When I was a child I had a dream of what my life would be. I wanted to be a pilot. I wanted to fly. I wanted to take the High road to China. To fight in epic dog-fights 10,000 feet over the Earth. When other boys were first getting into cars and could tell the year/model of anything on the road, my head was in the sky. I could tell the type of plane by the roar of its engine. I knew who made the largest plane in the world, I knew what planes were trainers and which were combat planes. I idolized the Red Baron stunt planes; after enough UPCs off the back of the pizza box I even had a full set of die-cast models. I still remember those moments; the feeling, the desire, the texture on the wings of those models. I had a dream.
Years later that dream was gone. It was not an overnight change, but gradually somewhere along the road, I stopped caring about airplanes. Now we had a computer, now I had electronic entertainment. I was a Pirate! Or I was Wibarm. There was Kings Quest and the Black cauldron. Each day I could be some new hero out saving the world. The glow of the CRT became my inverted-barrel roll. As more time passed I found myself wanting the next great game and the next great system to run it on. The Tandy was set aside for the 386, which gave way to the Packard Bell Pentium 133. Then Quake II came out and I needed still more power. My dream became playing any game I wanted; and all that stood in my way was money.
Driven by that fiscal need, the dream changed again into a practical cause/effect-cost/reward sort of dream. So my brother and I saved our money and read up on part reviews and DIY computing. $800 later we entered the nerd age with a bang. I could see it so clearly: this computer stuff was easy, all I had to do was make custom computers for other kids like me and I'd be set for life. I was around fifteen and the world was really THAT simple. Soon the dream was BCPC, Baker Custom Personal Computers. We had a cool logo and a tax ID number so that we could wholesale parts. But the dream was making computers and enjoying the latest-greatest in games; a euphoric escape from the hum-drum routine of school life, not running a businesses for profit. Soon BCPC became a neglected hobby and a will-work-for-food style low income computer help service. And that was not a dream at all. The real world had invaded my dreams and much like the pioneers in the days of yore, my dream packed up and moved to new frontiers.
There is really only one frontier vast and cool enough to save any child's soul: space. If Star Trek taught us anything it is that there are no boundaries to the cool things lying past our ionosphere. Around the age of seventeen my heart returned to the sky, engaged afterburners, reached an escape velocity of 6.95 miles per hour, and set a course for Alpha Centari at warp ten. But reality has a way of catching up to you as you get older. I realized that graduation was eminent and that my grades and lack of piloting skills would keep me out of the shuttle's cockpit for a while. In fact becoming an astronaut would probably take me forty plus years. That was more than twice my entire life at that point, and who has that kind of time to dedicate to a long shot? Besides college was fast approaching and a mixture perfume and gasoline had clouded my mind; Captain Picard would have to wait. So it was that my dream became something practical and one which was reasonable to expect as attainable within a short span of time. I wanted to go to college, have a cool car, and a hot girlfriend; the order which those were to be attained was negotiable.
By the spring of 2002 I was squarely on my way to success. I was in school at Palo Alto community college, had bought a 1992 Toyota MR2 with t-tops, and campus was full of potential. It was there that I met Lynette (possibly in a breezeway which was somehow constructed under a tree in the middle of the quad) and soon we fell in love. This was possibly one of the greatest disasters of my life. Not that I regret any of it, and not that any of it was bad, but suddenly I had reached the dream I had set out for. I had won at life and was wondering where to go from there. The natural path would be: get a bachelor's degree, a career, married, and have a family. But that was not a dream, that was what people do when they are ready to set their roots and eventually die. I was too young to settle down (let alone die) and still had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I began to drift.
I was a dog who had been chasing cars and finally caught one. Well ****, what do I do now? It may seem easy to find a new dream, but once the practicalities of life get their talons in you its hard to get away. I decided I wanted to become an engineer, my dream was to own a research and development firm and to work for myself solving the world's problems. Of course the money would be great and... well it never went much farther than that. Looking back I feel like that dream was more of selling out. What kid seriously dreams of owning his own business? Of making lots of money? Of being president of the home owner's association? These things are not dreams at all. Dreams are fantastic, they inspire us, keep our heads up when the chips are down. Dreams exist outside of money and power. Yeah kids dream of being King, but not for the same reasons adults so. Without a dream there is no fuel for the soul. Slowly the color bleeds out of life and we become the faceless robots of modern society.
Around half of all first marriages between adults in the United states end in divorce. The divorce rate between children on the playground is decidedly lower; closer to zero percent some would estimate. What is the difference? Children still have dreams, their tiny souls are alive and full of fire. Adults have bills, debt, meetings and approved actives on weekends (as long as the wife says its ok.) Without a dream to save us we all die young; our bodies left carrying out routine, following the instructions of the society which ultimately killed us. No wonder people drift apart.
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