Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: I still got dreams. Big ones.

Let’s get this out of the way. I’m not a role model. I don’t pretend to be. I don’t assume I’m any sort of person to be modeled after. I’ve accomplished things in my life that could arouse admiration, but when it comes to my lifestyle, I humbly ask that America’s youth simply look the other way.

With that said, the other day I was punching a kitten in the face when I received a call from a friend of mine. He called to talk about the last column I wrote, about my days of performing at the Green Earth Cafe. He expressed to me his concern that I spoke very highly of those days long gone, and I was romanticizing the past in a way that overshadowed the present. At one point he asked me, “Is this what you’ve become, man? A person that lives in the past, like the present isn’t good enough for you or something?”

I responded by hanging up on him, and then began to ponder the words that he spoke. What a jerk, I thought to myself. What does he know? That’s not who I am, a person who has compromised his dreams, his hopes, for the reality he lives in. My friend is no longer as cool as he used to be, I realized, as I fondly recalled the good times we used to have together. Sure, my attitude has changed as the years have gone by, but I was a different dude back then. And as I change, so do my dreams.

Yes, we end up letting go of some of our dreams over time. But we do that to make room for more important stuff, such as doing laundry, flossing our teeth, or watching critical episodes of “Saved by the Bell.” Those who are still holding on to all their dreams may see this as bleak and depressing. I used to think that too, but I’m cool with it now. Because I still haven’t given up on my dreams.

I want to share with you one particular dream of mine that has carried me over the years, and given me the drive on those particularly ugly days. I want to share this because the weather is finally nice, and I’m finally feeling good too. Plus, I believe in honesty, no matter how silly it appears.

I imagine that someday I’ll be living in a small village in Greece, in a rustic yet picturesque two-story house nestled along the side of a hill, as I’m able to hear the nearby ocean roar along the bottom of the hillside. The home is quaint, and my hair is long and my beard is grown out, and I look a bit like Serpico, as my pet cat – who’s long since forgiven me for punching her – coolly meanders around the house. Classical music plays distantly in my living room, as I sit outside on my tiny patio, which is teeming with plants. I’m sitting on a comfortably padded chair drinking tea and smoking a cigarette while writing and working on the career that I can take care of from a distance, thanks to the Internet, as I’m able to soak in the solitude I’ve earned for myself.

Ah yes, somewhere that’s green…

I learned a while ago that just about every square inch of Greece’s coastline is already occupied by multi-million dollar mansions and penthouses, and this little dream I’ve held so dear for years is really not at all possible.

But that hasn’t stopped me. I don’t give in so easily. I hang out on the balcony of my third floor apartment, sitting on my five dollar lawn chair, and dream of the day I’m doing this very same thing in Greece. I won’t allow something as irrelevant as logistics or reality interfere with my dream.

The other night I was on the lawn chair thinking about the connection between dreams and reality. I was actually sitting on my roommate’s chair, because a bird had done its business on mine, and I was too lazy to clean it up. And I realized that’s where dreams and reality differ. Dreams don’t account for all the surprises in life, because we control them. Reality is the world where we control what we can, but ultimately all we can really do is find what makes us happy and keep it close. And while we do that we get to keep on dreaming.

It hit me that night as I thought to myself that whether this dream happens or not, I should never deny the moment I have now for a moment I’m preparing for. So I said to myself, which continues to stay in my head today, that while I wait for my dream to become a reality, I will make everyday my home.

Seriously, I’m almost 31 and I still don’t know what to do with the rest of my life. But I have the rest of my life to figure that out. I’m not worried about it. You live and learn, man. Live and learn.

I appreciate the present moment even more than I appreciate my past, and I’m determined to make every day better than the one before it. So I don’t consider my dreams impossible, to misquote Don Quixote, I believe they improve as time moves on.

Dreams can often prove to be misguided – even delusional. Yet even knowing that shouldn’t stop us from having them. They allow us to keep moving forward, and they’re not much different than faith or hope. They offer the promise of better days around the bend. It’s never too late, and you’re never too old to dream and go after them. Besides, we all need something to reach for.

And for as long as I live, I plan to keep reaching. Until then, a lawn chair will do.