Monday, March 17, 2014

on dreams and quantum mechanics

I was having a conversation with a friend about our jobs, and I admitted that I'm not where I expected to be, life or career-wise. I told him that this was particularly surprising, considering how well my graduate school experience started. And with that, I was hit by a flood of super-vivid memories plowing through my soul.

I remembered the dorms in which me and my fellow graduate students were housed during the first week. I remembered the instant camaraderie we felt, a deep, visceral bonding. I remembered the stacks and shelves in the warehouse the university gave me with everything I would need to read for my research. I remembered the transcendent joy of the first day of teaching. And then, I told my friend about the Thursday of the second week, which was the greatest day I had ever experienced. I nailed the teaching. I finally got a handle on the organization and content of the warehouse full of research. I connected with this super-cool colleague, and we began dating. All of the grad students met up for this wild, raging party, where we were introduced to the university movers-and-shakers, with whom we instantly bonded. It was a magical night...yet the magic didn't stop there. I went on to describe the first television commercial (for some soft drink) in which I had a speaking part. I went on to describe my other six girlfriends, each more awesome than the last. I went on to describe my debut as a professional musician, on stage, playing with Brittany Spears as she introduced her epic "Baby, One More Time" to the world. I remembered...

Then I was shaken by a buzzing. I flailed, silenced the alarm, swung my legs over the edge of the bed, and tried to come to grips with the world and consciousness. I tried to remember the name of that first college girlfriend, but I could not. Nor could I remember the names of any of the other relationship partners. Nor could I remember on which topic that warehouse of research focused. Nor could I remember many other specifics on which, mere moments before, I had a firm grasp. Much of the vividness of these memories remained, but the details were hazy. And that's when it occurred to me I had been dreaming.

That I had vivid dreams was not surprising...nor was it unusual to have such weird nighttime ramblings. Whenever I feel I'm becoming normal or settled, my subconscious will, that night, throw one my way just to remind me what I am a weirdo. No, what was unusual about this dream, I realized while showering, was that many of its "memories" were things which had appeared in other I was, in essence, having a "greatest hits" dream. Of course, me being me, what struck me most about this was the quantum implications. What if, I wondered, dreams are less a random assortment of memories and desires, weaved together by random neurons and chemicals? What if they are indeed glimpses through the multiverse, into other versions of ourselves, each leading a life in many aspects similar to yet different in some significant aspect from our own? What if dreams are our opportunity to be a tourist into what might've been? I would like that.

No, I didn't have the seven girlfriends. No, my research did not fill a warehouse (no matter how it felt at the time). No, I never have starred in a television commercial...and I certainly have never performed with a former Mousketeer. And it took me many more than two class sessions to nail the teaching thing.

There were, however, similarities. The original dream conversation I was having with a friend (someone who's really a friend in my non-dreaming existence) was about how life started with a certain amount of expectations, but it's okay if they were never fulfilled. And although my graduate school career was nowhere near as glamorous as that of my dreamworld/quantum counterpart, I still came at that phase of life with certain expectations for the future...ones which the future, as it turns out, had no intentions of fulfilling.

I'm okay with that. There was way too long of a time where the distances between my dreams and my reality haunted me. Yet over the last two years, I've mostly gotten over that angst and disappointment. Yeah, I wish I was better off financially (particularly so I could afford another child, a nicer car, a house, and maybe some more guitars, and a better quality of care products for my beard), but my life is incredibly rewarding. I'm just thrilled I'm finally at the place where I can realize how awesome it is to have my family, my calling as a musician, my job, my colleagues, my friends.

And to think: it didn't even take quantum mechanics or visits to alternate dimensions to get there.