My older friend next door once told me that if I shut my eyes and blew on a candle, all of my wishes would come true… I used to believe her and go around the house candle hunting. How my parents must have laughed to see me scrambling around the furniture, picking up the candles around the room , and blowing the little flame out until my cheeks hurt.
I made the most outrageous wishes. I wished to own a monkey, a horse, and a dragon; I wished to grow-up and be just like Sailor Moon. And, of course, I wished for a thousand more wishes so I would never run out.
I always believed my wishes would come true. When they didn’t, I ran next door and demanded and explanation. She laughed and said I just hadn’t done it right. “Hadn’t done it right?,” I would say. “Then how should I do it?”
“It only works if you do it a certain way,” she told me with a little smile, “but you’ll have to figure that out by yourself.” I watched her with wide, admiring eyes and thought she must be right. She was ten years older than me and knew the ways of the world; nothing she said could be wrong. I went back and tried again.
Time passed, and I grew older. My “perfect” friend started spending less and less time with me.got busier and busier. Distressed by the scant attention I received from her, I spent most of my time staring out the window. I wondered what she was doing, where she was, and if she was having fun. Occasionally, I would wander around the home, blowing out a few candles, wishing for my friend to be how she used to be. Each time I hoped desperately that I had done it the right way and that the wish would come true.
But it never happened.
After a while, I gave upnot only on my friendbut on the candles as well. Distress had turned into anger and then to rejection of my friend and every thing she had told me. The old dreamer within me vanished and was replaced by a harsh teenage cynic who told me over and over that I should have known better than to believe in free wishes. It chided me for my past belief in dragons and laughed at the thought of my growing up to be a five foot ten, make-believe, Sailor Moon. It told me to stop being silly and sentimental and to realize the facts of life, to accept what I was and what my friend was, and live with it,
For a while I tried. I abandoned my old dreams, my old ideas, and threw myself entirely into my schoolwork and the whole dreary rat race of scrambling for grades and popularity. After a time, I even began to come out ahead and could start each day with an indifferent shrug instead of a defeated whimper. Yet none of it made me happy. Candles and my friend kept drifting across my mind.
I tried to forget about both, but the edge of my anger wore away and the essence of my old self started to seep through again. Despite the best efforts of the cynic in me, I continually found myself staring at those candlesmaking wishes.
It wasn’t the same as before, of course. Most of my old dreams and ideals had vanished forever. Certainly, I could never wish for a dragon as a pet now and actually mean it now. No, my dreams were different now, less based on fantasy and more on reality.
Dreams of becoming a princess in a castle or a magical sorceress had changed into hopes of someday living in the woods and writing novels like J.D. Salinger, or playing Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in A minor to orchestral accompaniment. These were the dreams that floated across my mind now. They were tempered by a caution that hadn’t been there before, but they were there. For the first time since my friend’s aloofness, I was acknowledging their presence.
I had to, for it was those dreams that diluted the pure meaninglessness of my daily struggles in school and made me happy. It was these dreams and the hope of someday fulfilling them that ultimately saved me from falling into the clutches of the dreaded best of apathy that lurked alongside the trails of that rat race. Without them, I think I would have given up and stumbled off the tracks long ago.
It took a long time for me to accept this truth and to admit that my cynical self was wrong in denying me my dreams, just as my youthful self had been wrong in living entirely in them. In order to succeed and survive, I needed to find a balance between the two.
My friend was right; I hadn’t been going after my dreams the right way. Now I know better. This time around, when I go into the living room to blow out my candles, my wishes will come true.