We pick ourselves undone

I remember this quote that said you became an adult when you stopped dreaming. I think it was Neil Gaiman, but I’m probably horribly misappropriating it. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week though, the idea of adulthood, of having a dream to pursue. Call it birthday existentialism, if you will, but then I seem to have an existential crisis at least once a week these days.

It’s the nature of having a dream…or, more specifically, want. What do I want, truly? I mean, I say I want to be a writer, but every passing day makes that feel more impossible. Neil Gaiman had already written a published book by my age. He wanted to be a writer and worked towards it. I don’t work towards it. It’s this thing that sits in the back of my head that I toy with, but I don’t write every day. At least, I don’t write on a project every day. So, does that make it more of an abstract want? The same kind of want as when eight year old me wanted to be an astronaut? Or eleven year old me wanted to be a marine biologist? Or twelve year old me wanted to be a pilot? A want that is in the faraway, a space in the future that’s weirdly divorced from your actual self.

I fear I’m verging on the edge here, that I’m going to stop dreaming. That the future is not going to be a place where I have aspirations but a heavy here-and-now. That this is all I’ll be. I like where I am. I like who I am. I have regrets but I’m glad to have them. I like my job, my friends, this city…everything. But on quiet Sunday mornings, when the sky is one solid cloud and the world is grey and the long dark of winter is ever present in the air, I can’t help but examine everything. What do I want? What? I want to stay but I want to travel. I want to stay but I want an unconventional life. I want to write. I want.

Must I always contradict myself? What’s stopping me? My paralysing fear of failure? Probably. I’m always scared, deep down. Always terrified of disappointing, of failing, of not being enough. I balk at doing things that aren’t a sure success because I cannot deal with even the thought of failing. Of losing. Of not being enough. It has been ever thus. It’s the foundation of everything I am. A crippling perfectionism. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at keeping a lid on it, but maybe that’s just my well-honed ability to supress my emotions talking. Either way, I’m definitely better at handling it, but it still forms a core part of who I am, how I make decisions.

I don’t want to stop dreaming. I don’t want to compromise. I don’t want to give up. I fear normality like I fear enclosed spaces, wholly, completely, to the very fibre of who I am. Could I live with myself, if that was all that I became? I wear my lack of interest in societal convention like armour, and if that was curtailed, if I gave in, I’d become a caricature of myself.

Do I dare, then? Do I dare?

Just because you fell in love doesn’t mean you can’t still be on your own. Just because you leave doesn’t make the friendships you have any less significant. Just because you don’t have a permanent home doesn’t mean you don’t have a centre. Just because you’ll always be a plane ride away from at least one person you care about doesn’t mean you don’t have a family.

This is it. Your unconventional life. This is what comes from wanting to be a nomad, so you better work on strengthening that gypsy heart. Don’t ask the question, you know it’ll hurt. Don’t force the situation, you know it’ll break your heart.

Whatever happens now, whatever decision I make, I am not going to come out of it unscathed. I’m in too deep. I’ve committed too much. But I cannot waver, not this time. If I waver, I will break, and I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. Through the wants and the dreams, whatever they turn out to be in a year, three, ten. So malleable and changeable and fickle. Maybe that’s what life is about, though – the change, the not knowing. Never being certain of anything, really, not even yourself. But you can’t really escape yourself, can you? So you may as well trust in it. And keep moving.

“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.”
– Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Fables & Reflections

Music: Flaws – Bastille


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