What dreams may come
Aside from occasionally suggesting that my son might want to consider taking a shower at some point in the not-too-distant future, I almost never give advice. This is mostly because no one ever asks.
There’s this sneaking suspicion I have, though, in view of the fact that most advice is based on experience, that I’m not sure what it is in my life that I’ve ever done right. Looking back, I see mostly a series of accidents, a lot of them happy ones, and it’s hard to develop a coherent philosophy based on chance this side of blackjack.
Still, if I WERE to give advice, it would be on a subject I know something about, which is public sharing. I’d actually be glad to give this advice to certain people I know and like, considering that we live in a world in which anything you think is a “publish” click away from a life of its own.
And some of my words of wisdom would be about dreams. Don’t tell the world about your dumb dreams. Keep your unconscious to yourself.
So. I had a dream about high school the other night.
It wasn’t about anxiety; I wasn’t in my pajamas, or naked, or late for class or unprepared or locked out, all of which I’ve probably dreamed before.
And it wasn’t a lucid dream, being aware that I was dreaming but still stuck in fantasyland. It was an ordinary dreaming experience.
But I knew I was like Billy Pilgrim from “Slaughterhouse 5,” unstuck in time, suddenly back in a 16-year-old body with an actual waistline and hairline and gum line but aware that I didn’t belong. And OK with that.
Actually, it might have been some sort of redemption dream, since I seemed to be focusing on being kind. I don’t remember being a particularly unkind teenager, but surely I was cruel and clueless at times about fragile people and egos, and defensive about my own fragility, so in this dream I decided to fix it, maybe.
But after what was probably only a few seconds of quick brain activity before waking up, I patted a few teenagers on the shoulder and even hugged a teacher I remember disliking. And I tried to explain that I was from the future, and that everything, generally, would turn out all right.
I’m thinking that this was a Facebook dream.
I’ve been participating in some sort of online life for more than 20 years, from bulletin boards to AOL chat rooms to early listservs to today. I tried to nurture new relationships and I looked pretty relentlessly for signs of former lives, for email addresses and anything popping up in early search engines.
I never went to a high school reunion but I was curious about them, asked questions of people who did go, and wondered a lot. And then boom, Facebook.
It felt like boom, too. Suddenly names would pop up and lives would unfold immediately, spouses and partners and children and histories. Suddenly reunions seemed superfluous; we are catching up in real time, baby, and sometimes with real babies.
I dip in and out of social media these days, sometimes intrigued by what’s happening, wondering about the personal curation aspect, when I’ll say “Hey! Look what I found” and you do the same.
And then I’ll get tired of too much diffused energy, or tired of sitting in front of a screen, or tired of links and outrage and reality TV reviews.
But I always come back to Facebook, somehow, several times a day, and I think it’s because I like to be reassured in a crazy world.
Sticking to my principles as above, I rarely try to explain to younger people what the next bend in the road has to offer, but when I do it’s always this: You don’t get smarter, you don’t stop making mistakes, you might not even get wiser but you get used to stuff, used to throwing out calendars and getting new ones and noticing patterns and learning when to shut up and when to speak up, that sort of thing.
We will all eventually get assimilated into calendars, in other words, and the pages will flip regardless of our inattention, and while I wouldn’t use the word “joy” to describe a few seconds of skimming through status updates, I will say I get satisfaction and pleasure out of knowing that it generally turns out OK.
You will grow up, I said to my subconscious teenagers, and have families and relationships and jobs. You will survive. You will stay alive, most of you, and it will be OK, and here’s a hug for you, just because I know how it all will turn out, and because I want you to know, too, before I wake up.