on the radio

If you want to learn something, or confirm something, about someone you’re chatting with, tell them your dream.

A dream says a lot about the dreamer, sure, but the response to a dream tips the hand just as much. An entire world waits inside.

Take moving to Los Angeles, for example. I’ve wanted to go West since I sat watching cartoons with a bowl of softening cereal, wondering why, exactly, does Bugs Bunny always make that wrong turn at Albuquerque? It’s a long-held dream, warm and smooth from decades of handling.

So when it got a timeline and a budget, and I got resolve, I began pulling it from my pocket to share with people. I thought they’d see what I saw, but things went the other way ’round.

I found my west coast pals loved the idea of being 2500 miles closer, even if we’re still so far apart we’d rarely meet. At least we’re in the same time zone!

And some folks think it sounds like so. Much. Fun! Do I need a contact out there? They have a cousin/sister/brother/nephew/in-law/friend/college roommate who can steer me to good neighborhoods and great food!

And then there’s everyone else.

People so topped up with fear that their first thoughts, or at least their first words, are of—

How expensive it is to live over there,
How I’ll be far away from my family over there,
How much trouble it will be to move our belongings over there,
How dreadful the job market is over there,
How all the people are so fake over there,
How it’s not all bright lights and sunshine over there,
How it’s all about the entertainment industry over there,
How nuclear reactors are located on critical fault lines over there, and
Ohmigod, how can I think of living somewhere with earthquakes?! They’re on schedule for another Big One, ya know, and the entire coast is gonna fall into the ocean, ya know…

I’ve stopped being surprised. I just smile and nod and wait. It’s not like I’ll heed their worries—I have my own, thanks! It’s not like their response is about me, anyway. It’s not like it’ll take long to find out what it actually is about.

Because typically what comes next is a conversational switchback where they offer something like: “Well, I mean, there must be somewhere closer/cheaper/easier/nicer/safer…?”

And there it is. A fear so oversaturated it spatters on other people in everyday conversation—

Loss of connection.
Lack of intimacy.
Going broke.
Being broke.
Wasted effort.
A hostile, deceptive world.
Untimely death.
Unavoidable disaster.

They’re good people, I know. The best. They’re kind to alert me to dangers I apparently haven’t considered and offer alternatives to problems that, to my mind, don’t need solving.

And so I just stand there nodding and smiling…and wondering.

I wonder what they’ve missed out on in the past, what they’ll miss out on in the future, what they’re missing out on even now, because of their fear radio.

We’re here all day and all night at WFER! No commercial interruptions. All day. All night. Don’t touch that dial…stay tuned and turn it waaaayyyy UP!

I wonder what disappointments and obstacles they’ve faced. Which of their dreams have been destroyed, disdained, or deferred. I wonder what they’re saving themselves for. Or from.

I wonder if they’ve wondered, as I have, if a life closely held until it’s gone stale is worth protecting.

And then I point the conversation somewhere else. Somewhere close and easy. Somewhere nice and safe. Somewhere less expensive.

Because surely I’m reading too much into it. Surely.

But then I think about my varied responses when folks have shared their dreams with me. And I compare the lives and lifestyles of those who warn me off with those who wish me well.

And I wonder.

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