Some time around the age of 8 or 9 years old, I got my hands on a Walkman and became addicted to listening to music before bed.  And while I know I haven’t listened to music every night before bed since, there are certainly periods that I go through that I find myself really fixated on playing music before bed.  I’m in one of those periods now—where every night in order to fall asleep I need something in my ears.

It makes for interesting dreams, at least sometimes.  But the notion of dreams—and specifically, what 8- or 9-year-old Jake might have dreamt about (you know, aside from those recurring nightmares of giant bugs), has really been in my brain lately.  The title of this blog comes from a song title by the group A Great Big World.  The lyric goes, “…When I was a boy, I had a dream…And radio waves kept me company, In those beautiful days when there was no money.”  There’s a sort of idyllic tendency to think about the innocence of childhood, reminding yourself (or perhaps your children) how much easier it is to be a kid—likely because there’s no need to worry about the stressors that we face every day.

And I’ve said before, in one of my very first posts on this blog over 4 years ago, it isn’t actually easier to be a kid.  It’s different, sure, but as my friends and family constantly remind me, discounting your experience in favor of someone else’s, merely because you think their experience “worse,” actually has the effect of demeaning your own experience.  And that’s something that we simply shouldn’t do—since our experience is so important to who we become.

But in reality, when I was listening to Journey, or Shania Twain, or Bon Jovi—I didn’t just stare off in to space, drift into sleep, without any specific dreams in my head.  I remember very specifically thinking about love, and having someone I could one day be close to (side note—that one stuck with me and became a very prevalent night-time thought ritual throughout much of my teenage years).  I also thought about being a grown up, and all the really cool things I would get to do if I were an adult (another side note—I still dream about growing up one day).

But, much like popular movies and music point out, I’m not convinced that if 9-year-old Jake were to interview 32-year-old Jake, that describing the reality of what it means to be an adult would really land.  And, also like the movies and music point out, I don’t know that 9-year-old Jake would be very happy with how he would one day turn out.

Keep in mind, this is certainly not intended to be negative at all.  Shit is hard (preach!).  I have all these great things going on in my life—a wife and kids whom I adore (and I think kind of like me back), a phenomenal job with good opportunity, an actual career that I don’t mind sharing with others without breaking eye contact, and a strong faith in a God who has afforded me so many great things regardless of whether or not I’m worthy of His gifts—I still manage to have panic attacks on the regular about stuff that I really have no business worrying about.  And I’m not happy, basically all the time.

When I spend time with my friends and family, I struggle to let go of all these things.  On the rare occasion, I am free from it and can be “in the moment.”  But more often than not, I spend time observing other people being happy, wondering what it is they have that I don’t.  I don’t think it’s envy, that’s not quite it—because I know everyone has their own bucket of crazy that they carry around with them.  The guy at the restaurant, sitting with his buddy at the bar—maybe he and his wife just split up and may not make it through.  The folks at the table behind me, who are all laughing uncontrollably loud—maybe they just came from a funeral of a very close friend or relative.  The server, chipper as she may be—maybe she is at the end of her shift, on her second job, trying to get home to see her kids before bed, not sure if she’s going to be able to pay for this week’s groceries.

There’s so much sad in the world, I know it’s there, and it consumes me even if I’m myself not really sad about the stuff in my life.  These scenarios that I create in my head, stories of the struggles of others, deter me from being able to concentrate on what is most important in my life.  And it really, really sucks.  What sucks more is, in spite of all that hurt and pain and sad that other people are dealing with, they can still go out to eat with friends and have a good time.  For some reason that I haven’t figured out, that’s not something that’s been in the cards for me over the last year and a half, and it weighs on me some days worse than others.

“Jake, you should go to counseling,” you might say.  Maybe some day.  I have to grow up a bit in my own mind before I accept that’s the direction I need to go.  Like they say, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.  I do have outlets—through prayer, through conversation with my wife, and through the occasional on-the-way-to-work-sob-session.  Those are getting me through for now.

I find myself pondering, on the days that are worse than others, what I want to be when I grow up.  In a lot of ways, I am exactly who I wanted to be when I was 9—I wanted to have someone close to me, and I wanted to be an adult (insert smart-ass comment here).  I guess it’s good that my younger counterpart set the bar so low; I don’t have the money to be a doctor or an astronaut.  But I also hope that whoever I am 21 years from now, that the me of today would be proud of that.

I’ve tried to focus these last couple weeks on the things that I think make me happy—and worry less about the things that I know I can’t control.  Maybe that means I blog more/again, who knows.  But if I did get that interview with 9-year-old Jake, I wonder what I would tell him.  Now that I think about it, my daughter is 8, perhaps the same age I was when I started having these ‘dreams’.  What would I tell her?

This is something that, for me, is turning into an apparently life-long quest.  No quick answers on this one, I’m afraid.  While my quasi-philosophical blogs tend to usually provide some sort of constructive approach to a thing, sad to say, this is not going to be one of those kind of blogs.

As always, I appreciate you going on this journey with me.  I realize it has been over 6 months since I posted; there’s been a lot of stuff (obviously) going on in my head.  Sorry if it wasn’t a great read, I’m a bit out of practice.  Hopefully I can bring some more rambling to you again soon.

Thanks for reading.  Be well, and stay tuned.