I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker piece Dangerous Minds and came upon this paragraph dealing with how psychics can appear to be so accurate in so many of their statements:
The Jacques Statement, named for the character in ‘As You Like It’ who gives the Seven Ages of Man speech, tailors the prediction to the age of the subject. To someone in his late thirties or early forties, for example, the psychic says, “If you are honest about it, you often get to wondering what happened to all those dreams you had when you were younger.”
I found this passage to be rather heart-warming and life-affirming. Apparently, it is common for someone in their late thirties and forties (like me) to be “wondering what happened to all those dreams” they had when they were younger.
This really isn’t the case for me.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher and a writer. When I was young and still working toward these goals, I would often say that someday, I’d like to “write for a living and teach for pleasure.” This was code for saying that I wanted my writing career to be successful enough to offset the typically sub-par salaries earned by teachers, and even this aspect of my dream has come true. While I still happily accept my paycheck for teaching, it’s been my writing that has allowed for the purchase of our home, and it’s my writing that’s allowed my wife to stay home with our children after they were born.
Teaching and writing. Both dreams have come true.
Others have as well. About twenty years ago, I apparently wrote down a list of goals with my best friend while dining at a Papa Gino’s restaurant in Attleboro, MA. I have no recollection of this event, but my friend has the list, scribbled in my handwriting, so I assume that he’s telling the truth. Prior to my wedding a few years ago, he found my list in a shoe box and reviewed it in preparation for his best man toast.
Apparently I have done quite well.
Twenty years ago, I dreamt of playing poker with friends on a regular basis. Oddly enough, I never played a hand of poker until about five years ago, but today, I participate in regular games quite often, including one that I host in my own home.
Twenty years ago, I dreamt of owning season tickets to the Patriots games. Today I attend games on a regular basis thanks to my season tickets.
Twenty years ago, I dreamt of owning a successful small business with a friend. Today I own a mobile DJ company with this same friend, and we’ve been in business since 1997.
Not the most earth-shattering of goals, I know, but it’s good to know that even when I was nineteen, I was still looking forward, setting goals, and dreaming of a better and brighter future.
But it’s been the lifelong dreams of teaching and writing that have meant the most. Coming from my background, I had my doubts if any of this would ever happen. Lacking family support, funding, and even a home for a while, the prospect of putting myself through college in order to make these dreams come true seemed like nonsense. When you are living in your car, sharing a room with a goat, or surviving off the generosity of a family of Born-Again Christians, dreams tend to take a backseat. There was a long time in my life when attending college seemed impossible, and publishing a book seemed like a pipe dream. Both were like distant, fading pinpricks of light in the night sky.
And I can remember the immeasurable sadness that I felt in knowing that I would probably never teach or publish as a result. I was almost unbearable.
So if Gladwell and the psychics are correct and most people in their late thirties and early forties find themselves wondering where the dreams of their youth have gone and are experiencing even a fraction of the sadness that I once felt, I cannot imagine how difficult life must be for them.
But I also feel elated for being fortunate enough to make my dreams come true and in knowing how apparently unlikely the realization of one’s childhood dreams can be.
So I find myself in the unusual position of seeking out new dreams. I’ve reached the point in my life where I am now searching for new goals to which I can aspire, new mountains to conquer, and a fresh set of seeming impossibilities. Constant, unwavering forward motion has been my way of life for a very long time, and I’m not about to stop now. I humbly recommend it to all.