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 both a storyteller and a human being is something I talk a lot about, but that's a story for another time. For now, it's just important to know that his voice mattered, and still matters, to me. His perspective and the work that comes out of it have had a profound impact on the way I see the world, and myself.
In my dream, he was sitting alone, watching some people cook from a distance. He seemed to be waiting for someone.
I struck up a conversation with him. I asked him what led him to create the things he created, and why he was there by himself. We had what felt like a very full conversation about it, one that left me with the kind of feeling I imagine I'd have if I'd ever been able to talk to him in person in the rela world. But the only words from the dream I could still remember when I woke up were:
"I wanted to see the world."
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 for the phrase to see what would come up – something I do a lot when I want to see if others have had the same thoughts as me.
This quote was the first result:
"I wanted to see the world — and I wanted the world to be just like the movies." – Anthony Bourdain, A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines
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. Surely, I must have picked it up from somewhere – or else the world is a more magical place than the evidence suggests.
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 else.