I've always been a dreamer and I've always been a talker. Even as a youngin' I'd blabber on about all the great ideas I had. Like a toy Ghostbuster's trap that would actually open and light up when you stepped on the pedal. Boy was I sure sore when they came out with it and didn't give me any credit. Lots of these big ideas have come and gone over the years. Lots of other people beat me to the punch because I wasn't even swinging.
Having a great idea feels like having a secret: it wants to be shared. A pressure starts to well up inside me and it burst forth at the slightest indication that someone might listen. It's occurred to me more than once that my plans seem to go better if I keep them to myself, but I never thought to ask why. I'm sure there's some fluffy new-age explanation that ties in with The Secret™. Perhaps talking about an idea reduces the vibrational strength of my intention. I can't keep it all straight.
Learning When to Shut Up
It seems like talking shit about plans instead of talking shit about results undermines my efforts in two ways: it increases the perceived pressure to succeed and it undermines motivation. The first one's pretty obvious I think. The more people I tell about my awesome idea for a screenplay, the more pressure I feel to pump it out.
I hate being told what to do to a pathological degree. In fact, I'm so daft that I will actually infer demands and expectations that aren't necessarily even real. If I think people expect something from me, my initial gut reaction is often to spite them by not doing it. I've gotten a lot better at avoiding and overcoming that reaction, but it certainly can take a toll.
As I mentioned, I like talking about my ideas. If you know me well, you'd probably qualify that with "a lot" (emphasis in original). By not blabbering on about my next big thing until I've done it, I actually feel more motivated to work so that I can eventually get back to talking about how awesome all of my thoughts and opinions really are. Of course, if I'm collaborating with someone we need to talk about next steps, but my mom, dad, girlfriend, drinking buddies, roommate's dog, and blog reader (yep, you're the only one) don't need to know the gory details straight away.
On that note, I'm going to go work on this awesome project I just started. I'll tell you about it later, when it's done.
This might end up reading like a LiveJournal or Xanga entry, so feel free to tune out at this point. It's also going to be long. I won't take offense; I'd frankly prefer it if you stopped reading.
You see, I'm a coward.
The Garden Variety
I'm not talking about being a coward in battle or anything like that. When the shit hits the fan, I'm actually pretty excellent at keeping a level head. On the few occasions when I've called 9-1-1, I was cool as a cucumber. Though I don't remember it, when I blacked out snowboarding I nonchalantly discarded my board and radioed my friend.
Neither am I talking about nebulous, conspiracy theory style fears. I don't lie awake at night because I believe that a) someone, b) the bavarian illuminati, or c) lizard people are out to get me. The crab people might be though... Jezs Crise!
I refer to your everyday, boring kind of cowardice. I'm afraid of change, of doing my laundry, of starting my own business. Not quaking-in-my-boots afraid, but I resist doing simple things. I get a smaller version of the knot in your stomach that you feel as you slowly ascend the first hill of a roller-coaster (or before you skydive, bullfight, etc. depending on your personal degree of badassery.) I wrote about dealing with fears recently. I realize that post may have come off as if I at least thought I knew what I was talking about. I don't.
It could be a neurological resistance to change like Godin talks about. Maybe I have a bit of learned helplessness; even a good school in America stamps out proactivity and independence well enough. I don't know exactly why I feel this way. In the end though, none of that matters.
Long ago, I gave into the flow of things. I stopped acting and just reacted. Still, my life has gone swimmingly by many standards. Even though I didn't quite finish, I got a good college education. As jobs go, mine's great: I fulfilled my middle school dream of working in a game studio. Oh, I also get to buy as many games, cards, and nerdy books as I like. None of that's really my doing, but instead the outcome of a stochastic process where I benefited from my early training and some natural predilections.
Made of These
Sometimes, in my dreams, men or beasts hunt and chase me. I say dreams, not nightmares because I like those dreams. Instead of being frightening, the chase and evasion is exciting and fun. When (if) they catch me, I never freeze up because I'm able to call upon a deep ferocity within myself and fight.
I always win.
I remember a great many powerful dreams from throughout my life, all the way back to when I was 3 or 4. While most fade away quickly in the morning, some of my earliest memories are dreams. So I can honestly say that I've only had one real nightmare, the kind where you wake up shaking, since I was a small child.
The horror I felt upon awakening escapes my meager ability with words. About a week passed before I could come to terms with the fact that my mind had created such a vision. Though it will sound a bit silly recounted, this truly became a clarion call to pursue my present goals.
My Greatest Fear
I stood in the bright sunlight on a masterfully laid cobblestone cul-de-sac, in front of an opulent alabaster mansion. Under the cloudless sky, the green grass glowed with life. It may have been one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. A figure, a presence but not a man, stood with me shrouded in darkness and possessing a terrible, brooding power. He was not evil or threatening, nor did he wish me malice. Merely, he acted as steward of my time in this place.
I had no sense of volition as the figure turned my attention to a dilapidated barn nearby. Inside, the bright sunlight cut through gaps in the boards of the walls, but did little to drive back the oppressive shadows. In the pens were men, of a sort. They wore bandages over their eyes, having been blinded, and their skin had a sickly, translucent hue. As they skittered about on all fours, these men let loose ravenous and unnatural sounds.
The doors of the barn opened and I found myself outside again. An obscenely fat man weighed down with chains around his body began to run. He shared the sickly, pale appearance of the feral men who, having been set upon their quarry like dogs, began to chase him. The fat man did not make it far before the first one leapt upon him and bit into his back. They did not eat his flesh, but only drank his blood until he became too weak to stand.
Before they could finish the fat man off, the feral men were called back to their pens. Though I did not see it, I knew that this cycle would be repeated forever. Once the fat man recovered his strength, he would be set upon again.
Here the dark figure sent my attention elsewhere. I remember bits and pieces, but largely lost the thread of the dream. If a gigantic worm with six large, protruding fangs jumping at you out of a well means anything to anyone, do let me know.
Paging Dr. Freud
I don't hold much stock in dream analysis. Feel free to inject every little bit of meaning you like, there are plenty of books at the library you can use to look up symbols, etc. As far as I'm concerned, most dreams are little more than frivolities unless you get into practical lucid dreaming, but that's a story for another time.
Without the slightest interest in pouring over the details of that terrible dream, it's purpose eventually became clear to me. This, my greatest fear, describes the sum total of my life: I am a coward. I live bound, broken, and blinded in the shadows of a majestic world. I react, without thought, without concern for why I do something or who it affects. I derive a weak subsistence from the vitality of my fellow men.
The dark figure embodied death. Ephemeral and inhuman, a perfect hunter without malice. His chase I cannot evade and his assault I cannot overcome. The question then:
Will I be an easy quarry, or will this hunt, this battle span the Earth? Will death put me down like an old dog, or will I stand, fight, and die under the glorious sun?