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?