Monday 17 March 2014

Dreams Aren't Created To Remain As Such

I walked slowly across the laminate wood floor, the single dazzling white light consuming my vision as I entered the vast, cavernous space.

I could hear the distant babble of the others clamouring through the costume cupboards and dressing rooms. I'd deliberately hung back innocuously at the edge of the group and silently slipped away when I had the chance.

As I reached the small little black cross made of masking tape, I placed my feet directly atop, took a deep breath, raised my head, and gazed directly into the blinding light, faintly able to make out the curved shapes of the rows and rows of chairs, and looming ornate balconies.

I stood for a moment, studying the space and gazing with wide eyed wonder at the breathtaking architecture and sprawling pre-raphaelite paintings of the ceiling, and the glittering chandelier it held. 

But it wasn't long before I sensed another presence standing beside me - Well, I guess I was going to get found at some point. In my peripheral vision I could see my high school English teacher, a warm and maternal woman originally from Tennessee, looking me in the eye. But there was something about her presence that was sympathetic and reassuring, and I knew she hadn't come to scold me.

I finally tore my gaze from the theatre and met hers, but before I could breathe a word, in her soft drawling Southern accent and whimsical smile, she says;

"I can see the dreams in your eyes."


There are certain moments in life that you know you'll never ever forget. 

Regardless of how long ago it was, who was involved, or even if you can't remember anything else from that era of your life, there are times when something so personally poignant happens to you, that for the rest of your days you will return endlessly and relive that moment over and over.

For me, that was one of them.

It was when I was seventeen and on a student exchange in Sweden with a few others from my school, and on the last day, our chaperone (my English teacher) had taken us to Stockholm, and we'd visited the Swedish National Theatre. 

After that moment, we'd returned to the group and continued the tour of the ancient building, but ever since then, almost five years ago now, I've never found that moment far from my mind. 

Another similar moment was early on in High School, on my History teacher's last day. She was a quiet and delicate lady, the kind who always wore long swishy skirts and chunky bead necklaces, and was never quite able to hush the rambunctious class successfully. 

When we'd arrived to class that day, instead of finishing our topic on the Cold War, she'd informed us that today, her final day, was going to be off-curriculum, because she felt their were more important things worth teaching, and now was her last chance to do so.

And she sat us all down, gave us each one A4 sheet of lined paper.

Out of the joint respect for a beloved teacher and the intriguing curiosity as to what was happening, for the first time ever, the class fell silent.

"I want you all to do something for me," she smiled softly. "No, actually. I want you all to do something for me, for you."

We remained in curious silence.

"It is said that the main reason why people give up on their dreams, is because they fail to see it as anything more than just that. A dream." She always spoke softly, but still with an unmistakable tone of great wisdom and knowledge. "They do not see that dream ever being synonymous with reality, and so they let it..." she gestured floatily with her fingers. "Slip away."

A few people began to shuffle and fidget in anticipation, but silent, we remained.

"I don't want you to let that happen."

I looked down at the single piece of paper in front of me, as many others had begun to do.

"Before each of you, you will find one piece of paper. There is only one thing I want you to do in this class today. One one side of the paper, I want you to write what kind of person you want to grow in to, the person you want to be when you grow up. Words, phrases, descriptions - just brainstorm on that side. And on the other, I'd like you to do a piece of creative writing.

"Now, before you sigh and complain, there is no right or wrong, pass or fail, you will not be marked on this. What I want you to write, is a day in the life of your future, of you being that person. From waking up to going to sleep, I want you to write what you do, what you feel, what you see - all from your imaginations and dreams of what you want to do, and who you want to be."

She smiled wistfully.

"That's all."

And we all did. 

The thirty of us kids, all from completely different backgrounds, homes and lifestyles, all sat in that room for an hour and ten minutes, and predicted our own futures. 

And still to this day, I remember exactly what I wrote. 

Although my aspirations have altered slightly, and the trajectory of my dreams is now ever slightly different (The term 'Oscar-winner' was thrown around quite casually...) the vast majority remains perfectly intact, and yesterday, several years on from when I sat down and wrote what my dream future was going to be, I realised that this fantastical dream of which I'd written... really wasn't far from becoming my reality.

And it was such an extraordinarily profound and startling realisation that I actually felt a little moved. As though childhood me had slipped into step alongside me, reached up and squeezed my hand with a twinkly-eyed expression, and twenty-one year old me had looked down and nodded slowly. 

As so now, almost ten years on, I shall again do what Mrs Sparks the History teacher once asked me to do, on her last day as a teacher. I'm going to predict and curate my own future, a future that I will not let escape me.


I see an open-plan studio apartment in the heart of the city, exposed red brick interiors and white-washed  wooden floorboards. Candles, lanterns, fairy lights. Cream and pastel colours. I see sheer curtains and plush cushions on the messy bed. Sprawling bookcases with tattered books stacked haphazardly, a beautifully crafted shambles from the force of such manically creative minds living under one roof.

My silver sisters and I, soulmates, best friends, roommates.

Vibrant, overflowing houseplants and fragrant little flowers. Sunlight. A small rickety wooden table with only two weathered wooden chairs, never enough to seat the constant stream of friends, guests and visitors. Newspapers, novels and useless nick-nacks scattered everywhere, trailing from the giant bookcase. Polaroid photos from various half-forgotten evenings littering the floor until we can be bothered to pick them up, and muse at what each contains.

I walk around in oversized jumpers and long socks with my hair in a messy bun. I curl up on the one huge burgundy and caramel leather armchair with a book in one hand and some lemon sorbet or tea in the other, or dance around the place in my pants with big headphones on when no-ones home, losing myself again in songs that remind me of all the reasons to be grateful to be alive.

Or, when it gets a little colder, we'll turn out all the lights and light every candle and with blankets and cups of hot cocoa, we'll sit in the large bay window, and gaze down at the lovers in the street, playing in the snow as the delicate drops of white fall around them.

My days are filled with writing. So much writing.

I'd have a huge wooden writing desk, just for me and the mistresses of my mind to unleash ourselves onto.

I explore the very depths of my own mind and push on further to find a meaning to it all. Fiction. Fact. I pour my mind onto endless streams of paper which are pegged on a white twine line which is strung the length of the apartment. I buy coffee and eat bagels. I drink red wine with company and green tea alone. I go to the theatre often and I live. I sing and I perform. I lose myself in the literate works of the greats again. I go to comedy clubs and laugh until I cry. I walk. A lot. I take walks into the city, into the country and into the forest, picking wildflowers which I'll put in vases around the apartment. I listen to classical music and I cry silently. I explore everything and pursue every curiosity which flickers across my mind. I scrapbook. Bubblebaths. Newsprint.

I take photos, lots of photos. I string these up on the line too, where they fit with the words. I act. I play. I write. I watch incredible films which move my mind so much that I cry and I laugh and I end up writing my own. I carefully curate my knowledge and intellect and chase the opportunities which I know are rightfully mine. I live and I love. Whether a significant Him exists or he does not, my inner peace remains whole, perhaps in fact focusing on the love I can provide to my friends, my family, to myself.

  I cycle through the city in the summer and smile as the sunlight flickers through the leaves and dapples over my sunblushed cheeks, and I close my eyes for just a tiny moment to save the feel of the breeze on my skin. I just smile. I see butterflies and spectral flares, campfires, night skies, wisps of hair and solitary trees. Ribbons, cream knit and polished white glass.

Sunset conversations which fade into sleepy smiles which fade into weary dreams.

Right now, I may not know in what exact direction I am going with my life, and I may not know how exactly I'm going to make that final leap to achieveing these dreams, but yesterday there was something I realised I did know. 

As long as I continue to lead my life in a way that childhood me would be proud of, that, if she'd known, she'd say 'I'm so excited to grow up and become this person'... then as far as I'm concerned, I'm going in the right direction. 

And I think that is truly one of the most important things in the whole world, one of the main premises of life, that somehow we have grown accustomed to forgetting.

Be the person childhood you would want you to become.

And never stop chasing the dream that childhood you first dreamt of.


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