The Michelada and the Dream Myth

After a morning in which I slept in and then recklessly mauled his neck with a set of hair clippers, my friend and I arrived hopelessly late to a popular brunch spot in Manhattan's Lower East Side which turned us down at 1:00 p.m. even though it closed at 6:00. This led to us finding Fonda, a Mexican spot down the street, and me having a showdown with a drink that I saw dancing a bit on the page of the menu:


The Michelada: Your choice of beer mixed with lime juice, hot sauce and chile rim.

My eyes gleamed with the flame of adventure. I looked at my friend and said, "I have to try this."

The waiter set down a glass of swirling crimson liquid with chile that lined the rim like glowing embers. He poured a bottle of Pacifico into the hot sauce, and the volcanic mix foamed its way to the top of the glass. A smile of thirsty wonder and fear grew on my face.


The Michelada is now filed under Decisions I Don't Regret but Will Never Do Again. It joins a large company of other decisions I've made, though none quite so...burn-y.

That chile-laced decision came this past Saturday, not too long after a conversation I had with some friends about dreams. More than one of my friends expressed that they didn't really have a dream. The dream. The one that keeps them up at night. The one they doodled about in their 5th grade notebook or tattooed on their ankle during a missions trip to Mexico.

They're still searching for that rare breed of dream that seems more myth than reality. When you reach a certain age, it seems like we should have this figured out by now, right? Something that Bob Goff wrote in his book Love Does about doing and not just dreaming got me thinking: Maybe we don't find our dreams; maybe our dreams find us.

We can spend years, most of our lives, fretting over what our dreams could or should be. We stare at the article about clean water in Africa and try to suck the passion out of the screen and into our hearts. We think about TOMS Shoes and wish we would have thought of that idea first. We want to convince ourselves we should sell all of our stuff and live in the slums of India. Then we get honest with ourselves and think, I just don't want to do that.

In the meantime, we do nothing. We're too scared to step out into any endeavor because we don't have the proper passion, vision, or dream to justify it. What if I take that job, move to that place, volunteer for this organization, meet up with those people, and discover it's not the stuff dreams are made of?

We need to learn to simply do and be okay with the fact that it might not be our dream. In fact, we might hate it. But now we know it's something we don't want to do, and that's one step closer to clarity. On the other hand, we may discover we love it, but we have to take the chance to risk in the first place.

After moving to Philadelphia, I decided to teach in the inner city--not because of some mystical calling or childhood dream to be Sidney Poitier or Michelle Pfeiffer or Hilary Swank. I simply wanted to see what it was like. By the end of the year, I had experienced a class that had no heat in the winter, no air conditioning in the summer, mice crawling around the rafters, flying cockroaches, emotionally disturbed students who never took their meds and didn't have the proper support, broken kids from broken homes, but beautiful kids who somehow made me smile as much as they made me yell.

Ultimately, at the end of the year, I realized it wasn't for me. I don't regret that time at all--it was one more adjustment to the lenses of my life. I could see a bit clearer.

When we stop stalling in life while we wait on a magical phone call from Destiny or a telegram from the Dream Factory and we simply do something, we move in a positive direction. Even when we end up hating the thing we do. We scratch it off the list, we readjust, and we take the next step with one more piece of valuable knowledge under our belts.

Maybe we need to reframe how we think about dreams. Too many people I know have stumbled into their dreams rather than chased them down. This happens with jobs, relationships, and passions. It leads me to think that dreams are less a white whale that eludes us as we frantically search to capture and club it into submission. Dreams are more the aroma that rises and fills our nostrils while we cook something in our very own kitchen. They bubble up around us as we do the things we do.

We simply need the courage to step out and try something new every once in a while and the courage to walk away if we realize it's not for us. Slowly but surely, or perhaps out of nowhere one day, our dreams will find us even in places we didn't expect to meet.


The Michelada will haunt me for years to come, I suspect. I'll wake in the middle of the night fearing that my mouth and my entire digestive system are set ablaze. But I will not regret the decision to try it. The next time we go to Fonda, I'll have eleven drinks to choose from instead of twelve.

I like those odds.


I'd love to hear your stories of what you'd file under Decisions I Don't Regret but Will Never Do Again, or how you've come to discover what is or is not your dream.

What do ya got?

On Hope: I May Have a Problem


"May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." -Nelson Mandela

Ever since I first stumbled upon these words on January 17th, I haven't stopped thinking about them. They've climbed out of my computer screen and, like vines, have wrapped and twisted themselves all around me.

For almost two weeks now, I've wrestled with the words and what they might actually look like in my life. What choices am I making out of fear? What choices could I make out of hope? Which choices are wise, cautious choices and which ones are steeped in sanitized safety?

I have a dark little secret I've been hiding.

Every time I've sat down to grapple with these questions, it's as if I've taken a small sip of hope--I like to envision it with a bit of tonic water, some ice, and a squeeze of lime. I've been holding the glass close to my lips these past two weeks, letting the contents sting my nostrils. Eventually, sips quickened and became gulps. I've kept pouring into my glass, cutting more limes, refilling the ice trays. And after days and days and days of downing this stuff, when I finally went to stand up, the room was spinning. I started thinking wild thoughts. I could feel the liquid courage coursing through my veins.

Friends, I'm completely, shamelessly drunk on hope.

I'm gone, man.

I'm so gone, I don't even care what making hopeful decisions "looks like" anymore. You see, when you've had too much hope to drink, you don't worry about the details anymore. You say whatever hope brings rushing out of your mouth. You throw your chair down, march in a crooked line to the dance floor, and start moving your body in awkward and glorious freedom. It doesn't matter what people think at that point--hope has taken over.

I know some of you are laughing at me. I know some of you are shaking your head, thinking, So sad. So naive. If only he could see what we're seeing. It's quite embarrassing, really.

I'm okay with that. I'm okay that you think almost all of those things; you can even go as far as to feel pity for me. I know I'm stumbling around, eyes glazed over with dreams, moving my limbs with the grace of a giraffe on sedatives.

Do not, however, mistake me as naive. I know full well the dark side of hope and its brutal, crippling hangover. I know the cost. I know the risk. I've paid dearly, and I have the scars to prove it.

I understand that I'm headed for disappointment.

I understand my heart will be broken.

But here's what analyzing that Mandela quote, what binge drinking hope has made me realize:

I'm so done being afraid of disappointment and fearing the worst. 

You know, I used to be young and reckless with hope. I used to climb to the roof and, with stupid confidence, declare that I could make the leap into the pool below. I used to laugh when people would tell me I couldn't or that I was crazy.

I've lived for some years now an existence in which I let sensible, sober people convince me that my dreams were too big, that my hopes were too high, that my expectations were too great. I came to believe that I wasn't allowed to ask or hope for anything good, let alone great. I buried my bottle. I flushed all my hope down the drain--every last drop.

That dry, hopeless way of living? It's been more unbearable than any disappointment I've felt from trying and then failing.

Never again. I will not resign myself to that timid, tame life.

Instead of cowering in the shadow of disappointment, instead of covering my eyes to avoid seeing a potential tumble, instead of piling up stones to protect my exposed heart, I want to stare straight down the barrel of the gun. And I'll have a goofy grin on my face, and I'll be singing a slurred, falsetto rendition of Teenage Dream. I refuse to bow down to the fear of failure.

This kind of approach to life isn't for everyone. It's foolishness, really. You have to be ready to peel yourself off the floor again and again when disappointment inevitably knocks you off your feet. You have to keep opening your chest at the risk of adding another scar to your heart. You won't escape unscathed.

You have to be slightly off your rocker to sell out to hope.

Just so happens I'm looking to get a little crazy. To the people are also crazy enough to join me: