I’m in Chicago, late at night. I’ve gotten out of the car my parents are driving; they’re going to find a parking spot, and join me shortly. We’re all going to take a long trip on Amtrak, way out west. (Probably New Mexico, but possibly California)
I should wait for them, but I’m too excited. I exit the parking lot and find a train on the tracks. I catch the tail end of a conductor saying which stops this train will be making: “…St. Louis, Oklahoma City, …” I’m sure it must be our train, my parents should be here any minute so I should wait, but… A conductor grabs me by the arm and pulls me in. Well, but there’s still time for my parents to get here, isn’t there?
Except they don’t show up, and they don’t show up, and then the train pulls out. I’m conscious of my phone in my back pocket, vibrating with frequent texts. I should check it and text them back, but what would I say? I leave it be.
The train is extremely crowded near the door: standing room only, in fact. Even though beyond us, there is a section with several rows (of red plush seats) that is totally empty. No one sits though, so I figure I shouldn’t either. I push my way out of the crowd by the door and head back to other cars to find a seat/some seats — when my parents find me, I/we’ll be all set.
As I continue through train cars [which don’t look like any train I’ve ever been on], people are doing weird things, in the aisles and everywhere. It hardly looks like I’m on a train at all, which may be how/why I step off the train, into more crowds of people doing weird things, not realizing, and it only becomes clear when the train leaves, but I’m in this unfamiliar place, late at night.
I go looking for people I can ask directions back to the train and train station of, but everyone I see is too busy, or doesn’t seem friendly.
At some later point, I’ve asked a bunch of people and gotten conflicting answers, no one is interested in helping me much, I’m desperately tired, I’m sad and scared and crying, as I stumble through the dark looking for trains.
In the dream, I think to myself “I don’t know what’s happening or how (if) I can “fix” it, I’m lost, I’m alone, I don’t know what to do, and yet… this is practice, and I’m increasing my experience with and stamina for, surviving disasters. I’m doing ok, all things considered.”
Writing it out, I realize that, at the end, I never thought to myself “this is going to be fine”, which there was certainly no evidence for. The comfort I drew, instead, was knowing I could depend on my own resourcefulness. That even if circumstances stayed disastrous, I would figure stuff out, and gain knowledge.
Often in dreams of this nature, I’m preoccupied with my luggage, but in this dream, I didn’t have any. I was wearing a man’s heavy overcoat, in wool, and I periodically checked that my train ticket remained in the jacket’s inner pocket, but I had nothing like a purse or bag with me (not even my camera bag).
Incongruities abounded, but they didn’t disorient me.
It wasn’t until I was off the train, and wandering around places I never would’ve gotten to otherwise, that I felt worried and somewhat afraid. And yet even those feelings are… not uncommon in my life, and their presence doesn’t, indeed hasn’t, precluded me figuring something out.
“Figuring x out” has appeared twice in this post; I think it’s a significant concept that I’ve sort of glided over. My highest value is Learning. Usually, experientially, but supplemented by reading.
The initial journey was going to be out west, a region I have some familiarity with, and I was going to have 2 older, more experienced companions. I was fairly clear on what I was getting myself into, which is why I felt confident going first, and even boarding the train without waiting for the others to arrive.
But the real journey began when I got off the train, and didn’t know where I was, how I could return to any train, or where else I could go.
I was tired and overwhelmed, but I didn’t panic. I didn’t despair.
That’s a huge leap of progress. I really have been developing stamina at dealing with setbacks and obstacles.
And the real journey is… where I’m at, not where I planned to go.
This is especially interesting because in 2017, I’d resolved to “stop trying”: stop auditioning to be worthy of people’s regard (a longterm issue), but also, stop trying to achieve… anything really. In 2017, I am going to… be… a person who lives their life. As it unfolds, without me engineering things (or trying to).
This prospect is actually extremely scary. If I stop working at proving that I deserve to exist, doesn’t that destroy the world? After all, I wasn’t “good enough” for my parents, my family of origin, my teachers, my classmates, people I worked with, anybody really. A large part of the ambitions I’ve always had have arisen from “trying to prove them (all) wrong! They’ll see they misjudged me!” Well, no, you know, they won’t. They don’t care. They’ve never been paying attention to what I’ve done, or not done; accomplished, or failed at. And even if they had, that approach is a pretty shitty way to define my own life.
What do I actually want? Well, I want to learn stuff. I want to always be learning.
And… I can do that anywhere. No matter what elaborate plans I’ve had, I have managed to learn stuff wherever I go, or don’t go.
Also, my ‘plans’… have never turned out the way I expected/hoped. It could be that I need to… develop better skills at forecasting! (“prove myself”) But that’s not it, is it? I need to stop planning.
I need to stop anticipating what story I’ll be able to tell whenever this episode ends. Story bones need new shapes. They have to grow themselves, and I will gain from observing them, and learning how to describe them. Find models/explanations/storylines they’re animating. I can’t do that if I’m sure that something I’ve planned is better.
Plans are out, noticing is in.