Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: You never know what’s gonna happen

I’m on the verge of turning 30 soon, and I’m freaking out.

This age is a big leap. It’s a moment that arbitrarily marks the end of youth and the start of adulthood. And that leap is messing with me. Questions arise in my mind – am I happy with the life I’ve made for myself? Have I accomplished what I’ve wanted to be by the time I’ve hit this age? Would the Little Brian in me be happy with the dreams he used to have and the life he lives now?

That kid inside me that believed he’d grow up to be an Oscar-winning actor, have millions of adoring fans, take the game-winning shot in the NBA finals, become a war hero after dramatic defeats against evil aliens during battles in space, and spend weekends on his large houseboat with all of his cool and popular friends. That kid sure had an imagination, but sadly, time eventually eroded those hopes. He created fancy pipe dreams with no understanding of practical application.

So I’m trying to be the person I wanted to be when I was young, but I know I’ll never make the NBA. I won’t ever win an Oscar. We don’t even know for sure if aliens exist. And I currently rent an apartment, so the chances of buying a houseboat at this time are pretty slim.

I have, however, considered buying a canoe.

So where do I go from here? Do I drop the proverbial basketball and give up? Realize those silly daydreams were nothing more than that?

Certainly not. I still have dreams, and will continue to have them. I refuse to be content in life – I’d rather continue to be hungry and driven to pursue that contentment, instead of actually reaching it. As long as I know that each day I’m getting closer to it, I’m fine with that.

And quite frankly, I’m sick of listening to that little kid inside me. That obnoxious little redhead, with his GI Joes and nose picking and inability to drive a car. He’s really the source of my stress as I head into my 30s. Why should I agonize about what this kid thinks? I’m an adult, I don’t need to listen to a child. He never paid rent. He doesn’t understand independence. That punk could dream all he wanted, but he still had to run home when his mother called him in for supper.

So I didn’t achieve those dreams I had when I was a kid, sitting in my sandbox, thinking thoughts about the future and wondering who I’d be. I’m not living the life I dreamed about.

For one, I never thought I’d be running the newspaper of my hometown. I also didn’t think I’d ever become a radio disc jockey. Those kinds of people literally intimidated me when I was little. I looked up to people in those positions with genuine admiration. I was drawn in by them – they had conviction, they were entertaining, they had something to share and worked very hard to best express it, and I never thought I’d become someone like that. I didn’t think I had it in me.

When looking up to them while picking my nose in the sandbox, there was one element that I wasn’t able to calculate at that time – uncertainty and doubt. Now that I’m in those positions, I can see them more clearly now. I didn’t visualize people in those positions as ones who were unsure of themselves. I thought they knew who they were, that they were fully evolved. Now I see that notion as ridiculous.

In my position here at the paper, I’m constantly pushing myself forward to improve. Part of the reason why is because I worry people will one day realize I’m pretty much getting away with murder here, being able to play with words and run amok, and I worry that someday I’ll get caught and the fun will come to an abrupt halt. And that pushes me to better myself at what I do. I’m sure those people I looked up to when I was a kid felt the same way I feel now. The thrill is in the chase, so it seems.

That snot-nosed kid didn’t foresee many things. But I don’t blame him. He was just a kid. He was a harmless daydreamer. More importantly than the accomplishments he hoped to achieve, his imagination also allowed him to learn about the kind of person he would be in those daydreamed situations. And I think he’d be happy to know that even if I didn’t shoot down those highly evolved alien ships, I work in jobs that shape me into being a better individual on a personal level. With age, doubt and uncertainty, oddly, comes a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you. And I’ve learned that a job, or title, deep down, means very little – what matters is who you are, regardless what you are. I may not be the best reporter, but I know how to be a better friend to people. I’m better organized. I know how to share myself. I know how to pay attention. I absorb knowledge, and know when I can pass that knowledge along to those in need. I understand my limits. I can understand life’s subtleties and abstractions. And I’ve learned how to keep smiling through troubling and turbulent times.

And that’s just the kind of person that kid was wishing to become. He knew, and I still know, that the world you make is yours for the taking, whether you live in New York, Los Angeles or the frozen tundra of North Dakota. Dreams are reachable, as they are simply nothing more than reality touched with hope. Anything is possible no matter where you are – I believed that to be true as a kid, and I still truly believe it.

So maybe that little punk makes some good points after all.