(Last Updated On: September 18, 2009)
Netflix is great. Our membership there causes us to watch movies religiously- movies that we may not otherwise watch. Lately, we’ve watched a series of movies that have really caused my head to churn, especially a movie called Revolutionary Road.
Revolutionary Road is about the life of April and Frank, a couple living in suburbia with two kids. But, they are empty inside. The adventure, the passion, the zest for life has vanished. April suddenly realizes this one day and decides they should follow their long-lost dream of moving to Paris. So, they prepare for the move and their life is happy again, for the moment. But, and unexpected pregnancy causes their plans to come to a screeching halt. With Paris no longer feasible, their relationship plummets, causing April to spiral into a deep depression which eventually results in suicide.
Sounds like a horrible movie, huh? I mean, who wants to watch a movie about someone committing suicide? But, I actually liked it. I liked it for the point it made. If you live an ordinary life, because that’s what society tells you to do, then you might as well not be living. A life of emptiness and forgotten dreams is not a life at all.
And then the philosopher in me got to thinking- Paris was their dream deferred.
A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
I don’t know about everyone else’s dreams that have been deferred. But, my dream deferred- well, it exploded. Here’s the story….
Like most children, I grew up dreaming my life away. I lived half my life in an imaginary world with imaginary friends in an imaginary house and a pretend name. I dreamed of what I was going to do, of what I was going to be. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. But, that was slowly taking shape. It’s easy to dream when life hasn’t punched you in the face yet. I was going to be an ordinary person living an extraordinary life…. Someday…
I had a lucky life as a child. As many doors opened for me as I had to open myself. But, then more and more doors began to shut. Sometimes they were slammed right in my face. As life roughed me up I slowly became complacent. But, complacent is not the same as content and content is not the same as happy. “Someday” finally came and I finally realized: I wasn’t an ordinary person living an extraordinary life.
The thought had been slowly creeping up on me for several years. My life was ordinary and I knew it, but I wasn’t ready to face it. Then, one day I was listened to this Nine Inch Nails song.
See the animal in his cage that you built
Are you sure what side you’re on?
Better not look him too closely in the eye
Are you sure what side of the glass you are on?
See the safety of the life you have built
Everything where it belongs
Feel the hollowness inside of your heart
And it’s all
Right where it belongs
What if everything around you
Isn’t quite as it seems?
What if all the world you think you know
Is an elaborate dream?
And if you look at your reflection
Is it all you want it to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks?
Would you find yourself
Find yourself afraid to see?
The lyrics to this song woke me up out of the haze. I wasn’t all I wanted to be. My heart was hollow and frankly, I just wasn’t happy. I wondered how my life could be so full but yet so empty at the same time. I was just going through the motions of every day life. As Pink Floyd puts it, I had become “comfortably numb” with the life I had built for myself. I was alive but not really living. Why were all the doors no longer open? Where had the passion gone? What had happened to all of my dreams? So, I decided, it was time to re-open the doors.
My dream deferred had been to live in the mountains. This had been my dream since I was fourteen years old, when my father took me on my first backpacking trip in Alaska. I worked hard all through high school so I could leave Ohio and go to a school that would be closer to the mountains. I ended up at CU Boulder, which was an amazing place at the time. But, Boulder is at the foothills of the mountains, not in the mountains. I didn’t want to be living in a cosmopolitan suburb full of yuppie-wanna-be-hippies, pseudo-athletes, and fake facades. I wanted to be where people were living real lives and real dreams.
So, here I am in Crested Butte– my exploded dream deferred. I am finally an ordinary person living an extraordinary life. But, my life is not unusual by any means. I am an ordinary person, after all. There are 2000 other people in this community living the same dreams and doing the same things that I do on a regular basis. What makes my life so extraordinary? I am finally living the life that I want to be living. Only you can decide for yourself what will make your life extraordinary. Are you living your dreams? Are you pouring your heart and soul into something you love? Does your heart feel full of happiness? If the answer is ‘yes’ then you are truly living a life less ordinary.