It’s hard to beat the system When we’re standing at a distance. So we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change.
— John Mayer
I’ve been thinking about the words of that rock and roll philosopher John Fogerty lately, who wisely forewarned us, “Someday never comes.”
Those words seemed appropriate as I’ve pondered what’s become the typical approach most of us take toward our future. From the time we’re capable to putting our hormones aside and looking beyond this weekend’s date or party or session of bar-hopping or next month’s big blowout, most of us tend to start what will be a life-long process of future gazing.
You know: One day I’m going to ... When I get my degree I’m going to ... As soon as I get to this point in my life I plan to ... By the time I’m (fill in age) I expect to have ... When I retire I will ...
It’s a fun exercise and, depending on how seriously we take it or how much thought we put into it, can be the carrot at the end of the stick that allows us to slog our way through the tough times, the period that Neil Sedaka once called the “hungry years.”
Certainly as circumstances dictate and as situations change, our “one day I’m gonnas” change as well. But those dreams remain the starter fuel that gets us up in the morning.
I’ve thought about dream-chasing a lot lately because it was one of the favorite pastimes of a young friend of mine. He was a dynamo, one of those folks who left you tired just watching him buzz around from one thing to the next. When he told me, on a number of occasions, his plans for the future, I never doubted he’d achieve them. In fact, I always got so caught up in his schemes and dreams — and, yes, some of them were so farfetched I would have laughed if they’d come from someone else — I often told him I’d do anything within my power to help him realize them.
That’s what made news of my young friend’s death so hard to take. When you’ve lived long enough, you generally grasp the reality of the randomness of life. You realize that the good guys don’t always win, that things don’t always work out, that it may not be only the good who die young, but their deaths damned sure hurt the most.
One thing about loss: It’s human nature to personalize it. We tell others about such things wanting — needing — their sympathy or at least their empathy. And we usually get it in the age-old response: I’m sorry for your loss.
Truthfully, the real loss in this case is not mine. Sure, there is a void in my life, but that same void is shared by others who knew, loved and cared about this young man, most of whom were closer with him than I was. Letting go is part of the grieving process, but it’s hard not to think about the impact this amazing person would have had had his sudden ending not cut him short of all those dreams that filled him with an energy I could only marvel at.
That’s the real loss ... the sudden realization that the world will forever be deprived of the what-ifs that inevitably surround such a passing.
One of the elements of an individual’s personal legacy is how they are remembered, how big a mark they leave on others. Perhaps the greatest gift a person can leave in passing is inspiration.
I, too, have dreams. Some would no doubt seem as farfetched to others as my young friend’s did to me. Some have been sitting just beyond my grasp for a long time now, waiting for me to get off my ass and go after them. Maybe it’s a byproduct of time whizzing by — maybe it’s feelings of inadequacy associated with watching others take chances with the very real possibility of failure lurking, choosing risks and their potential reward over safety and a life filled with unanswered questions — but I think I’ve sat on the sidelines long enough.
As my young friend always said, “Dreams are a good thing, but until you do something about them, they’ll always be just dreams.”
Yeah, he was a pretty smart guy for one so young. And to honor him, I’m determined to do a little dream-chasing of my own. So, rest in peace, my young friend. If I catch up with one of my elusive dreams along the way, I’ll be sure to send up a toast your way.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.