I have no dreams in life.
Being born into a church as a pastor’s son, a common theme in many conversations while growing up will inevitably be your goals – your ambitions and aspirations for life. Your dreams.
It was because of this, and as I went through school, that I became increasingly aware with each passing year that I didn’t know which direction my life was going to take, or even which way I wanted it to take. Despite my very Christian upbringing, I have long believed that you make your own destiny. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in God and his plan for each person’s life, but rather that despite this plan, each man has a choice, and each choice a man makes determines how his life will be. So, after passing through each stage of education, with each stage’s probing questions from each stage’s teachers (the same question asked in a different way for each stage: “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, “what is your dream job?”, “what do you want to gain from life?” yet all are asked for the same reason: to make you think “what’s next?”) I reached the final hurdle in somewhat of a panic. My peers were all irritatingly clear on exactly what they wanted to achieve in life by the time of our final exams, while I still had no idea.
Five years later and I still don’t have a ‘dream’ for my life, although I am about to start a journey – a journey which I hope will be of self-discovery.
In two weeks today I will leave the UK and travel on what will be my first solo trip to Colombia, where I will stay for four months before heading to Bolivia for one month. After that I will travel around the USA for two months – first LA, then St Louis, and finally Miami. What comes after Miami is still undecided.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I will admit that as I embark on this exploration of the world I hope also to explore myself – to test myself, to learn about my meaning and discover the parts of me that I am not yet conscious of.
Though I currently have no dreams, I do remember one dream I had as a child. When I was about nine or ten years old, the only thing I wanted to do when I grew up was to become an airline pilot. Like most children, airports and planes were the most exciting things for me. The thrill of adventure when waking in the earliest of morning hours to go on that annual family holiday; watching with face pressed to cold glass as eerily deserted streets slid past the car window on the drive to the airport and fantasizing that we were the last surviving family of some global catastrophic disaster (wholly exhilarating to my boyish imagination), racing through the night to escape to a secret refuge. Then there was the buzz of the airport itself and finally the adventure of soaring through the air to reach our final destination – along with other childish delights such as on-flight movies, airplane food and the mysterious and terrifying whoosh of the toilet flush! All these things made flying an experience on the same level of excitement as Christmas day itself. It was for these factors that I knew at ten years of age I was going to be a pilot when I grew up. I loved the idea of wearing that impressive, authority inducing suit; of being in the front seat and looking ahead as we burst through the clouds; of the contented feeling of freedom as we slid serenely through the sky, miles above the earth and all its rushing and problems that seem so petty from the air.
As my childhood faded and teenage years loomed, so did my little dream extinguish with a dowsing of reality. Mainly, I realised I could never be a pilot as someone pointed out to me that the primary requirement for this profession is a skill in mathematics – whereas the very sight of numbers reduces my brain to emptiness and sends it into a blind panic.
Since then, the closest thing I have had to a dream is a constant yearning to be wherever I am not. To travel to distant lands, experience other cultures, see different landscapes and find new treasures.
For me, school was not the easiest time of life. Throughout most of high school I had no friends and I would find that each day was a real challenge to have to face up to every time I woke up. For me, walking to school was like walking to the slaughter house – except with the knowledge that the next day I would have to do it all again. After enduring hours of bullying in class, the idea of spending an entire lunch break without the protection of teachers didn’t appeal to me. I remember spending the lunch breaks of the first few weeks of high school praying for time to pass by quicker so that I could escape the constant bullying, mockery, beatings, belittlement… the list goes on. Eventually I found that the school library was open to students at lunch times, so every day I would spend an hour in the safety of that silent room bedecked with row upon row of books, old and new.
One lunch break after a particularly hard winters day, I sat in the library and opened my school diary to count the days until school finished for summer. The days of the week were spread across each double page, and I began to imagine where in the world I would like to be at each time. I started with the first school week at the beginning of September and proceeded to write down where I would be. Winter was, and still is, something I find unbearably depressing, so I was careful to ensure that from September to mid-October I was in the Mediterranean where it is still warm, and as it got further into winter, I would go further and further south. So by the time it was December I was in Australia. Then February and March was South Africa and it went on and on until the diary was finished. By the end of that lunch break I had a fantasy itinerary for a yearlong, sun-chasing, round-the-world holiday escape extravaganza! Every consequent lunch break, and whenever I was having a particularly rough time I would take a secret look at my school diary and imagine myself far away, soaking up the outside world.
This idea of travelling around the world instead of being home, conforming to what everyone else was doing stayed with me as I grew up.
I finished school and started sixth form, which I hated, and after a year I quit sixth form and started college. I soon found I hated that too but decided to persevere as I didn’t want to be known as someone who quits everything. After college I found a meaningless job in a clothes store.
Having no aspirations or ambitions for the future made it very hard for me to decide what to do in the present. My sister Jennifer has always wanted to be a dancer. She has worked hard studying ballet since she was 4, and as she got older she worked even harder auditioning for dance colleges so that she could pursue her dream. She was accepted into the Northern Ballet School and now she is working hard there to prepare herself for the rest of her life. She knows that immediately after dance college she will work on a cruise ship, dancing while seeing the world and saving up enough money to help start her off when she gets back home. After that she will dance in London’s West End.
Like many other people I know, she has a very clear idea of exactly what she wants to do in her future, which makes her present very straightforward – do what you need to do to get there. This is why I found it hard deciding what to do after school, deciding which subjects to study in sixth form, deciding which course to take in college, etc. It seems that not only does your present affect your future, but your future affects your present – just so long as you know what it is you want from it. Otherwise you are stuck.
Throughout all this confusion I felt at a crucial decision making point in my life, travelling stayed in my mind. As I got my first full time job, all I could think about was saving the money I earned to go travelling. So that is what I did.
I suppose, after all, that I do have a dream. Starting with my early ideas from childhood of flying across the world as an airline pilot, to my escapist fantasies during school of leaving everything behind to find new, carefree horizons – traveling the world has been something I have wanted to do for my whole life. The only thing, in fact. And now the time has come, I hope that my journey will be the birth of new dreams for my life.