There’s a commercial on TV right now, with a little boy dressed up as a pirate. He runs around the house, chasing a turtle with his sword or doing ‘pirate things’. He ends up in a grocery store with his mother, and sees an old man with an eye patch. As he prepares to do battle with the unsuspecting old guy, his mother quickly rushes him out of the store.
It’s very cute. We all love watching kids play out these fantasies in their everyday lives – little girls riding their tricycles around my neighbourhood dressed up like fairy princesses, while dad patiently walks behind them holding their wand, is adorable.
When we’re little, we dream of what we’d like to be when we grow up, and it’s usually something none of us will ever aspire to; astronaut, movie star, super hero.
You sometimes hear about famous athletes or celebrities announce during a speech or after winning a trophy of some sort, how it’s been a dream of theirs since they were a little kid.
I can kind of get that when it comes to athletes, but for actors? Did they really lay on the grass in their backyards as little kids, daydreaming of sitting in makeup at 4am for 3 hours only to find out that the catering truck didn’t show up, so they had to wrap for the day, or taking wild swings at the paparazzi that swarm them like mosquitoes?
Something happens to us as we get older. Belief in things like the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny disappear, and along with them, other fantasies that sit in our memories.
We learn that Superman isn’t real, and the closest thing we have to real heroes now are random strangers who happen upon an accident, running into the dangerous situation that we run away from. No capes or tights, which is probably a good thing, but nothing obvious to tell them apart from the rest of us.
I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up. We did a lot of outdoor stuff, and had an affinity to climb things. I recall that we had a ‘Spider Man Club’ where we’d challenge each other to complete difficult obstacle courses on playground equipment. I don’t know that I ever thought I wanted to be Spider Man when I grew up, though. In fact, I don’t think I know very many people who have had a life-long dream, then went out and achieved it.
There is one old friend who, after suffering a back injury as a young teenager, decided he wanted to become a chiropractor after his first treatment where the conventional medical institutions could not relieve his pain.
He committed to it back then, and the last time I saw him, a few years ago, he was running one of the most successful sports injury clinics around. Now that is following your dream!
Being in the hunt for work, I often get asked what it is I want to do, now that I’m free to chase my dreams. In fact, it was one of the first questions I was asked by the guy charged with getting me back to work. I stumbled over my answer. I’m not even sure that I gave him an answer.
Mostly, I’m only able to give a list of the things I know I DON’T want to do any more; drive in rush-hour traffic, sit in meetings all day, that kind of stuff. If I was completely honest with myself, I’d say that for the rest of my life, my work would look like this:
Sleep in, pour a coffee, get my daughter off to school, read the paper, walk the dog, chat with the neighbours, cut the grass, go golfing, fix something around the house, do a bit of shopping, then prepare a fabulous meal for my family – Something barbequed.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come up with a way to get paid to do those things.
See, here’s the problem with starting over so late in your career. All those childhood dreams are long gone; dried up in the dusty old recesses of your mind, if they were ever there in the first place.
Even if you wanted to be idealistic about the rest of your working life, you will be tasked with verbalizing your grand plan. Astronaut or super hero are not likely in the cards any more, and you’d more likely be sitting on a chair in a psychiatrists office than working with NASA on the next space mission if you ever brought those dreams up.
Six year old dreamers are cute. Fifty year old dreamers are on drugs…or should be…or are Richard Branson.
I don’t know if, over years of being beaten down or having dreams dashed, that you kind of throw in the towel, or if it’s something more basic than that. Maybe you just realize that at a point in your life, you see the kind of stress your boss is under, and know you don’t want that, and the things that are important to you have changed. Good family, good neighbours, good friends, good health.
I know that sounds really boring, and maybe it is. But I also think you can still be a bit of that dreamer kid you once were, just on a more practical level. Helping someone pick up dropped groceries in the parking lot, or cutting a neighbours grass when their lawn mower is kaput.
It’s never too late to be that guy or gal you dreamed of being when you were a kid, but it may look different, and be a bit less glamorous. In the end, though, we’re really here to help each other through life. If that’s our only accomplishment, we’ve done quite well.
It may not be leaping tall buildings or swinging through sky-scrapers on a web, saving that damsel in distress, but it’s a lot safer, and you don’t have to wear tights. Unless you want to.