Show me an adult all of whose dreams are mutually achievable and I’ll show you a liar and, worse, someone who thinks they’ve got life figured out. Never trust people like that.
When I was little, I really wanted to be a wizard. I picked up stick after stick after stick and waved them around in the air shouting nonsense, just in case I had previously untapped magic powers. The results were inconclusive.
After that, I wanted to be a scientist. Well, no. I wanted to be what I thought a scientist was, which was a kind of mix between Willy Wonka and Tony Stark, still capable of doing anything much like a wizard, but without the indignity/perk of making up spell names.
Now? I really want to be a unicorn. In the JET sense, I mean. Not the wizard sense or even the “reality” sense: I don’t want to spend my life confined to children’s wishes, Scottish coins and Tumblr memes. I want to take advantage of all the five years that I am allowed in Japan. For one thing, it’d be nice to see something through to its conclusion for once, and also it’d mean I could always get work speaking at those interminable conferences to which they send us.
On the other hand, I want to have lived on every continent by the time I’m thirty (I define ‘living’ as being in one place long enough to lose your keys). If I became a JETicorn, I’d be twenty nine by the time I left Japan and I’d have one year to live on three different continents (I’ve already got Europe, Oceania and Asia down). That would be tricky, though not necessarily impossible.
On a hypothetical third hand, I kind of want to return to being the transient stranger who pops in for a month or twelve then glides back off to parts unknown. He who never has the time to lose his keys. Before I signed the reappointment papers, I hadn’t stayed in one place for more than a year in half a decade. I liked the feeling of impermanence that brought. When I was unhappy in France, I could tell myself that it was only for another seven months; when I was ecstatic in Australia, I knew to make the most of it because it wouldn’t last forever. That kind of life is very good for living in the moment.
But there’s also a part of me that is drawn back to the United Kingdom, back to the life I knew. This part wants to be there at my friends’ weddings, to fulfill those drunken promises of best manhood and sperm donation, to get back together once or twice a year with my uni pals, to finally acquire my driver’s license, to live in a country where I’m not functionally illiterate. This part likes what it knows.
I’d kind of like to be an actor. I’d really like to be a writer. These are ambitions that will keep but not forever– although, Brendan Gleeson only started acting at age thirty four. Then again, I’m no Brendan Gleeson; although one review did call me “The Robbie Coltrane of our time,” which was super awkward, because Robbie Coltrane is still alive.
And, of course, there are a million other wants and desires that encode my psyche like chromosomes, most of which I know will never come to be– I’d really, really like to travel with The Doctor, for example. And those dreams are very easy to write-off, even if doing so does kill off my inner-child just a little bit. But what about the dreams that are achievable? Which dreams do you follow and which go the way of the magic wand and the Iron Man suit?
At the end of 2015, I realised that I didn’t achieve a single one of the five resolutions that I made at its inception. I was alright with that, because there was kind of this big move halfway through the year that took up most of my money and attention, and maybe that is an achingly effective microcosm for adult life. You have all these goals and ideas for what you might do, but then you get distracted for what feels like a second and suddenly it’s too late.
I really hope not.
Living in Japan was never really a dream of mine, but I’m very glad it’s happened. But I’d also like some of the stuff I do dream about to happen as well, if only so I don’t spend my life wondering “What if?”