The Bigger My World Gets… the Smaller My Dreams Become

By | September 8, 2022
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The Bigger My World Gets… the Smaller My Dreams Become

In the midst of a busy and tiring day like this one, it’s hard to imagine tranquility. It’s hard to separate myself from all that swirls around me and imagine a simpler day, a simpler time, a simpler place. Someday these kinds of busy days will be far behind me and I’ll have only the vaguest memories of them.

And when that someday comes, I’ll yearn for the time when my days were full and busy and the swirling retinue of having so many things to do would be a welcome and much-appreciated reprise. There’s a constant yearning within me – for what I used to be, for what I might have been, for what I still might be. My world has grown so big and complex and it is hard sometimes not to yearn for the small and uncomplicated world I knew as a child.

When I was a child my world was small and uncomplicated; my dreams were unfettered by the restrictions of what is possible, untainted by reality: the dreams of a child are pure. When I was a child I had dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, a TV weatherman, a rock star, a movie star, a writer, a fireman who race to fires in a white fire truck, a lone sailor sailing a vast but placid sea, discovering uncharted islands, an astronaut landing on a distant planet, and so many other things.

The bigger my world gets… the smaller my dreams become.

When I was a child I longed to be grown-up so I could do all manner of grown-up things. And now that I’ve grown up, I long to be a child again so I can do childish things. When I was a child my world was small. My parents were the sun and the moon of my tiny solar system – and the galaxy was the town in which I grew up.

Going somewhere, anywhere, was an adventure – even if it was just going to Keller drugs with my grandfather to look at the comic books. They were mixed in with my Grandfather’s favorite “True Detective”, as well as “Time”, “Newsweek”, “People” and others – magazines in which I, as a child, had not the slightest interest. To venture out of my house, out of my little solar system, and venture into town was an exploration of the galaxy. Looking at comic books while my grandfather browsed though magazines – in an old drug store that no longer exists.

The older I get, the farther back in time I look.

I can remember the first time my grandfather took me to a Cleveland Indians baseball game. It was back in the time when the Indians played in the old Municipal Stadium. It seemed to me then that the trip to Cleveland – about 60 miles – was a journey of unimaginable distance and time. I left my little solar system behind and ventured into strange and unknown parts of a different galaxy.

It was just Cleveland, but to me, it may as well have been the edge of the Milky Way. When we finally arrived at the stadium, everything was so exciting, so big and so new. The vastness of the baseball stadium amazed me. When I looked down from our seats high in the stands and saw a real major-league baseball diamond for the first time, I marveled at how green the grass was. I remember thinking that even the sky was bluer and the grass greener than it ever was back in my little world. Everything was more exciting in this new galaxy – everything was so different.

Now the grass looks the same color wherever I go and the sky is the same old blue in Boston as it is in Chicago, and as it is in Cleveland. The clouds are as gray and gloomy in Dallas as they are in Columbus – rain is rain and snow is snow.

I miss seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

When I was a child and the grass on that baseball field was greener than any grass I had ever seen, all I wanted to do was hurry and grow up and be a baseball player and play on that beautiful grass, under that surrealistically blue sky – and drink in the roar of the crowd when I blasted yet another game-winning homer into the left-field bleachers. It was easy to dream big dreams when I lived in such a small world. When I was a child in a small world, there was an entire universe of possibilities – and boundaries of reality didn’t exist.

The bigger my world gets… the smaller my dreams become.

The older I get, the fewer opportunities are available to me. The older I get the less universe there is left to explore. The more complex my life, the simpler and smaller my dreams become. I think how ironic it is that if I live long enough my world will start shrinking even smaller.

If I live long enough my world may well be a room in a nursing home, or a small assisted-living apartment, and venturing out will be too complicated and painful. I’ll be back living in a small world again. 

Then when some kind person takes me out to get a few groceries, it may well be, once again, like exploring a different world. But I doubt it. I’ll have a life’s worth of memories and my dreams and I’ll be limited by the knowledge and experiences gained in a long lifetime.

The innocence of a child will have all been drained out of me, and though my world may become as small as that of a child, it will be a very different world.

And it occurs to me that no matter how long I live and how small my world gets, I will never again be able to dream the unbounded dreams of a child.

Today, I find myself wishing for the days when the waterwheel on Cold Creek turned slowly ’round and ’round, and the splashing of the water it churned provided the perfect background for me — a  teenage boy who aspired to be a writer.

The grass along the pregnant banks was green and the spring breeze was new and fresh. And if the breeze was just right, I might feel a refreshing bit of spray from the waterwheel, the spray awakening me from my teenage dreams.

Sitting alone next to that waterwheel was an escape from an expanding world. Just for a few moments, I could live another life, in another time. Looking back I can see myself as a teenage boy trying hard to hold on to a childhood that was quickly fading away. But I yearned to be a grown-up so I could do grown-up things – without even knowing, really, what those grown-up things were.

I have too much to do – and the time to reflect is over. The world that I’ve created is calling me. My dreams are much smaller than the dreams I had as a child because my world is so much bigger now.

Though I had a hand in creating the world in which I live, I sometimes feel like a stranger in it. I sometimes feel that somehow I’ve wandered too far from the person I might have been.

I wish I could find a little of the child inside.

I have so much to do, yet I can’t help wishing I could return just once more to that slowly spinning waterwheel and that sleepy little stream. But that world is long gone. They dismantled the waterwheel a long time ago. They ripped it apart and burnt it, ravaged those beautiful green banks along the stream, and turned it into a parking lot for a country store. The country store is now out of business and sits empty next to a parking lot that no one uses. The waterwheel was destroyed for nothing. And I can’t go back because there’s nothing there.

The bigger my world gets, the smaller my dreams become. And I have a feeling that it’s not just that way for me – I have a feeling it is that way for everyone.

The bigger my world gets… the smaller my dreams become.

2 thoughts on “The Bigger My World Gets… the Smaller My Dreams Become

  1. Jill

    You remind me of the days ‘my’ Dad took me to the Pirate games…. at the old Forbes Field stadium.
    I could care less about the hot dogs – but loved being with my Dad and learning how to keep a ‘box score.’
    I remember the times he took me to see the Penguins play in the old, old arena. Can’t remember name of it.
    Gone from PGH almost 35 years now and still . . …the memories are strong.
    Those Were The Days My Friend. . . . .

    I miss the hills, and curves – I miss the change of seasons, and I even miss the pot holes.
    Most of all, I miss my Dad:(
    Thanks for reminding me. I had a long day, too but you brightened it more than you know.

  2. Laurali

    “a teenage boy who aspired to be a writer. ” YOU’VE DONE IT ! Your essays are some of the BEST WRITING I’ve ever read. You have a way of making me FEEL what you are writing about. And so poetically. Thank you for ALL your essays.


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