“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
That’s what I was told; the grown-ups never failed to tell us to dream big, and, oh—don’t worry about how you’re going to reach that dream. Because you were just going to “do it.” Maybe I was naive. Maybe I was easy to convince. Maybe I was just too much of a dreamer, and those words were the cherry on top of my disillusionment. Seemingly overnight, my dream world inflated into an impossible beast even more impossible to tame.
People who aren’t dreamers probably don’t understand. I used to incorrectly assume that what I knew was common knowledge and what went on in my mind was also common. Now, I realize that not everyone lives in a dream world. Plenty of people are firmly rooted in reality. I, on the other hand, am not.
When I was young and bratty, my parents would tell me “the world doesn’t revolve around Alyssa,” and while I laughed it off, I knew it wasn’t true. The truth was, the world did revolve around me. I was incapable of seeing the world any other way besides through my own lens. The world was a product of my own interpretation. And half the time, I wasn’t even in the same world.
I’m still young—in the grand scheme of life—and I’m still bratty when I don’t get what I want. Every time my real world doesn’t match up to my dream world, it’s a harsh clash. I’m sure you can only imagine the war inside my detached mind.
And that’s the thing: I’m detached.
I watch people as if they’re not part of my reality. I dissect their movements, their expressions, and their motivations as if they’re just there for my entertainment. Characters. I feel invisible when I’m watching others, and I often get so quiet even I forget I’m there. As I watch all the life happening around me, I’m paralyzed, having million-miles-a-second conversations in my mind. Lost-in-thought is an understatement for my usual state of being.
Then, I snap out of it.
It’s usually about five or 30 minutes before I snap back to reality (oohp, there goes gravity), and I’m feeling even more detached than before. These people have no idea the dream world in which they just appeared as main characters. And I have no idea my boyfriend was trying to have a conversation with me because I simply tuned out. I didn’t tune out on purpose—I wasn’t ignoring him like he thinks I was—I was just so easily transported into thoughts and dreams and ideas that I muted everything else. Including him.
This obviously sounds like I’m a little bit crazy. And I’ll be the first to tell you: Yeah, I’m a little bit crazy. But there’s something so serene and beautiful about being able to slip behind the curtain of reality and exist—even if only to yourself—in another world. As I exist in real life, I’m subconsciously picturing an alternate version of myself in my mind, doing the things I’d always thought I’d be doing at X age, at X place, in X moment.
Even though it’s beautiful, it is dangerous.
My dream world and my real world have yet to match up. I find myself crippled, sinking in quicksand, holding onto the thought that with every day my two worlds don’t line up, the more I’m failing. The more I’m letting myself down. I always knew I had high expectations for myself, but I never thought these dreams were unattainable. I’d always felt like I could achieve anything, and that confidence wasn’t unfounded—my life up until this point has been a general success.
From a young age, I realized I was a jack of most trades. At risk of detailing an elaborate #humblebrag, I was generally good at each sport or activity I tried. Seriously. I was in gifted intelligence school programs from ages 7 to 16, and I earned top spots on track, basketball, tennis, soccer, and volleyball teams throughout my middle and high school careers (though I stopped playing basketball and tennis when I entered high school). To me, anything could be conquered. My problem? I had a hard time choosing where to focus my energy because I simply wanted to do everything. I wanted to live out the Devil Wears Prada fantasy, but I also wanted to become a missionary in Africa. I wanted to be a pro soccer star, but I also wanted to wear pencil skirts in a skyscraper and be forever-busy at work. I liked photography and clothes and sports and singing and comedy and videography and styling hair and writing and art and the internet. But I was a master of none. I was above-average at everything, but not the best at anything.
I’d always assumed at one point that I would finally break through and become the best at something.
With sports and academics, there was always some sort of validation that confirmed it was all worth it. There are few feelings similar to the one that accompanies your collapsing body as it stretches for the finish line, panting and grimacing and hearing that you’ve not only crushed the competition but that you also beat your own personal record.
I blame sports for giving me such an insatiable appetite for competition, but it’s probably the other way around—I gravitated towards sports because I am naturally competitive. I have an obsession with winning. More specifically, I’m obsessed with beating my own personal record.
My dreams and reality may never meet.
But I fight every day to meld them into one happy world. Some people call it following your dreams, but to me, it’s seeking sanity. I don’t think I’m the only person in the world who feels this way, but I do feel that it bothers me more than most. Because my goal in life is to be the best. And if it’s my responsibility to accomplish that goal, then I better get to it, damn it.
We’ve been so deeply reminded that we only have one life to live, so we “better make the most of it.” For someone with so many far-away dreams and high expectations, dealing with the pressure to lead a meaningful life is like hoisting a boulder onto your shoulders and praying that it will magically crumble into pieces before you do. But I know how the story goes—it won’t, and you will.
The world doesn’t revolve around me, but my dream world does. And for a dreamer like me, my biggest fear is that I’ll never live out those expectations I’ve placed upon myself. Some people choose to settle for the realistic route, but I can’t shake that feeling of being the girl at the front of the pack, draped on the fence past the finish line, celebrating a new personal record.
Because I know that even when you think your legs are going to give out, there’s always that one extra step you can take to propel yourself across the finish line. And I’m hell-bent on striving towards that extra step, whatever it is and wherever it may land me in the real world.
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