine addiction that was out of control. Everybody knew me, even famous people, but I didn't even know myself. Thankful for reminders of what really matters, even if it is from an ogre.