What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
– ‘Harlem’ by Langston Hughes
I remember reading those words as a young kid and thinking, “Wow. That sounds awful. A life without living your dreams? How horrible.” I read them again at age 36 and thought, “Tell me about it.” True, I have no idea about what living in the crime ridden Harlem of Hughes’ poem is like but I certainly knew a thing or two about deferring my dreams. The fact is I buried my dreams for a long, long time. Sure it sounds terrible but you’d bury your dreams too if you were me. It’s because my relationship was bad. It’s because my childhood was tough. It’s because I don’t look like a model or come from a celebrity family or own a Mercedes. Actually, it was because I was high and drunk for a couple of decades and when reality slips away from you for that long, your dreams are the first things to go. It’s insane how easily I let my dreams just walk out the door. Things I wanted to do since childhood just vanished and I let them go without a fight.
A few years into sobriety, I had what someone in recovery poetically referred to as “the country song in reverse”- you know, getting the car, the job, the wife and the dog back. And the dreams. Mainly, I got my dreams back. When I was a kid I wrote plays for my teddy bears and stories and poems and that’s all I ever wanted to do. Yesterday, I finished my second full-length play. Me the drug addict whose biggest accomplishment was finishing a case of two buck Chuck finished writing another play! One that people are going to come and see! How the hell did that happen? Frankly I have no idea. This process this time around was TOUGH. I wrestled back and forth with the plot, the dialogue, the characters. I second guessed my creativity, my sense of humor, my choices. I battled with it for nearly a year with tons of starts and stops in that time frame. Magically, a few days ago I surrendered and moved the fuck out-of-the-way. That’s when the miracles happened and here we are with a great version that will look good and hopefully make people laugh when it makes it to the stage this spring.
However, most of that is out of my control. I can’t force people to love it or pay people to laugh. Or maybe I could but I’m way too lazy to mastermind that sort of manipulation. All I know is that I delivered on what I promised, I showed up and did the work. And today, that’s what a dream looks like. It didn’t dry up or rot or get put on hold. But maybe they do explode. Maybe they blow up and set a bunch of other amazing things, hidden wishes and life-long desires in motion. I know. It sounds crazy but a guy can dream, can’t he?