My Blog


I recently attended a party in which there were many people I didn't know. After the initial introductions, the first question always seemed to be:  “What do you do for a living?” People appear to need to categorize you by your intelligence, education and income level as if to decide whether they’re better than you. Knowing what you do answers these questions for most. I usually  refuse to ask  this question due to lack of interest or knowing they’re going to tell me about themselves whether I want to know or not.

Telling people I’m a writers normally results in the same response--a surprised look coupled with a hint of disbelief as if I were a liar as well (isn’t that the nature of writers?). This is usually followed with a silly question like: “Have you written anything I’ve read?” or “Where do you get your ideas?” It’s at this point where I become my own worst enemy. Instead of engaging them in a conversation which might result in a new fan, I respond with something like: “I don’t even know if you can read.” or “I’m telepathic. Aliens speak to me from outer space.” Such responses usually result in nasty looks--end of conversation. What can I say? I’m not a sociable person. I don’t understand why people say writers are snobs.

Naturally I got many of these reactions during the party, but I also received some new ones. One excited lady clasped hands together and declared me a genius (there was no living with me for the rest of that night). But another response got me thinking. Numerous people responded, “Oh, you’re living the dream.” I understood this to mean that I’m doing as I wish, I’m my own boss and make my own hours, etc. But later I began to wonder if these assumptions were correct. What dream was everyone talking about, and was I really living my dream? The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I’ve had hundreds, thousands of dreams throughout my life--all of them of equal importance to me at the time.

The first important dream I clearly remember from my childhood was wanting to grow up and relate to the adult world. I wanted to be able to understand what my parents were saying, engage them in interesting conversations where they looked at me when I talked, laughed at my jokes, where they wanted to hear what I had to say. This dream was many years in coming. To this day I’m not sure my parents listen to me or take me seriously. And my time is running out. They’re growing more senile and deaf by the day. I’ve basically given up on this dream.

The second real-life dream I remember having was wanting to become a professional football player. This dream was born on Thanksgiving Day, 1965. Our family was crammed in the tiny living room of our rented Livonia, Michigan home. I wasn’t more than a toddler, but I clearly remember the room was warm and filled with the mouth-watering scents of the feast cooking in the nearby kitchen. We were all parked on the couch before our old black-and-white TV. The Detroit Lions were playing either Green Bay or Chicago in their annual Thanksgiving Classic. My parents had been drinking since the morning Macy’s Parade. My mother’s words were slurred, her eyes red and glassy, when she commented on how much she loved Alex Karras, Detroit’s star defensive tackle. He was so big and masculine she said. I knew right then that if I was ever to gain my \mother’s love that I would have to grow up to be big and masculine--a professional football player. A longtime dream was born. Different variations of this dream fueled me through middle- and high-school football. Eventually it would propel me into college football at Purdue University, but there the dream reached the reality of limiting physical abilities and died a painful death. The pain of getting the shit kicked out of me simply wasn’t worth it anymore. My talents weren’t professional material. Besides, by then more important, more realistic dreams consumed me like: What was I really going to do with the rest of my life, and who was I going to spend it with? See, I had realized a new dream had grown in my heart over the years. My real goal in life was to graduate from college, find a good-paying job, and live in a modest house with my loving wife and behaving kids. Not that I ever dream too big.

And yet, through childhood and into adulthood another dream, an almost silent dream, had grown in my mind. In elementary school I discovered I loved writing stories. Some of them were so good that my teachers accused me of plagiarizing or having someone write them for me. Teachers can be so trusting and inspirational to young children. Then, when I was eleven, we moved down to Mexico City. Our new home was kilometers from my new school and friends. My new life was extremely lonely outside school. It was at this point that I became an avid reader. The more I read, the mote I imagined writing my own stories. But it wasn’t until my college creative writing courses that my professors encouraged me to write for publication. I wanted to follow this dream with all my heart, but my other dream interfered. How was I going to raise a family on a fledging author’s income? In the end I listened to my father’s advice. I got my degree in Economics with a minor in English. This got me that good-paying job and allowed me my more important dream--a loving wife and semi-behaving kids. My dream of writing might have died, as so many do, if not for a change in economics. After fifteen years in the financial services industry, the bank I was working for decoded to downsize and move out of Michigan. I took my severance pay and had a lot of time on my hands until another job turned up. Fortunately, it was at about this time that PCs and word processors became cheap. I bought a used Mac and tried my hand at writing short stories for Playboy Magazine (Hey, they paid $10Kfor accepted stories. Not that I ever earned a dime). Still a new dream was launched and I never looked back. Within a couple years of my starting to write full time, a publisher picked up my first book. Now ten years later, I just sent my tenth book to the editor.

So when someone tells me that “I’m living the dream,” it still confuses me. I’ve always lived some dream or another. Dreams are what fuels our lives, gives us energy, a reason to live. Without dreams, goals in life, why even get out of bed in the morning?

“Children dream at every age.”