By AA PATAWARAN
Just out of my teens, while I was starting up in advertising, I declared to a friend, “I’m going to be rich!”
I had just emerged from a positivity seminar, flying high on the wings of optimism.
“But do you like money?” asked my friend, who sent me to that seminar as a birthday gift.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, do you dream of money?”
Not sure where she was leading me, I took a moment’s pause, but even then I faltered when I gave my answer. “Well…” I hesitated. “…uhm, I dream of Paris.”
If she liked my answer, she didn’t show any sign. Neither did she show any sign that she disliked it. She didn’t look like she was looking for an answer, right or wrong. In fact, she seemed distracted, spooning the froth out of her cappuccino cup.
“Isn’t all that foam what a cappuccino is all about?” I said, seeing how obsessed she was in turning her cappuccino into a flat white. “Well, I dream of Paris. I dream of many things, like coffee at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. I dream of fixing myself a Bloody Mary at the first class lounge at the airport. I dream of Ferragamo shoes, of meeting Giorgio Armani, of riding a convertible down the Pacific Coast Highway for a bed-and-breakfast weekend in Big Sur…”
“Wow!” she said at last, leaning back to take a first sip at her deconstructed cappuccino. “But you didn’t answer my question.”
“I thought that was a mouthful.”
“The question was do you dream of money?”
“Yes, lots of it or enough to have me fly from here to Berlin, then to Amsterdam, then to Budapest, then to Prague, then to Vienna, then to the Vatican, anywhere I want, like in a Robert Ludlum novel.”
“That still doesn’t answer the question.”
“OK, so I dream of enough money to go to the Lapland on a snowmobile or by dogsledding with huskies.”
She laughed, “The dream is the Arctic, not money.”
“Which is not possible without money.”
“Which is possible even if you’re not rich.”
“I thought we were on the subject of money.”
“We’re on the subject of being rich,” she clarified. “Didn’t you say you were going to be rich?”
So like I said, thanks to my friend, I had just completed a positivity seminar. There I learned among other things to clear a space in my head in which to build a dream factory.
It wasn’t easy. When I was led into the room in my thoughts, I found it to be a mess, cluttered with all the things people said to me or about me and all the things I said to myself that made me forget exactly what I wanted or exactly who I was. I forgot what I deserved.
At one point, after a few sessions I devoted to sifting through the clutter and tossing out what held me back, instead of moving me forward, I was made to come face to face with my inner child, the boy I used to be, who was by nature unhindered by concepts of lack and limitation, and there in my head, in the room in my head in which a dream factory was in the works, I watched that boy lose himself in a Babel of voices, his own included (and most loud), that told him he couldn’t be this, he couldn’t be that, he couldn’t do this, he couldn’t do that, he could neither be here nor there, he was this, he was that, what a shame, what a pity!
Don’t get me wrong. Many of those voices were voices of love, like those of my parents or my well-meaning friends or even the authorities tasked to impart to me the facts of life, some of which were even facts about me. The devil was in how I let myself succumb to them, instead of rising to the challenge, though even now, my dream factory fully operational, I should thank those who winced while I sang off tune, lest I would be singing to my heart’s content while the world suffered for it.
Your lovin’ gives
me a thrill
But your lovin’ don’t pay the bills
—Barrett Strong, 1959
But once construction was completed, I had in my head a glass house, built to the last specification of my own design, in the middle of a vast sea. In it, surrounded completely by clear glass, I had a 360-degree view of sea and sky and all that was possible for me between heaven and earth.
It was in this spirit that I declared to my friend over coffee in an incredibly slow summer afternoon, whose hours stretched interminably before us, that I was going to be rich.
“But do you dream of money?” she asked in response.
Within a good part of a second, while scouring my brain for an answer, I tried to imagine what it would be like to dream of money per se.
It was hard. I mean, how would I enjoy seeing myself walking down the street with a briefcase full of P1,000-peso bills?
I was convinced I would not be able to sustain the dream of sleeping on a bed of cash.
I had no doubt it would not bring me as much joy to imagine money falling over me like rain.
There was no way I could dream of winning the lotto without thinking of how I would spend the money, therefore losing it (though now that I am older I should imagine how I could grow a portion of it by spending it wisely).
“You see,” explained my friend. “There are rich people who don’t have Paris.”
“That’s very sad,” I sighed.
“No, it’s not,” she said. “It’s not important to them, like the money or making it is. They probably think it is, when they are being wistful, but it’s not, otherwise they’ll have Paris, as much of it as they are willing to pay for.”
“I guess I’ll never be rich, if I can’t daydream about it like I daydream about Paris,” I moaned as I sank into my chair.
“It’s still possible,” she said reassuringly, “but not by dreaming, not by the strength of your dreams. The thing with dreams is that you ought to be able to visualize them. Only then can you make them manifest in your reality. But in order to visualize them, you must truly, truly want them first.”
“So must I be Machiavellian about this? Should I pretend to be mad about the money so I can have Paris?” I challenged her.
Without a moment’s hesitation, my friend said, “That’s next to impossible. Pretending to want what you don’t. But you will have Paris.”
“With or without money.”
“Dreams do come true.”
NOTE: While many details in this exchange are imaginary, crafted from what happened many years after this one summer afternoon in the early 1990s, the basic conversation about the power of dreams, particularly the part of dreaming about the money in and of itself if the desire was to get rich, did occur. I dedicate this part-factual, part-fictional story to Itsy Macasaet Dazo, the friend, my friend, referred to in this story. All the dreams mentioned here, including Paris, have since come true, but I have yet to learn to dream about money.