A classmate from Floyd County High School in the 60s dropped by the studio last week to visit and talk about the old days. During our conversation, she asked:
You and I both had big dreams and big ambitions back then. We both wanted to travel and see the world. We wanted to make a difference Did your dreams come true?
We both had a lot of dreams back then. After school, we would drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in my ’57 Ford and find a secluded spot to explore our hormonal urges. Afterward, we would discuss our dreams.
We talked of seeing the world, of witnessing history and "making a difference." I wanted to be a journalist, reporting stories with camera and words. She talked of becoming a stewardess, a far more glamorous job in those days and one that would open the door for travel to far away places.
I wanted out of Floyd County so bad that I went to summer school and took a full course load without study hall to graduate a year early. In 1965, I packed everything I owned into that ’57 Ford and left. She stayed, married her boyfriend and started a family. Last week, 44 years later, we talked again about those dreams.
I answered her question:
Yes, most of my dreams have come true. I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my life doing exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve been to every state in this country and every continent on Earth. I’ve reported on history as a journalist and have been part of it as a staff member for Congress. I’ve been blessed with a good life and a loving wife. What about you?
She thought for a moment. I could tell she was searching for words.
Yes, and no. I’ve got a wonderful husband, great kids and a good life. We’ve built a good home here. I can’t complain. I shouldn’t complain. I won’t complain. I have no right to complain. We talked about traveling after the kids were grown and when we retired but our retirement accounts are trash now because of the economy. I guess we will finish out our lives here. I regret not seeing the world. That is an unfulfilled dream.
She left and I thought about dreams and realities. Many of my classmates at Floyd County High School married their high school sweethearts. Most remain married to them. Some never dated another person or left the county to experience life in another city, another state or even another country. Two friends from high school decided in elementary school that they were destined to marry. Neither ever dated another person. They married right after high school and remain married today. They have visited North Carolina and West Virginia but never traveled any further from Virginia and say they have no desire to ever see any more of the country or the world.
I cannot, and will not, fault those who chose to stay and make their homes and lives here. Many I’ve talked to are happy. Their lives center around children, home and church. They live full lives.
Most of us had dreams as kids. We talk at length of the things we want to do, the places we want to see and the directions we want our lives to take. Some of us are lucky enough to do what we wanted and live out those dreams. Others find happiness in something that never figured into their plans. Our lives take uncharted directions along roads that lead to new challenges, new dreams and new challenges never considered.
Yet, to some, I see longing, a sadness for dreams unfulfilled, goals unattained and expectations unmet. Life took a wrong turn somewhere and they never found themselves back on their planned route.
During his campaign for the Presidency in 1968, a campaign cut short by assassination, Robert F. Kennedy borrowed this thought from British playwright George Bernard Shaw:
Some men see things as they are and ask "why?" I dream dreams that never were and ask "why not?"
Let’s hope none of us ever stop dreaming. Let’s hope we never stop chasing those dreams either.
(WRITER’S NOTE: The subject of this article reviewed it before publication. She asked for some changes which I made. I would not have been written or published without her permission.)