I’ve had this recurring dream new and then, as long as I can remember: I suddenly realize I’m in another country, and the idea that I can go out and explore and see all new things and have all new experiences is the most magical feeling imaginable — akin to (but even better than) waking up on your birthday as a kid and knowing that all day, everything will be special and for you.
Sometimes, in the dreams, I’m going through the paces of some banal, day to day existence, in some familiar, expected place, when the revelation of where I am and how excited I am to go out and thoroughly experience my surroundings hits me with overwhelming, epiphanic force. It’s a sleeping wake-up call, reminding me that even the usual might be hiding some magic with the right spirit of adventure applied.
Sometimes, I wake up determined to begin to explore my own city, where I’ve lived for years, with the open eyes of a tourist. To visit the ends of town where I never go and see them as if they are exist in foreign territories I’m making my own by bringing them into the realm of my personal experience.
In high school, I don’t remember having a strict curfew. There was some specific time or other that I was supposed to be home, and certainly I was always to be easily located and accounted for (though luckily this was before cell phones were a glimmer in their parent’s eyes).
When I went off to college several hours away from home and lived in a dorm, I had an important realization: I could go out whenever I wanted. Granted, being shy and not a party-type person and living on a rural campus with no means of nighttime transportation, even into town, I didn’t really have anywhere to go in the traditional sense. It wasn’t that normal notion of teenage rebellion. Rather, the revelation was: If I want to get up at three in the morning and go climb an apple tree in the orchard and sit there listening to my walkman until the sun rises, I can.
It was a realization about freedom and autonomy. About making decisions, however unconventional, and that no one could tell me “no”.
At the end of ten years of caring for her own aging parents 24/7, then several long overdue surgeries she needed, my mum was released from being a virtual prisoner in her own home. She realized that without the obligations and the debilitating pain of the previous ten years she had garnered a new freedom. But she was so out of practice, she didn’t even know what that meant.
In an effort to remind her that now should do whatever she wanted and be the master of her own life, I told her the story about sitting in the orchard in the middle of the night in college, because I could.
She said, “I’m surprised you didn’t get raped.”
Now, what kind of thing to say is that? This is no slight on my mum, she said it without thinking. She grew up in a more conservative time, in a more conservative way than me. She was never, necessarily, encouraged to embrace non-conformity in the ways she allowed me to. She grew up during the Cold War, when being conventional and living in fear and fatalism were de rigeur in polite society.
That said, she always tells me she lives vicariously through me. She always wants to know what I’m doing, not out of nosiness, but so she can imagine a freer life. It’s ironic, as I’m excruciatingly boring most of the time — I sit in a chair and design stuff at a computer. I go to meetings with clients. I have dinner with my gentleman friend. I play with the dog. I talk endlessly about the dog. But this is just a phase of my life at the moment. One where I get some shit together so I can move on and and more adventures.
I’m hoping, my mum will have adventures too. She’s starting to, now, a year after become free. It takes practice, for some of us, to get into the mindset. It takes our subconscious to remind us in dreams, or a remembrance of the impulsivity of youth.
You can do whatever you want. Go where you want, when you want. Even without money and time for real travel, you can explore the world with fresh eyes every day. You can wake up excited for the experiences the day holds instead of waiting subserviently for nuclear annihilation, real or metaphorical.
So see what you can do with apple-tree-climbing. You might wake up in another country.