August 24, 2012

I have had four recurring dreams in my life: two that played out in exactly the same way with the same characters and images, and two that have recurred in theme only. Of the former, both are from childhood. In one, I climb onto my dadís armchair and slowly lean out into space, giving my weight to the air, and begin to fly. In the other, I am in my car seat when my dad stops to put gas in the car. My parents and my sister get out to stretch, and the car takes off, driving on its own. In the dream, I have to hurriedly clamber out of my car seat and into the driverís seat as the world blurs by. The other two dreams are both from adulthood. In one, I discover that I have not actually graduated from high school, and have to go back to complete several math requirements. It is the fourth dream, however, that I want to write about here, in greater detail.

In this dream, I find hidden rooms in my house. Sometimes the house is the one that I currently inhabit, and sometimes it is a dream-house, bigger or smaller or changed in style or age. I love this dream, as it always has the air of whimsical mystery, of delightful and bewildered discovery. In one iteration, I come across a secret door, and it leads me up a grand staircase, decrepit with age and cobwebs. When I get to the top of the staircase, I have to cross a great room, mindful of the missing and broken floorboards. And then I walk into an entire new wing, with every room holding different enchantments. In another iteration, I walk around the back of my house and find an entryway I didnít know existed. Through the entryway is an enormous and dusty kitchen, worn butcher blocks and metal piping, exposed wiring and chipped paint. Beyond the kitchen is a brick courtyard covered entirely in ivy. In yet another iteration, I find a nursery and adjoined dressing room that has not been inhabited since the 1920ís, and I spend time marveling at the old childrenís books and toys, holding up the tiny clothing to the sunlight streaming through the old windows, running my hand over cotton and silk dresses, tracing my finger through the dust of a dark wood armoire. In all of these dreams, the rooms are usually in a marvelous and beautiful state of disrepair, and they are often accessed by a secret doorway or staircase or entryway of sorts. And ó perhaps most significantly ó I almost always have the vague feeling that I had once known about the rooms, but had forgotten their existence.

Iíll come back to the dream in a moment.

I am on my way to a two-month solo journey through Europe. I begin in London and continue to Paris, Lisbon, southern Portugal, Barcelona, and Rome, concluding the adventure in Athens. I decided to take this trip for several reasons. First and foremost, I decided several months ago that I needed to embrace my singleness by taking advantage of the available opportunities. With few tethers, now is the perfect time to travel. I do not have a partner, I do not have children. I make my own hours with work. I am young and healthy and unencumbered. Now is excellent time to adventure. The second reason I am traveling ó and the more important one ó is that travel brings me closer to my truest self. With no obligations or commitments and without the moors of everyday life, I am better able to inhabit a purer worldview and sense of self. I am able to experience my environment and myself with eyes wide open.

The past two years have been an epic emotional journey. I parted ways with my partner of almost a decade in 2010, a separation that was not fully my choice. The rug was swept out from under me and I was left breathless and bare and hurting. I know this happens to many people, but this was my tragedy, my heartbreak, and I was swept up in it completely. And so, aside from the freedom that being single brings, it is now more important than ever that I reunite with my true self and spend some quality time with her. I spent so long tamping things down and pushing things aside and bringing things up and coping and dealing and doubting and grieving and quietly raging that I forgot what it was like to just be a person in the world, seeing and breathing and sensing and wondering.

I have of course had many moments of clarity and glimpses of the sublime as a result of this huge life change. It hasnít all been low; far from it. In fact, I feel like the past two years have been filled with more epiphanies than perhaps even my adolescence. But traveling has helped me more than anything; it is the best reminder, jumpstarter, subconscious cue, fast track to stripping everything away. I am much better able to just be that person in the world, seeing and breathing and sensing and wondering. Itís a familiar trope ó the heroís journey ó where the hero goes out to search for something only to find that it was within him all along. And I know all this to be true, but there is a great distance between knowing and knowing. Travel serves this to bridge this gap. I step off of the plane/train/bus and not only remember, but know it all at the very core of my being. It all feels so new and exciting and mystical, and I am humbled when I remember it was there all along.

Which is, I believe, what my dream is telling me.

Not only do I find the hidden rooms, not only am I elated with the mystery and fortune of it all, but I eventually realize that I knew those rooms were there, and had merely forgotten.

So much about ďgrowing upĒ is about forgetting. We forget to be, to feel, to access all parts of ourselves, and to wonder in the most active sense of the word. We forget about the parts of ourselves that are filled with whimsy, with possibility, with adventure. They fall into disrepair and a thin layer of dust settles over it all. When I think too much about it, I am prone to sadness and regret, grieving the time I have spent away from these rooms, bemoaning the fact that I forgot about their very existence. But I have to remember that ó in the dream ó I have none of these feelings; I am instead delighted and bewildered and filled with electricity. Because I am given the gift of discovering the rooms all over again.

It is my hope, then, that these next two months will be just as much a journey within as without. Just as much an exploration of the forgotten rooms within me as it is of cathedrals and castles and coliseums.

I land in London at 11am, and I am so excited to get started I almost canít stand it. I wish I didnít have to sleep. But to sleep is to dream, and dreaming seems to be important to me right now. Iíll see how long I can make it before passing out.