On Becoming a Race Car
As a child, I grew up in a confusingly supportive household. Though my parents got divorced when I was nine years old, they both had a hand in raising my sisters and I until I was fifteen – at which point my father was sent to prison on a thirty-five year sentence for basically being an awful human being (since it was the type of crime that carried a thirty-five year sentence, I assume you understand it was terrible and not the type of thing I openly broadcast on the internet).
Throughout this time, my parents held near contradictory, yet somewhat corresponding, beliefs on encouragement. My mom would blindly support us in anything we chose to pursue – whether it was football or comedy or origami duck creation. My dad, on the other hand, would support us wholeheartedly as long as our goals matched up with the dreams he forsook when he decided there were more important things than ambition and success – like huffing glue. To him, the acceptable range of goals fell between weightlifter and race car driver. Fortunately for me, I loved cars. Less fortunately, my affinity for cars had less to do with wanting to drive one, and more with wanting to be one.
As a kid, I obsessed over Hot Wheels cars. However, my grasp on reality stayed loose enough that, until the tender age of six (you know, the age at which kids normally start distinguishing reality from the absolutely impossible), I never fully understood that had my Hot Wheels cars existed in real life, they would need to be occupied by a driver to move. Therefore, my goal in life was to simply be one of these cars – constantly being shot around loop-dee-loops and over jumps by the rotating foam rollers that I assumed I had simply not noticed on family drives across town.
Unfortunately, being a car and driving a car are two very different things, a fact I soon learned careening through a wooden wall, thanks to a friendly push from a fellow quarter-midget driver (whose family my dad would soon invite over, as something I was never able to decide was an act of goodwill or a thank you). With that crash, and my increasing grasp on the fact that most (if not all) cars start as machines and not people (contrary to what horrifying 2000’s Chevron commercials may make you think), my first true dream died. And I know it’s hard to have sympathy for six-year-old me losing what was surely an impossible dream, but it was crushing at the time. However, it’s probably a dream that I needed to give up – because it was a stupid dream.
That’s a concept I never heard much as a child: sometimes your dreams are stupid. In my parents’ houses, no dream was stupid. Well, unless you were in my dad’s house and you wanted to be something really stupid – like a civil rights attorney (my dad was a real stand-up guy). Growing up though, it’s an idea with which I’ve become increasingly familiar. Since my initial Hot Wheels dreams, I’ve had a never-ending string of stupid dreams. From wanting to be a hockey player (which, coming from Arizona, is even dumber than wanting to become a car), to dreaming about becoming the President of the United States, to simply wanting a life where I can equally balance work, friends, hobbies, and Netflix – I’ve held a lot of crazy dreams. In fact, I would say most all of the dreams I’ve had have been stupid. That’s probably why they’re called dreams.
Chances are, your dreams are stupid, too. You probably want to become something ridiculous like a famous journalist or a director or one of those people who tells clever but not off-putting jokes at parties. You likely want to do something that is so inconceivable that there is no guide or “how-to” book for it – and that’s an amazing thing. And it’s not amazing because you’ll possibly be able to do it and it will be super cool if you did, but because it provides you with the perfect base with which you can connect with other people.
I recently met someone who confessed to me that her childhood dream was to be an ice cream truck – and it was one of the greatest things to ever happen. Not because it felt good to know someone else who had a similarly unforgivable misunderstanding of the world as a child (it did, though) – but because it opened my eyes to the idea that everyone around me has had, and likely still has, tons of dreams and passions that extend far beyond whatever you probably see them doing.
I’ll never become a race car. The girl I met will never become an ice cream truck. You’ll probably never be a hot air balloon, or a world-renowned karaoke singer, or a member of a penguin breakdancing troupe. However, you’ll likely meet hundreds – if not thousands – of people who’ve had and still have equally crazy dreams – dreams that make them different from any other person you’ll ever meet. And by seeing people for those insane dreams instead of whatever those people are “doing with their lives” (lol careers), you’ll be able connect with them on a level never possible when you simply saw them as “investment bank analysts,” or “social media manager,” or whatever label you applied to them based upon the few features you were able to discern in your first five minutes of interaction.
There are billions of people in the world, each with their own stupid, crazy dreams. You won’t be able to meet all of these people. However, by simply meeting a few of these people and allowing yourself to see that that Wall Street banker had aspirations of growing up to be a paid cupcake eater, or that the stay-at-home mom next door dreamed of being a professional kite flier, you’ll be able to see that even the smartest, most responsible people want to do incredibly stupid, unsophisticated things – and that is a great feeling.