For as long as I can remember, I've had a sort of thread running in the CPU of my brain, monitoring my activities and recording things the way one might assemble a documentary. Sometimes this thread focuses on the mundane: "Here we see a sickly-looking specimen of Apoch brushing his teeth." Every now and then it gets presumptuous and starts interviewing other parts of my mind, constructing entire timelines of my life, and all the grand things I imagine I might do. It's a sort of biographer, talking to the future me at the end of my time, discussing all that happened and what I think about it - except that none of it has happened yet.
Maybe none of it ever will.
I imagine that many people have aspirations of greatness. It seems a deeply vital part of human society for someone to want to reach beyond, to look at what might be, and to make it so. These are the people that brought us fire, iron tools, and the Internet. These are the people that move us from a grunting herd of barbaric animals into a realm of suits, ties, and power lunches. These are the people who are history.
The term "youthful idealism" is not foreign to me. I think I have a particularly large dose of it, at least by comparison to many of my peers. I'm the annoying guy that always walks into a room and finds five things that could be done better. I'm the one that talks all that boring, level-headed nonsense about planning for the future while everyone else is having a grand old time getting drunk at the party of the week. I literally devote more of my time to figuring out the long-term career effects of my sleeping habits than figuring out what to eat, what to wear, and what to do on Friday night. Hell, on Friday nights I usually read a book.
Aspirations are not really great conversation pieces. They don't make one interesting at parties. Sometimes it seems like aspirations don't do a whole lot besides get in the way and waste a lot of time that could be spent doing stuff. And yet they stubbornly hang on, refusing to submit to the cold realities of practical daily life.
How is it, then, that one can aspire for so long, and wake up to discover that only aspiration has happened, and no accomplishment? How is it that this awakening can occur on a regular basis, even daily, and yet the problem is never cured? These aspirations are grand. These are the sorts of dreams that form history, change the world, utterly reshape the way people think of life. Very few people are priviledged with playing such a role, and yet I seem to expect no less of myself.
Some might talk of destiny, of things meant to be, of what a life should involve. These things hold no answers. It is foolish to spend a lifetime thinking intently on what is meant to be, and then slip off into the sleep of death with the sad realization that it never was. What could be a worse torment, than to aspire for so long, and fail to do?
Maybe some things are meant to be. I do not see nearly enough of the flow of reality to answer that question. But I do know that there is more than just meant to be, more than daydreams and aspirations and Time articles in the imagination. The true shapers of things did not merely aspire; indeed, many aspire, and yet never accomplish. To cross over into the realm of real deeds requires much more than mere vision, mere ambition, mere desire. Action is not a simple thought, nor an easy successor to careful planning.
I have no lack of aspiration. Some might even call it egomania, a narcissistic self-obsession, an arrogance. They may be right. I do not fear either lack or excess of ambition; for my purposes, I have the sufficient quantity, and that is comfort enough. I am not concerned with "failure" as it might be called; to aspire, and strive, and yet not meet the expectations of one's dream. Expectations are easy to inflate; reality is not so willing. To simply fall short of expectation is no failure, no loss, no shame. I fear none of this; it does not cost me sleep, nor haunt my thoughts.
I fear only that I may lack that unnamed quantity which moves a person to attempt any action at all. To dream, and be consumed by a dream, and then awaken - this is a harsh shock, a jolt of pain that lingers and aches. I fear awakening from the dreams of my life to find that they never came to be.