Lately I've been having this recurring dream where the connecting factor is that at some point in the dream my teeth end up falling out. Not all of them, but at least one or two. Which is actually not super farfetched because I take care of my body about as well as a hamster takes care of its babies. In that I am a very nurturing, loving mother to the hamster baby that is my body, until I experience even the slightest bit of anxiety, in which case I will straight up eat that motherfucker. I'm all vegetables and meditation until the second I get anxious, and then without hesitation I'm 7 cups of coffee deep with an empty bag of chocolates next to me and am about to vibrate through the wall.
The most recent tooth-loss related dream involved me, for whatever odd reason, having the power to turn back time. But even invoking the superpower that skyrocketed Cher to international fame couldn't save that one wiggly, bloody tooth that fell out of my head 14 times in the same dream. It would fall out, I would rewind time, do things in a completely different way, and still find myself running into the same result. I ended up screwing with the space time continuum so much that night that it felt like an entire season of Doctor Who had taken place inside my head. When I woke up I was left feeling terrified, anxious, exhausted, and with an overwhelming urge to slap Steven Moffat. And then I fell back asleep and had an entirely DIFFERENT dream where that same goddamn tooth fell out.
After rigorously brushing, flossing, and then checking 12 different times to make sure that my tooth was still there, I sat down to think about what the dreams could mean and why exactly they kept happening to me. The general collective of internet knowledge seems to bring up two valid theories on what these dreams mean. The first being Freud's theory, which shockingly enough has to do with sexual repression. And considering my sex life has been moving at the pace of the tectonic plates for two years, it does sound a bit right. You'd think sex in the city would be easy to come by, but it's actually way more difficult than it is in the suburbs. After all, in NYC everyone on Grindr is your actual neighbor in your actual apartment building, so if things take a weird turn they can literally take up stalking you as a part-time gig and still manage to murder you in a timely manner.
The second most common interpretation that I found is that the loss of a tooth in a dream represents a renewal of self. Considering my mind and body have both felt a shift coming in my life for a while now, I'm more than willing to accept that interpretation as well. For a long time it felt like my life was easy, simple, and flowing, even at a slow pace, and I was okay with that. But then over time the negative thoughts started to build and the anxiety started to take form inside of me. It was like my mind's ocean started crashing against the shore. All of a sudden everything that used to be easy, simply, and flowing seemed frantic, rushed, and urgent. And it took me until, frankly, last night to realize that it felt like that because every cell in my body knew that it was time for me to wake the hell up, stop accepting the idea that the negative thoughts and secondhand embarrassment of the people around me have anything to do with me, and realize that I'm just one step away from being who I dreamed I would be as a kid.
In the sixth grade I was in my third year of a program called "Orion," which was a program that took gifted children out of class once or twice a month and brought them to a separate school to work on advanced puzzle-solving skills, life-skills, etc. Sixth grade was the final year you could participate in the program and it wrapped up with one giant simulation of the real world. Each student would create a resume for themselves, apply for an array of jobs in a specific field you were interested in, get hired for whatever job they felt you were most qualified for, create your business model with the other students, and then on the final day live out a day in the life of that simulated world and watch your work in action. I was incredibly excited and I knew I wanted to enter the writing field, so I whipped up a resume and submitted it. When the positions were announced I was listed under the "Newspaper" category but wasn't quite sure what my title meant, so I asked around. Was I an advice columnist? Was I in charge of the editorials? Was I the headlining entertainment specialist?
"That's the person that goes around the street yelling, 'Extra! Extra! Read all about it!'" One of my classmates pointed out to me. It's weird because I don't really remember being disappointed that in a school full of "gifted children" I was given the prestigious role of delivery boy. In fact I remember laughing about it and bragging to every mini-executive in the room about how I was a Newsie.
I'd fully embraced my title but was still pitching in with ideas every time the group needed help. After all, if I was going to be peddling these newspapers at the job simulation they needed to be well put together. And then about a week before the job simulation one of the teachers overheard me doing my Newsie shtick and finally asked why I kept repeating that same phrase. So I told her.
"Ryan, that's... That's not what an advertising sales manager does." I stared at the teacher blankly as it took me a moment to register what she had just said. They hadn't rejected the idea that I had something valuable to bring to the world of writing. They hadn't plopped me onto the bottom of the totem pole simply because somebody needed to be there. They hadn't finally realized that I was an imposter and should've never been in the gifted program to begin with. Not only was I not hired to be a delivery boy, I was actually in charge of most of the people in my group. It was like a reverse version of undercover boss where I was the only one that had no idea I was the boss. Our team ended up doing really well the day of the simulation, but it sticks out in my mind, now, just how easily I'd accepted that in a world full of 12-year-old CEOs I would be picked out to just be a delivery boy.
There were a few things that I wanted desperately out of life. I wanted my own apartment, I wanted to live in NYC, I wanted to live comfortably, with the ability to buy food and games whenever I wanted, and I wanted to be an artist. But somewhere in the last year the voices of a few nasty critics in my life managed to break into my head and fill it with the idea that I was only a delivery boy, just like they did in the sixth grade. And just like back then, I'd accepted that as my new reality and turned away from the idea of being an artist in favor of the glamorous, gold-plated life of retail. Then, the other night, while staring out of my apartment window and drinking a glass of rum that I had delivered to my door, I realized three things: I had my own apartment, I lived in NYC, and I was comfortable. I realized that in the past two years, while completely doubting my abilities to achieve any of my goals, I'd accidentally succeeded in three of them while operating on auto-pilot. I mean, can you imagine what I could've accomplished had I actually paid attention to what I was doing?
So there was, and is, one goal left. And it's the most difficult one. But in my first year of Orion, in the fourth grade, the teachers went around and asked what everyone wanted to be when they grew up. There were a variety of firefighters, nurses, doctors, vets, teachers, etc. throughout the audience, and then one flamboyant little boy named Ryan who answered, "I'm going to be a famous writer."
"Do you have any idea how small the chance of that happening is?" my friend, who wanted to be a politician, answered back. "That's like being a movie star, only like 3% of people actually make it." Ironically, on another day when we were all asked who wanted to be President of the United States, he was the only one who raised his hand. And years down the line he would end up running for Mayor on a platform that would spark major change in our hometown. "I just think you should pick something more realistic."
"Maybe," I responded. "But there are movie stars. There are famous writers. So if 3% of people actually make it, why shouldn't that be me?"
Ryan C. Robert is the writer of multiple comedy blogs, most of which are satirical and self-deprecating. He writes about his life in his personal essay series "Before Color," parodies cooking blogs in "Trish's Dishes" and posts writing prompts every single day.