I’ve felt so small in the context of all of the world’s chaos lately. It’s been suffocating and crushing and exhausting. It’s caused me to doubt the value in everything I do for weeks. I’ve talked to friends about it, written extensively about it, and tried so hard to shake it off.
The dream I had last night was the thing that finally shook it all out of me. I was on a plane that had to make a rough emergency landing in some random, backwater, quiet part of a country I’m not familiar with. Everyone was fine, but I felt very anxious just standing around waiting for everything to get worked out, so while we waited for help to come I went for a walk around a nearby town.
After a few twists and turns, I ran into Anthony Bourdain.
His influence on me as a storyteller is something I’ve brought up many times in the past, so I’ll skip that part, but it’s important to know that he’s one of my top three influences as a storyteller.
He was alone, watching some people cook from a distance. He seemed to be waiting for someone, so I struck up a conversation with him.
I asked him why he decided to do all of the things he did, and why he was there by himself, and we had a full conversation about it, but the only words from the dream I could still remember when I woke up were:
“I wanted to see the world.”
To my knowledge, I never heard Anthony Bourdain say those words. I don’t recall ever looking up any quotes by him, even though I’ve watched a lot of him over the years. But I felt weird enough about telling this story, so attributing a quote from a dream to someone who’s no longer with us would’ve been weirder.
It stuck out in my mind and while I was thinking about whether or not I was even going to write any of this, I did a Google search to see what would come up. This quote, from a book he wrote that I haven’t read, was the first thing:
“I wanted to see the world — and I wanted the world to be just like the movies.”
The dream itself was beautiful and detailed, and I feel like I noticed some things about the world and about myself in a way I’ve never been prompted to notice them before.
I’ve been sharing a lot more lately about how politically charged or selfishly motivated stories around us take far more than they give, discourage me, and make me feel bitter, cynical, and fed up with everything.
But those stories are small stories that fit into the smallest places, physically and mentally, compared to the world itself and all of the awe-inspiring things there are to say about it and the people who live in it.
In my dream, in the middle of nowhere, I noticed how small I am in the context of the world, and all of the serendipity happening in it every day. The fact that I’m able to stay alive in the midst of so much going on all the time, and to observe so many amazing things every single day I am alive, is what makes the world so awe-inspiring to me.
And feeling — in my dream — the way my own anxiety shrinks away in the presence of my awe, actually made me notice that my anxiety about the world also expands to fill whatever space I’m not actively filling with awe about the world, the people, the serendipity.
When I think about my life as a storyteller — rather than as someone with too many things to get done, or someone who’s behind, or someone who’s overwhelmed by negativity — I see a version of myself that I like and a life I can be very happy about living, even in the bad times.
I think it’s pretty remarkable that my brain, currently an endpoint of millions of years of evolution and survival, managed to cobble together something so deeply meaningful to me while I was asleep.
It’s a rare insight into myself, that made me notice that in the good times and the bad times, I’m always going to be wired exactly the same way — to absorb as much of the world around me as I can, and then tell stories about it that help people understand why it’s all so beautiful.
I just want to see the world — and then I want to share it with everyone.
Joseph Rooks is the founder and guiding hand of Lexicontent, where he helps business owners tell their stories, share their passions, build communities, and make it easier for people to find their work. He’s also the host of Prolific, a collection of conversations with creative people about what compels them to make the things they do, and how they deal with fear, uncertainty, and doubt along the way.
Image courtesy of Kylo.