What do you wish for when you blow out birthday candles? What do you pray about when you get in bed at night?
Me, I don’t make heavy wishes about love. I don’t envision the white gown or my Dad giving me away. I sense I might never do that whole thing so I don’t go there, but I would like to wear the dress. No strapless for me. Something with lace, maybe cap sleeves, and buttons down the back. To try them on at the store, come out and show them to everybody. To stand on the elevated platform, looking unlike I’ve ever looked in my life, and sip champagne in the interim. My Mom would be a mess. She’s quick to cry. I feel like it would be a “She’s crying with every gown” type situation. Which would be cute. I hope she gets to do it with at least one daughter…
Finding love is important to almost everybody. My Mom told me last week she wished my sisters and I would find partners to share our lives with. She said it tearily, like she feared for us. And I do think of it sometimes. The interlaced fingers. The safety of it. A person who would hold me and love me just as I was. Of course I think of these things, who doesn’t? But for whatever reason, it’s never been what I obsess over. Romantic love is not my greatest wish. If I had a birthday cake here… Or my own magic lamp, rather, maybe love would be my third wish, but it wouldn’t be the first.
Money wouldn’t be the first wish, either. Yesterday, I went paragliding and I flew over a $150 million dollar mansion. $150 million. It occurred to me, as we flew over the topiary filled with exotic birds and the Hearst Castle-style swimming pool, that in some alternate universe, I could have that kind of life. I entertained the idea for a moment. I had a walk-in closet with designer threads. Instead of four pairs of well-worn shoes, I had a myriad of kinds and colors. Rows of expensive perfume were stacked like soldiers on my vanity and beautiful paintings hung on my walls. I had ocean views from my window, and whenever I wanted to, I could fly anywhere in the world. “What would I buy? What if…?” It was fun, but I do this hardly ever. Money and love aren’t what stand at the edge of my thoughts always looking in.
I’ve dreamed of riding elephants in India – sure. Publishing novels – always. Meeting a man who would love me flaws in all – it’s happened. But more often, I wish for what I want to be.
One of my first wishes was to be a surfer. From an early age, I watched movies like Gidget and Blue Hawaii with a longing. I wanted to marry the browned and oiled Elvis Presley, and resolved to become a far better surfer than Gidget. Some of my favorite smells are lighter fluid and barbecue coals and the sweet, coconutish smell of surf wax. I feel at home near palm trees – their profiles reeking of classic California. Few things make me happier than dolphin fins cutting through green water, or a seal who looks at me quizzically and unafraid.
So when you ask yourself the question, “What makes me me?,” you’re tempted to think about things like this. Hobbies, values, goals, and beliefs. But all of these things change. The goals you have now will not be the same goals you have in ten years. Your values shift, and the face you look at now will be almost unrecognizable to you in thirty. But what about your destiny? Your purpose? I think those particular wishes are the truest, and they sail along like ships on your horizon. They were in sight in the beginning and they won’t go away until you die. For some of us, the wishes will come in from the sea, and we’ll get to hold them. Taste them and see what happens when we break them open. For others, our wishes will never come true because we’re too afraid, too slothful or whatever, to get a hold of them. That scares me. And no matter how bad I may be – how poorly I string sentences together – I think I have always been a writer. For me, the meaning of life has always been in the rhythms of words and sentences. Stories have always been my greatest comfort, and it’s been more than a hobby or a like. It’s always teetered more towards an obsession.
These wants we have, these most important ones, there’s something otherworldly about them. While everything else about us changes – as our skin begins to sag or we move from one heartbreak to another – these dreams continue to call to us. It’s really hard to listen to them, because oftentimes they sound insane, but I think ultimately it’s harder not to listen to them.
I think we’re meant to triumph. We’re meant to do heroic, amazing things, but we fall down so much and the odds stack against us, so often we’re too afraid to even try. But if I had a daughter, I would tell her some things. I would tell her to go with whatever she loved the most no matter how impractical it might seem. I would tell her to believe in herself because you can’t make a dream come true otherwise. And if you love a thing, really love it, you’ll be good at it eventually. Maybe not at first, but if you keep practicing, keep trying, you will be. We always have to practice, all of us do, and you always have to work hard. I would tell her to embrace the unknown and try to feel safe in it, because uncertainty never leaves you. And for her heartbreaks, I’d give her chocolate and hugs, and tell her she would not always feel that way. And when I asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would know her answer was the right one, and I’d try to guide her towards her answer. I’d tried to make sure she didn’t give up on her dream.
Life is so short, and I just don’t want to be that person who watches my wishes sail by. So I pray for courage all the time to try and make my wishes come true. So that’s what I wish for. What do you wish for?