January 2, 2014

A Dream Lesson

“The only things in this life that you really regret are the risks you didn’t take. And God knows if you see a chance to be happy, you grab it with both hands and to hell with the consequences.” -John Gustafson Jr., Grumpy Old Men

I am someone who typically remembers at least one or two of my dreams on any given night. Most of the time they are silly and forgettable. Last night’s dream wasn’t one of those. It was the kind of dream that wakes you up, makes you feel different, makes it hard to fall back asleep; the kind that is so vivid and feels so real you actually have to adjust back to reality. It’s been over 12 hours since I woke up this morning and I still haven’t completely shaken the emotions I experienced in my dream last night.

Perhaps I’ve been watching too many shows like Walking Dead and movies like World War Z, but last night I dreamed there was an apocalypse (and no, it wasn’t zombies) which left me faced with a difficult decision: I could choose to stay and receive immunity from this apocalypse and live a guaranteed 20 more years and 20 years only, or I could take a space shuttle to an unknown world and live a full life. The catch though was this shuttle was leaving in 15 minutes which meant I had to make a very quick decision.

In my dream I chose to go for the longer life in the new world knowing it meant leaving behind people who stayed and the only life I’d known. Because I had to get to the shuttle across town, this gave me about four minutes to wrap up my existing life as there was no turning back. The first thing I did was free my cats and my parent’s dog so they could have a chance of survival. Then I scurried through my house and immediately grabbed my favorite blanket and the external hard drive that contains all of my music, photos, videos and memories of my life. That was it. I said a quick but very emotional goodbye to my loved ones who chose to stay, and then in a panic, darted across town with my few belongings for the shuttle.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how this dream ended because I don’t know, I woke up. What I can tell you is the emotions I experienced in those 15 dream minutes (which seemed like an eternity) were so real that my heart was still aching well after I woke up. The fear of what the new world was like and the gut-wrenching sadness I felt leaving my whole life behind was overwhelmingly painful and intense. There was nothing dream-like about that. It still disturbs me.

Now, you might be wondering why I just shared this nightmare. I realize it sounds absurd and strange, as most dreams do, but dreams are a window into your subconscious and can offer valuable advice and lessons. The message in this particular dream was fairly easy for me to uncover as I’ve been battling a very difficult life-altering decision for longer than I’d like to admit.

Moral of the Story

With no time to think, I chose the possibility and the unknown over what was guaranteed and comfortable. I took a huge risk, and I made that decision in a few seconds flat. With most big decisions in my life, I have the luxury of time. Often though that time is taken for granted and can prevent me from doing anything at all. The risks involved are what leave me sitting on decisions for too long. This dream was a reminder that time is precious and sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, make a decision, go for it and hope for the best. Even if the result is not what you hoped, some things are worth failure and some mistakes are worth making.

Having choices is a privilege not everyone gets. Even when they aren’t fun ones to make and even if we make the wrong choice, at least we get to choose. But sitting on decisions, whatever they are, can also be a waste of precious time. Take a risk if you have to and own your decision with no regrets. Give it all you got and don’t look back. Even wrong decisions usually end up being good ones in some way or another. And who knows, you might just make the right one too.

My dream got me wondering if the riskiest part of taking risks is really the time you waste deciding whether or not you’re going to take them.