5 Things 16-Year-Old Me Dreamed, As Though Life Were a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book With Unlimited Do-Overs
As a teenager, I loved to envision myself as the tragic hero. I couldn't just be tragic, though. I had to be some kind of misunderstood virtuoso who, for a number of reasons for which I was never responsible, could not enjoy the world's adoration of my various gifts.
Each of the following five things I dreamed about accomplishing when I was 16 are also excellent cautionary illustrations of the dangers involved in achieving one's dreams if those dreams happen to be particularly dramatic and ridiculous. I don't think these are the kinds of things people had in mind when they told me to achieve all my dreams at high school graduation.
- I get my PhD in English Literature and become an inspiration to young, aspiring scholars everywhere. The greatest novelists and poets of a generation arise from my tutelage, and decades later books and movies commemorate my contribution to world literature and a movement of thought that would change the course of history.
- I become a dramatically thin but beautiful heroin addict who possesses a staggering wealth of creative talent, albeit thwarted by insoluble inner turmoil. I succumb too soon to the ravages of addiction and a consuming ability that has overwhelmed my all too human core. I am mourned by millions who annually keep vigil by candlelight in an effort to keep the memory of my small but deeply moving body of work alive.
- Both of my parents die in a fiery car accident, and I am falsely accused of tampering with their car's brakes and found guilty of murder. I am sentenced to a life of solitary confinement, and after years of honing a skillful and haunting singing voice, my only human tool for expression and comfort, the prison guards secretly record my music, unwilling to keep such a gift from the world. Bootleg tapes of my rarified talent are eventually passed around the globe, and, although I become wildly famous, I will neither profit from my gift nor ever learn of my fame from within my small, isolated cell, where I live out my days unaware of the millions who speak my name.
- My first and only boyfriend and I choose to lose our virginities together, but our love story is cut down just as it has begun when he dies violently that same night after being hit by a drunk driver. His family never learns of the child our beautiful but brief love creates, because I am sent away by my family to bear the child at a nunnery in secret, and it is taken from me at birth to be adopted by strangers. Devastated at the loss of everyone I have ever truly loved, I choose to join the order and take a vow of silence in an effort to steel my heart against loving again.
- A friend needs a heart transplant, and we somehow discover that mine would be a perfect match if only it were possible for me to donate. In a passionate act of altruism, I commit suicide in the hospital parking lot, making sure that I am found when it is too late to save me but not so late that my heart has already completely stopped. My friend witnesses the staff carrying my nearly lifeless body into the hospital and knows that he is saved, that I have made the greatest sacrifice so that he can go on, and that, even though I must die for him to live, I, too, will live on through him.
I still sometimes lie awake at night and imagine myself doing incredible things, only now when I imagine myself doing incredible things, I actually get to enjoy my fame without death, isolation, and addiction. This is good, because when I become the oldest gymnast to medal in the Olympics or lead the new human revolution with my bouzouki folk song stylings, I will totally enjoy the accolades and devotion without dying prematurely or locking myself away in a mountain convent.