I had a dream last night. I was in college. I felt very carefree. I felt busy, but I didn’t feel as if I needed to be in a hurry. I enjoyed what I was studying and grades mattered, but it didn’t feel like the end of the world if I didn’t quite attain everything I wanted.
My friend then came into my dorm room to ask if I wanted to have a study session with him. I said sure, but before I took off with him, I tried to take some notes so that I could write in my journal later. As I looked up, I was suddenly no longer in my dorm room, but was at a wedding instead. All my friends from high school and college were there, and everyone had grown up. Everyone was dressed really fancy and nice, and we all looked like actual, legitimate adults, regardless of whether or not we were ready for real adulthood inside.
The weightlessness I had felt in my previous dream was replaced by a stone in my stomach: a stone of burden. A stone of gall. A stone of responsibility and reality. All lightness faded away.
As I watched my peers of yesterday wander about the room and discuss their current circumstances in life, I opened up my journal to take notes about how I felt in that particular moment. But when I started writing, the writing kept disappearing as I was writing it down, as if it was erasing itself. So I wrote it over and over, desperately trying to put into writing the sentiments and emotions of that particular moment so that I could capture it and frame it for my memory’s sake.
And then I woke up. I woke up in my bed in China, where I currently reside. My lower back was sore, which was definitely an indication of reality. And of aging. I was sleepy eyed, groggy, and lazy, but I mustered up the energy to roll over to my phone to take notes about how I felt in that particular moment.
I came to China for many reasons, and I was initially happy about the job that I got in China. There were many benefits, such as learning about my ancestral culture, and of course I could see the world and travel. I used to love traveling and seeing the world. But at some point during my stint here, I felt a gradual urge in my stomach…a gradual heaviness that gave me a sinking feeling…like a stone. A stone that gave me an urge to settle down, stay put, and stop meandering all over the globe in search of adventure. I had grown weary from living in several different countries and not gathering any moss. Travel has been a trendy thing since forever and I loved it. And I thought I would love it forever. But for some reason I felt like I really needed to go home.
So I began a quest to build a bridge home. My entire resume consisted of jobs abroad or something related to teaching students from other countries. I didn’t know exactly what kind of job I could get back home with my job experiences. So my plan was to build a bridge with a job that could link my past to the future. I needed a job that was more marketable, versatile, and in demand.
Then, after having lived in China for about 4 months, I decided to visit home. I was pretty discontent at this point, feeling as if everyone had moved on without me and that I was totally missing out. I went home thinking that I would find everyone happier than me, happily married or happily engaged, with sweet jobs and nice houses and moving on up and climbing that ladder in their own version of the American dream. But when I went home, what I realized was…everything was kind of exactly the same as I had left it…just more…adult. People were working, people were grinding it out in their daily lives for the most part, and people were not as well off as I had imagined. It wasn’t that I was happy that my friends were not as happy as I thought. But I was relieved that I wasn’t as miserable as I had imagined. It’s all kind of relative you know. Damn you Facebook.
The other realization from my visit home was that we will never be able to travel back to the past. I basically had to wait for the weekends for my friends to get off work and finally be able to hang out. This wasn’t high school where we could get $1 6 piece nuggets at McDonald’s and play basketball after school. This wasn’t college where we could just walk down the hall and instantly have a party. Real life is sobering. This reality of waking up and sitting in front of a computer all day and doing labor for money so that we can buy things and then repeat the same pattern over and over again until we can buy a house and get married so that we can have kids and have our kids fulfill the dreams that we never attained is very…heavy. OK that’s the morbid version of life but it ain’t that far from the truth really.
And then it hit me when I finally connected the dots, putting my dreams and thoughts and desires all together. I wasn’t necessarily just trying to build a bridge back home. I was trying to build a bridge to the past, where I had felt most at home. Sadly, if my home is the past, my home is gone, and all along I’ve been building a bridge to nowhere.
When I get back at some point in the future, I can’t expect basketball after school and the freedom that college afforded. Those days are long gone. These are the days of paying off the college debt, finding time for basketball on weekends, and considering the next step, whatever that step may be. That step just feels heavy.
As I write this down, I know this is real because my lower back is really sore again, a sign of aging. Also, my words are not deleting themselves as I write them. But in a way, isn’t time always eluding us as we try to take note of our present feelings? Isn’t the moment always a bit too fleeting, receding into the past a bit too quickly? Doesn’t the moment elude our grasp just when we are about to make our mark? One moment I’m in high school, and the next moment I’m awake in China ten years older. It’s all a bit jarring.
Maybe one day I will wake up and all this would have been just a dream. If so, I’d like to know why I’m still writing, despite the constant comings and goings, rises and falls, and the inevitable erasing of it all.