In the waking world, I have two beautiful sisters who are both blonde. But in the dream, my sister was a lovely brunette, a talented architect . . . and the building on which she was working collapsed and killed her. My dream-self was devastated, and wanted to honor her in some way. Someone—maybe her ghost, maybe one of those wise voices that sometimes show up in dreams—told me to finish the building for her, but I was afraid. It had killed her. What if it destroyed me, too?
“You have to build what you fear.” That’s the line that echoed in my mind when I awoke. I knew it was true. Or maybe it would be better to say I knew it was a True Dream, one of those occasions when the deeper mind speaks and the night visions are more than just a reflection of gut-level urges and fears. Still, I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m afraid a lot of the time, or at least anxious. I felt like I was building in fear all the damn time.
But that’s not what the voice in my dream meant, though it’s taken a few years to understand. Trying to construct a career or a life out of fear is not the same thing as building what you fear. Here’s the thing: I’m afraid of being invisible. Forgotten. The only thing worse than a bad review is no review at all. In some ways, it’s a great time to want a career in the arts. Changes have made it possible to reach audiences in ways that were never possible before. The flip side of that being a world so crowded with writers and artists waving their creations, so full of a cacophony of voices—many of them very good—that it’s almost impossible for any one person to make themselves visible.
One blink, and you’ve disappeared.
At least, that’s the new narrative. You’ve got to put yourself out there, create content, connect . . . constantly. Any lapse invites vanishment. Silence is failure.
That pace has been crushing for me, though, especially because there’s no payoff, no point of ‘enough.’ Interacting with people always makes me feel like a foreigner trying to learn strange customs, and I never seem to get it right. Now I’m exhausted. All I have left is the rubble of who I thought I was.
You have to build what you fear.
So this is what I fear: Being invisible. Being forgotten. I’ve fought that all my life, tried to move faster than obscurity, and only recently have I realized I can never outrun it. So much of what we are, is fleeting and fragile, a brown leaf curling in the wind, and gone. I can waste my life trying to escape that—trying, in essence, to escape myself—or I can take a step to the side and really examine what’s going on. I’m not sure what will happen if I stop grasping, but I want to believe that at that moment, I will begin to build.