Who Are We… Really??
Ever wonder how your life would’ve worked out if you’d been able to become
the person you wanted to be when you were young? I’m guessing that only
a few of us were actually able to live our dream, and just so you know, I’m not
one of them.
Many of us guys wanted to be heroes of some kind, adventurers. ball players,
war heroes, pilots, sea captains… some of us wanted to be all those things.
I wanted to be a jet pilot, right up to my sophomore year, when my advisor
Told me, “Sorry, Steve. Your eyesight is bad and you don’t have any math
skills. “ Well damn! Okay, I countered, but could I be a navigator maybe, or
a flight engineer??”
“The math skills…” and that was that. Never lost my love of flying, however.
I’ve flown in commercial planes, small planes, seaplanes and helicopters. And
I have a great flight simulator… my favorite thing is flying a DC-3 through
the Aleutian Islands in a snowstorm.
I’ve been looking into this idea of “what we might have been” for awhile now.
It’s fascinating to me, partly because it’s so damned subjective, and partly
because we can’t, for the most part, even begin to guess how our lives would
have turned out if we could have realized our dream vocation.
Several years ago I talked with a guy who had been a pilot with Pan Am for
years. I told him how romantic and exciting flying has always been for me,
and asked him if it were that way for him also. “Hell no,” he winced. “There’s
nothing romantic about it. You spend all your time up there monitoring gauges
and aircraft functions. What it is, is boring, for the most part.”
I was stunned. “But what about all the things you get to see from up there, all
the beautiful views, the cloud formations, the mountain ranges…?”
He shook his head. “Mountain ranges?? I flew San Fransisco to Tokyo for years,
nothing but ocean. Besides, you get used to all that. And you don’t really
see all that much. Like I said, you’re scanning the display and the gauges.”
Well, crap. Not what I expected at all! My life as a musician was WAY more
exciting than that…
After 40 years of city life, I had dreamed of returning to my childhood home in
Montana, with the idea of becoming, perhaps, a mountain man. After getting
settled in, I quickly realized that becoming a for-real mountain man was hard,
and that I probably should have started 40 years sooner. It was another of those
romantic life styles that wasn’t romantic at all in reality. Yes, I could catch fish,
bring them home and fry them up over a fire. Yes, I could cut wood and bring it
home for warmth in the winter. But shoot deer & elk for winter meat? Skin it
and butcher it myself? Trap small, furry critters for a living?? Not gonna happen.
Then there was the sea captain thing. I always thought that Gregory Peck had
the perfect “sea captain” look about him. He even played Captain Ahab in the
movie “Moby Dick,” but my favorite was his part in Captain Horatio Hornblower.
Simply put, I wanted to be him. Actually still do, in a vicarious sort of way. As it
turned out, I wouldn’t have been a sea captain either, as math skills, once again,
were my nemesis.
Which is weird, in a way, as the music school I attended (Berklee College of
Music) teaches music composition with math. The first day I learned that we
were writing music and playing it using math, with base 12 (or the duodecimal
system) I nearly passed out. There must be a medical term for fear of math…
I know there is “arithmophobia, the fear of numbers.” Yet strangely, the same
math fears and inabilities that kept me from being a pilot or a sea captain seem
to have served me very well in music.
Most of us have probably dreamed of being adventurers of one sort or another,
and those dreams can tell us a lot about our ‘real’ selves, perhaps more than
we might want to share with others. But let’s make me the lab rat on this, okay?
It seems we have a (fairly) normal guy who would’ve been a pilot, sea captain,
mountain man, except for the requirements needed for each, which he wasn’t
able to meet. So who is this guy… really? A realist? No, no no no. What we
have here is a dreamer, a hopeless romantic, an irrational, narcissistic
purveyor of unrealistic expectations for himself. Is that a bad thing? Well, no,
not as long as he doesn’t start trying to convince others that he *is* who he
dreams of being. He might, however, think that if he acts and lives “as if”
long enough, he might actually manifest some of those dreams into his
daily reality. As much as I hate to drop this on him, I have to say, “Eh, probably
not, pal… ‘fraid you’re stuck with who you really are.” — whoever that is…
Let’s look at how the mind medics explain all this…
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a condition that is defined by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
• Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g.., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
• Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
• Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
• And here I have to ask, what the hell is wrong with all that? I sleep
great at night, imagining how wonderful and successful I might have been…
Okay, enough of that. What we’re dealing with here is an obvious failure to
edit properly. The truth of all this, for me personally, is that my career in music
has taken me to some fantastic intangible places, and some pretty cool tangible ones. I feel I have flown the friendly skies of jazz, sailed the vast seas of arranging,
orchestration and film scoring, and climbed the high peaks of emotions and colors
in my music. And that, for whatever it’s worth, sustains me nicely.
Life isn’t easy, (duh) and if you’re able to be happy, healthy and productive,
then you’re already ahead of the game… already successful. And if you weren’t able to realize your youthful dreams, as most of us weren’t, then simply let your imagination fly occasionally and be who you might have been. I highly recommend it.