The Cost of Chasing a DreamI can still remember the conversation as if it were yesterday… and even though it seems like two decades ago, it was less than two years ago, sometime in late November of 2008.
I was sitting in my beautiful sports car, outside the beautiful townhome I lived in with family in Virginia Beach, the place I’d escaped to in order to forget about all the hopelessness that had consumed me in my old Kingsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, New York in the early 90’s.
There I was speaking on the phone with my very good friend – my sister – Lynx Garcia, telling her about my plan to move back to New York City to chase all of my dreams. These dreams of mine, which seemed to be right in front of me, daring me to reach out a little bit further to meet them all up close and personal.
My marriage, according to me, had failed… and my daughters, the honor roll, competition cheerleading all-stars that they were, would be fine without me in the household. I’d help raise them to be intelligent, compassionate human beings capable of acquiring their own dreams when they found the time just right… I rationalized that even my two-year old wouldn’t miss me much, as she didn’t really know me well enough to miss me.
So my time to start chasing my dreams became right then and there. But not before Lynx spoke her peace into the phone. And although I can’t speak verbatim as to what she said that winter evening, it was something to the affect of, “Be careful my brother… you know sometimes when we find that ultimate happiness in one facet of our lives, other things in our lives begin to go wrong. We can’t have it all; the world just doesn’t work that way. There is a certain balance to life…”
Damn, she couldn’t have been more right had she been cheating by staring directly into a crystal ball.
To put it blunt… I now believe that my sister was trying to share with me a wisdom she’d learned throughout her own journey in life. And I now believe it to be true… you can’t have it all… all the time. It’s just not the true balance of life. There is a cost that must be paid in every measure of life.
Of course, I do wish that Lynx’s words wouldn’t have been so prophetic, so quickly. It would’ve been nice to have seen things collapse around me just a little bit slower than what they actually did once I touched down in the city that never sleeps in December 2008.
Because almost immediately after arriving in New York City, one day after Christmas, I saw projects failing for no apparent reason, I saw once opened doors – closing in a seemingly, “Oh shit, he really moved back to New York,” kind of fashion… I had partners tell me they no longer wanted to collaborate… But even worse, I lost close friends for reasons that I still don’t really understand to this day.
It was as if the ancestors and the universe were simultaneously trying to say, “Ivan, you done fucked up now kid…”
People I respected told me to never look back and others I respected equally told me to dig deep into my past to find the answers to my future. Confusion began to set in and I fell into a deep depression; you know the kind that Latinos don’t ever like to speak about…
The kind of depression we’re not allowed to speak about… because it weakens our position in life, or at the very least weakens the perceptions others have of us.
I stopped answering my phone for weeks and even months at a time…
I stopped communicating with the outside world and at times it even became next to impossible to pick up the phone to say goodnight to my daughters – the only reason I was even trying to hold on at that point.
For all intensive purposes I no longer existed in the real world… I was a walking shell of my former self who had given up on life as he believed it to be. I questioned if I’d come back to New York to become another statistic while Frank Sinatra’s, “If I can make it there… I’ll make it anywhere… New York,” verse played on heavy rotation in my head.
Did I really come back here to fail… to give up on life… or even worse to swan dive off the Brooklyn Bridge and die here?
Shit with my luck, I would’ve survived the dive and become a paraplegic. The thought was enough to prevent me from such a cruel fate – well that along with the vision of my little three angels.
I had to answer no to all of those negative questions burning inside of me… I had to find the will and the strength to fight my way through another day of nothingness, knowing in my heart that I’d come back to New York in search of a dream – even if it was now clouded in a nightmare I never saw coming – even if the cost had become the weight of the United States deficit to China…
Little by little I had to dig myself out of what at times was a self-imposed coffin now burying me and my dream alive.
I began working with the youth in a writing workshop, lecturing, freelance writing more often and using the radio show on Urban Latino Radio to find my voice again… my confidence, my dream.
The inspiration that so many said I was providing to them, began to find its own way back to me in return and my darkest days began to lighten up a bit. The sun was finally shining again and my focus came back to me a little bit at a time… freeing me to finally see my dreams again.
There was a great deal of people around me who were never wise to the silent pain I was enduring. We’re not allowed to speak about such a taboo as depression. I recall people even telling me how good I looked and how much I looked like I was living it up in New York… They simply had no idea what chasing my dreams had done to my insides.
That’s the thing about life – sometimes we have to take the time to take a closer look at our friends and family members. Sometimes we have to ask questions about what’s really going on in their lives, if we’re ever to know how they truly are deep down inside.
Let’s stop pretending that all of the issues going on in society are normal. Let’s stop pretending that war, poverty, violence, hunger and an economy that allows the richest people in the world to get richer by placing bets around us losing our homes is normal… Let’s stop pretending that, “It is what it is…”
Because I’m here to tell you that it really shouldn’t be…
What happened to supporting one another as we chase our dreams? What happened to taking on some of your brothers or sisters burden to help push them along?
What happened to the love? Did it simply become too costly? Have we all just given up on each other?
Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.