“Unclose your mind. You are not a prisoner. You are a bird in flight, searching the skies for dreams.” ― Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
I have several reasons for wanting to share this story. I will tell you those reasons at the end of this post. But before I get to the main story, I need to tell you the backstory first, which goes like this:
Two weeks ago I made up my mind that I want to meet someone, let’s call him Mr. Abu. I don’t know Mr. Abu, we don’t have common friends, he lives seven thousand miles away, we don’t walk in the same circles. For all intent and purposes, we may never meet at all.
But my mind has a disinclination to worry about the impracticality or the improbability of it all. The way I see it, if it’s all in my head I might as well go for it. So, if I were to meet Mr. Abu accidentally, without orchestration, what would be the most logical situation for it to happen? What would I say, what would I wear, how would the conversation start? In short: when my grandchildren ask me to tell the story of how we met, what would be the story that I tell?
So this is how I worked it out in my head.
I was standing behind Mr. Abu at a Starbucks and he didn’t have enough cash in the right currency on him to pay for his coffee. I was impatient about getting mine, so I paid for him and told him, don’t worry about it, someday when I am in your beautiful country and we happen to meet, you can buy me coffee in return.
The only logical place for this to happen is of course in an airport. In my head, the Starbucks would be the one in Changi Airport Singapore – simply because I pass by it every time I am walking to or from the arrival/departure gate. Anyway, I raised my coffee cup to him in a silent toast, smiled and we went our separate ways.
Fourteen hours later I was at Heathrow Airport waiting for my luggage to come around when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said “Coffee girl!” And the rest, they say, is history.
This backstory is important because of what happened next.
In order for me to meet Mr. Abu as lined out in the backstory, I need to be flying to London via Changi. There are two possible ways for this to happen: either I am going for a holiday in London or I am going there for work.
In my current work situation, travelling overseas is not required (side note: a lot of the work I did in the past required me to travel extensively). So if I were to travel to London for work, I’d have to have a job that entails travelling to Europe as part of my duties.
I play and replay this “meeting story” in my head. Most of the time I do it when I am trying to sleep and need my mind to “switch off” from the realities of my daily life. I do it because it is fun and nonsensical. While doing this usually I will fall asleep without realizing it.
A few days after I started doing this, I sat in front of the TV to watch an episode of Amazing Race. In this particular episode, the competing teams were in Denmark and they had to find their way to Legoland. For some reason, this particular scene was stuck in my head.
About two days after the Amazing Race episode, I was contacted by three separate parties about three separate jobs. I remember remarking on facebook: why do I have so many missed calls today? When I returned the calls I found that opportunities exist for me to be considered for the following positions:
- Job #1: as a global strategic advisor based in Singapore.
- Job #2: as a director of corporate affairs for a European-based company that has an office locally.
- Job #3: as VP for a specific development project down south, that among others involve 2 separate theme parks, one of which is…Legoland.
All three opportunities would make it very probable for me to be in Starbucks at Changi Airport at one point or another. The only question that I need to answer now is this: which one would I be interested to explore? I know the smart thing to do is to explore all three. But, moving one step ahead, presuming that I am exactly what each company wants and that I have the luxury to choose, which one would I pick?
I spoke to an old friend a few nights later about how coincidental things seem to be. Earlier that night my sister made a casual remark about us going to London for a holiday some time in April. Suddenly the possibility of going to London, either for a holiday or for work, doesn’t seem so distant and improbable anymore. Both became very real possibilities; which way the scale would tip now depends on how I well make use of these possibilities.
It was past 3am when my friend drove me home. I had too much teh tarik to drink that night so I knew instant sleep would be impossible. So I decided to surf the Net. The first news that I saw was about one Ms Christina Aguilera taking her son Max for a birthday treat. Where to?
Legoland in Carlsbad, San Diego County, California.
When I saw that I laughed. A line from the movie Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came to my mind:
It’s not impossible, just highly improbable.
Now we’ve come to the point where I will tell you the reasons why I am sharing this story.
Firstly, it’s because for the most part of my life, I have been told that I am lucky. I can’t and don’t want to dispute that. I know I’ve been lucky. Opportunities, possibilities, coincidences – distant or ridiculous as they might be – all these seem to knock on my door at just the right time for me to take advantage of them.
But I don’t believe that I have been accorded a bigger portion of luck than the next person. I think we all have the same share; that we all have the same access to tap into the “luck well” and take as much as we need. What I do know for certain is that if I connect the dots, I can manufacture these possibilities. I may not know how or when they will manifest themselves, but I know that by making certain choices or doing certain things, I close the gap between dream and reality. Luck is very nice, but I need to get up and get moving for this luck to be of any use to me at all.
Secondly, it’s because there is a popular school of thought propagating that if you have a dream, don’t tell it to anyone. Just keep it to yourself. The line of reasoning goes like this: if you tell your dream or personal plans/goals to other people, the positive feedback or encouragement that you receive from them will make you feel gratified and trick your mind to think as if the goals are already achieved. This in turn will (a) give you a false sense of satisfaction; and (b) demotivate you from working as hard as you need to achieve these goals. Sort of counting your chickens before they hatch.
Is that true? Apparently there’s a lot of research to support this. You can see a video that explains it here.
Do you agree with this school of thought? Wait. Don’t tell me. If it works for you, good for you man.
Me? This school of thought bothers me. A lot. I think different dreams need different ways to be actualized. Some dreams need zipping up, and some needs to be vocalized. For me personally, voicing it out helps me to widen my playing field. It’s like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Somewhere out there is someone who could help connect my dots. It may be someone I already know, it may be a stranger. The point is, I need to find this someone, this Kevin Bacon. And to do that, I need to tell – be it by telling the universe, or friends, or strangers who accidentally come to this blog looking for something else and run across this post instead. Sitting here being mum about it hoping that somehow Kevin Bacon will find his way to me is asking too much of a favour from Lady Luck.
I am not being naive. I know the value of keeping your dreams to yourself. And I understand that this school of thought is not advocating being mum, all it is suggesting is that you don’t share the end game with anyone so that you will be self-motivated to continuously work hard to achieve it. I am just not sure this is the most important rule I need to adhere to. In fact I don’t think it is a rule at all. To quote Feynman “The fact that you are not sure means that it is possible that there is another way someday.”
Which brings me to my final reason, it’s because this story illustrates and reminds me, in real time, that it is good to dream. That it is good to disregard the improbability of it all and let my mind run riot. That it is good to have something just a little wildly out of reach so that I’d always have something to work on, something to look forward to. And that if I pay attention to what is happening around me, if I pay real close attention, the only thing that is stopping me from doing anything and everything is my own hesitancy.
Too often I catch myself thinking “Oh, that’s never going to happen to me,” or “How the hell am I going to do that?” or “I’ll never be given that chance,” or “Forget it, it’s just not my fate,”. I haven’t even tried visualizing it in my head, much less doing something about it and I’m already giving up? Why do I do this to myself? I claim to be an optimist yet I talk down to myself and allow this defeatist attitude to influence me that I wonder if I can call myself an optimist at all.
So I decided to write this down, to commit this story to a permanent form, to remind myself that I am, to use an overused cliche, my own worst enemy.
I need to overcome.
This is a progressive story. I don’t know how it will progress from here because there are things that are yet to pass.
Maybe I’ll go to Legoland, maybe I won’t.
Maybe I’ll have coffee at Starbucks in Changi airport, maybe I won’t.
Maybe I’ll meet Mr. Abu, maybe I won’t.
What’s certain is that any of these maybe’s can become definitely’s – it’s all up to me really.
And that is, my friend, what dreams are for.
(Dreams can’t come true? I’m glad Kaka didn’t believe that.)
Kaka’s 11th dream came true. He added the Champions League title to his trophy case for the first time when Milan defeated Liverpool on 23 May 2007, after publicly sharing this dream with millions of people.