Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: dreams

The Life You Always Wanted


     You’ve screwed up. So have I, I guess. That’s the way it goes, sometimes. What are you going to do about it?

     Usually we re-live it. We put our minds there and run through the screw-up again and again. So instead of screwing up once, we screw up everyday. The same screw-up. It sucks.

     Keep it up and you’ll die full of regrets.

     Ever wondered what it would be like to know you were going to die? People talk about the choices they’d make if they found out they had a terminal illness. People say they’d call up old friends and right old wrongs and tell off enemies and live life the way they’d always dreamed of living it. I don’t really get that.

     Because I am dying. And so are you. We’ve all been diagnosed with a terminal illness – mortality. No one beats it. 100% casualty rate.

     You know what I’d change in my life if I found out I had terminal cancer? Not much. To be honest, I’m already living the way I want to.

     I have a family that gives me nothing but joy. I am slowly but surely working toward my creative dreams. I am just about the happiest person I know.

     Because I know I’m dying.

     So I don’t pay much attention to the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t re-live them. I don’t whine about not having enough time to follow my dreams. Because I don’e have time to whine. I’m dying. And there’s nothing like living like you were dying.

Cloak and Dagger

     My wife blew my mind with this year’s Christmas gift. She bought me a cloak. It’s amazing. It’s a woolen, brown winter cloak that reaches to my ankles and is warmer than any coat I’ve owned. It’s the perfect thing for winter. Best gift ever.

     But not everyone thinks so.

     You see, when you dress funny, people stare. I’ve always dressed a little funny, but I’m getting the impression that the cloak crosses a line. The stares are pretty blatant now. And not all of them are amused.

     So what do I do? What do I do when I walk through the grocery store, cloak flowing behind me, and kids start laughing? When old men roll their eyes? When people stare with that look that says ‘What’s wrong with that guy?’

     I smile, give my cloak a bit of a flourish, and move on.

     Because I wear clothes for only two purposes: Function and Fun. I don’t dress for strangers. I don’t care if people think I look like an idiot. Wearing a cloak is fun. You know it is! Everyone wishes they could wear a cloak. But nearly everyone is too afraid.

     Fear is dirty. Fear cripples every good thing you wish you could do. Especially creative things like writing and clothing.

     For a brief, tiny moment I wondered if I shouldn’t wear this cloak outdoors. But I knew that since I loved it, I had no choice. Because all the harsh stares in the world are nothing compared to the suffering of the man who makes his decisions based on what others will think of him.

     So I wear a cloak when it’s cold outside. And I write my book the way I want it written. And I live my life the way I want to live it. Anything else is dishonest. And woe to the man who is dishonest to himself for the sake of pleasing the world. That man lives a shallow life. That man lives a boring life. That man wastes his life. That man needs to read this comic from xkcd, pour his true heart onto a piece of paper and get himself a cloak.

No Plan B

     I call my dad Dave. Or The Dave when I think he’s cool. Which is often. He’s the cat’s meow.

     He runs his own software development company. He’s been doing it for almost as long as I’ve been alive. From a distance he looks like your average, button-pressing manager-dude (I obviously have no idea what managers do). So when I was in my mid-teens and he asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I was scared.

     I wanted to act, deep down. And I was pretty sure I was good at it. It was the only thing I wanted out of life at that time. But how do you tell your father that? Especially when your father has been working at the same office since you were born? I was thoroughly expecting one of those sit-com lectures about thinking of your future and not wasting youth on silly things like dreams and acting.

     So I hedged my bet. I told him about an interest in the arts and acting, but I quickly assured him I intended to get a business degree or something to fall back on if that dream evaporated.

     He got serious. He looked me in the eye, which was freaky because we were driving down the QEW.

     “Don’t have a backup plan,” The Dave said. “No plan B.”

     He explained that if my dream was acting, I ought to, nay, need to sacrifice everything else. If it’s acting, then throw all your chips into acting. Acting or bust.

     I was pretty shocked.

     I shouldn’t have been.

     If I had paid attention as a kid, I’d have seen that The Dave is no normal businessman. When he was young and newly married, he quit his profitable factory job to go out on his own and start a photography business with his buddy. Everyone was scared, but his dad told him to go for it. His dream changed as the years went on and it evolved into the software company it is today. But the point is, he chased the dream and cut his safety net. He had no plan B. And he won. He’s one of the only people I know who loves going to work in the morning.

     My dreams have changed since that talk. But I never forgot what he said. And I think it’s still true. If my dream is writing (and it is), I’ll spare no effort or expense to bring it to life. I’ll sacrifice time and responsibilities on its altar. I’ll refuse to hedge my bets. Because hedging your bet is insulting to the dream. It’s like signing a prenuptial agreement. It feels safe, but it’s ugly and false betrays the sacred vow you’re taking.

     Find the dream. Marry it, forsaking all others.

Death of Dreams

     Do you, um, have a minute?

    Because I think we need to talk. Have a seat.

    I’m not too sure how to begin…

    I want you to remember that I respect you. I love you. And I believe that you are your own person and you have to make your own choices and follow your own path.

    And I’m not judging you. God knows I have enough problems of my own to handle without trying to handle yours.

    But I’ve noticed something and I thought I ought to bring it up.

    What happened to you?

    Remember how you used to talk? All those wild dreams you had? You were going to save the world, weren’t you?

    You had it all planned out, too. Well, some of it at least. You had a mission. You had a goal. An epic quest, as it were. You were going to stamp out hunger or write a book or bring spiritual enlightenment to a dark place. You pinned quotes and posters that reminded you of your God-given quest all over your dorm room. You annoyed people to death with your constant rantings about that quest. We all knew you had great things coming your way. And not the normal, run of the mill great things. Not just a nice job, sexy spouse and fat credit account. Oh no. None of those were nearly enough for you. You didn’t want to own the world. You wanted to save it. To fix it. To leave it better than you found it.

    Do you remember? Can you remember what it felt like? Gathering together with your friends and getting the adrenaline pumping? Some days you felt like you could run into the streets and get to work right away.

    And you almost did!

    You even kinda started.

    And then…

    Well…

    What happened?

    When did you settle?

    Did your dream change? It’s okay if it did. Like I said, it’s your life. You’re a good person, even if you let go of the dreams of your past. I really believe that.

    I just wonder…

    Do you still dream?

    Because if you do … when are you going to wake up and build it?

Trying to Fly

Joseph handed me one of his big story books and asked me to read to him the other day. The book was one of those large compilations of stories. I really have no idea where we got it, but he likes it. So I opened to the middle, picked a random story and started reading.

A mouse named McWhiskers was walking around with a friend when they heard the news that Bru the Bear was planning to fly that afternoon and had invited everyone to come watch. McWhiskers immediately identified himself as the nay-sayer of the forest, as he commented on how bears simply cannot fly. But he went along anyway. They arrived at Bru’s place to see him piling crates up and attaching a pair of wings he had made to his arms. He was ecstatic. McWhiskers tried to rain on his parade by pointing out, again, that bears cannot fly. Bru was undaunted, though, and brushed his negativity aside.

Of course, Bru’s attempts at flying failed. He leapt off the crates and flapped his wings hard, but crashed to the ground. McWhiskers had a polite ‘I told you so’ moment and finally convinced Bru to abandon his pursuit of flight altogether.

The end.

I decided to never read that story to Joseph again.

Most people would say that McWhiskers was right to stop Bru. I mean, how could a bear ever hope to fly? It’s impossible! Indeed, if God had wanted Bru to fly, he would have given him wings. Good for you, Mr. McWhiskers, for stopping your silly friend from making a fool of himself.

But was it really impossible for Bru to fly? Of course, the crude wings he made couldn’t do the job. But what if he built better wings? What if he devoted himself to learning about aerodynamics and trust and fuel and was able, after much work, to fashion a machine that would take him off the ground, just like we humans have? He would have flown. But he’ll never get that chance, you see, because McWhiskers talked him out of it.

Imagine how much we would have lost if all the Brus of the world had listened to all the McWhiskers. We would have never advanced beyond the bronze age. We would have never done anything difficult or time-consuming. We would have never chased our dreams.

McWhiskers, I think, is a cruel person. He himself had no ambition to fly, and so he saw fit to rob his friends of their ambition. And, in doing so, he became a murderer to dreams. Don’t be like McWhiskers. You never know when you may be cutting down a person who was destined to change the world.