People I meet on the road often share their dreams with me. A nameless biker who lives 4,000 miles away is a great confidant. Random conversations in gas stations, restaurants, rest areas, or hotel parking lots start with the weather and end with personal fantasies, aspirations, and regrets.
In a small town in North Carolina, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I met a hotel receptionist. A smart and interesting young man who is designing a Dungeons and Dragons game with new and complex system of rules. You could see by the way he speaks that he is completely immersed in his project, radiating with excitement and joy. In Tuscaloosa Alabama, I spent an hour speaking with the gas station attendant. He works at the gas station to save for college so that he can become a teacher, a first step toward becoming an author. The list of dreams is endless: visit a close relative who lives far away, start a business, go to Japan, learn a second language.
And of course, with age, the syntax changes. “I will” and “I am” becomes “I wanted to” and “I should have.” To me, this is the heart of the midlife challenge. Midlife is the point in time when people tend to put their dreams to rest, expecting peace and acceptance, not realizing that abandoned dreams continue to boil like lava under a thin surface. I think that dreams are meant to be pursued, not accomplished. To flourish and to experience life to its full capacity, a person needs to be engaged in the pursuit of his or her dreams every day. The active quest matters much more than the accomplishment.
In the turbulence of daily life, we are all drowning in deadlines, obligations, carpools, tasks, and chores. These are important. Without them, we would not have the things we need and value: a roof over our heads, safety, and a good education for our children. But our dreams matter too, and in the absence of external pressure to chase them, they are often abandoned and die. A year ago, I did not have a motorcycle license and never even sat on one before. Now, I am in Arizona after riding 4,000 miles from home. One thing led to another. You never know.