At 5, my dream was to get married at the zoo, so I could get married in my favorite place. At 8, my dream was to become a famous singer, so I could ride in a limo. At 10, my dream was to become a teacher, so I could write on whiteboards. At 13, my dream was to become a model, so I could become beautiful. At 15, my dream was to become a surgeon, so I could be a hero. At 18, I don’t know what I want to become.
My dreams have been ephemeral. And I blame their volatile state on knowing. I have learned that it is weird to get married at the zoo and I can’t really sing and I’m not very good at teaching and 5’4” is not model height and my hands shake when I get nervous and my university doesn’t even have a med school. As I retired each dream from ‘Future’ to ‘Unrealistic Fantasy’, Future was no longer a sparkly pink cloud that held the endless possible wonders that came with growing up, but an ever-widening abyss that does not tolerate impractical dreams.
After a year of college at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, I am no longer enticed by the smell of new textbooks and the thrill of devouring them. I deduced that education is inversely proportional with dreams. Because, you know that girl with a PhD in Astrophysics who also wants to be a fairy princess? Yeah, me neither. Dreams are crazy, absurd, wild, the concoctions of a naive 5 year old who wants to get married in front of monkeys because she thinks monkeys are pretty cool. But knowledge, knowledge wears thick reading lenses and whispers that giant spheres of plasma do not grant wishes. Knowledge demands certainty. And I am certain of nothing.
I used to feel like I knew some things. Things like the fact that the sky is blue and 2+2=4 and the ticking of the second hand on a clock. But a single class of epistemology taught me that I could be a brain in a vat with scientists sending electrical signals to my brain that deceive me into believing I am an able-bodied 18 year old female living in a world where the sky is blue and 2+2=4 and time passes, whereas the real world could have purple skies and 3+3=4 and exists within a timeless void. Hell, it could all be the matrix.
But, the uncertainty in the world as it exists is not what fazes me, but the existence of myself. Des Cartes has so brilliantly concluded, “I think therefore I am.” Few philosophers dare challenge this statement. But, is that true? I think therefore I am…what? I am no longer the girl who dresses up in poofy dresses and thinks that the world is a beautiful blue-green marble. I am no longer the girl who thinks that the atmosphere is concocted of an endless supply of oxygen and hydrogen and hope. I am no longer the girl who thinks that all cracked paint and broken toys can be painted over and fixed. And that’s okay, because the world is bigger than a marble and the atmosphere isn’t perfect and broken things are beautiful in their own way.
But here is what’s not okay: I still think that we should have a dream to follow. But I have none. I still think that we should live for the sake of a greater good and aspire to be a hero. But I aspire for a high-paying job. I still think that we need to believe in a sort of beauty, any sort of beauty, for life to be worth living. And I do not. More than anything, I believe in crazy, in wild and absurd, in passions so strong that you stay up at night with your heart beating to the sound of them. But I have no such passion.
When you are the living contradiction of yourself, that’s when you cease to be. That’s when you sometimes wonder if instead of continuing to hold onto the ladder that you have so precariously built, maybe it is better to let it fall apart. After all, Newton’s law of gravity has dictated that falling is inevitable. Perhaps that is all one can do, not climb, but fall.
I yearn to still be shrouded in naivety, to point to a shooting star and think, you are made entirely of magic dust and shiny dreams and I wish upon you that I can one day be a fairy princess with a medical degree and even when you are uncertain and you disappoint your parents and the boy you like doesn’t like you back and your tears stain the starless nights, you will end up okay. But magic isn’t real. And neither are dreams. And neither am I.
In The Great Gatsby, Daisy once wished of her daughter: “￼I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s ￼the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” I think, perhaps, that this is the greatest truth.