Today I set out to find my first dreamer. I went to the beach with romantic ideas of sitting, having a heart-to-heart with a stranger, learning the inner depths of their soul while watching the waves crash.
I took one look at the madhouse of a perfect beach day and the overcrowded, kid-infested nightmare and drove on. I thought I’d go to Starbucks, walked in and it was a ghost town. Then I went to a bar, at three in the afternoon.
Every bar I’ve ever been to or worked in, at three in the afternoon, has one sad alcoholic who is holding down the stool closest to the barmaid, staring at a piece of wall while sucking down their drink… what their dreams must be like. I imagined the dirty edges of that guy’s dream, I wanted to talk to that guy.
Instead, the bar was almost empty except for a few couples having lunch and good conversation. Evidently even the alcoholics go to the beach on a beautiful Saturday in Santa Cruz County.
I went out on the patio to enjoy the sunshine myself, ordered some onion rings and hoped someone would come out there and sit by themselves.
I looked over each shoulder, and then there he was. My server was sitting at a table in the corner of the patio, starting to fold napkins and roll silverware. Not what I had in mind, but I didn’t have the luxury of waiting all day for someone to drift in on their own and here was this kid all by himself.
“Hey, I’m working on an installment project where I’m going to talk to strangers about their hopes and dreams. I used to wait tables. If I help you with your side work, can I pick your brain for a while?”
Who’s gonna turn down help with their work, right? So I started getting to know Deven. He’s 19, and that kid works hard.
One of the things that interests me most about this project is to see how people initially answer the question. What does “dream” mean to them?
Deven’s first reaction was what I would expect from a 19 year-old with his whole future ahead of him. He started talking about what he might study in college, what he wants from a career. The answer to that is that he basically isn’t sure yet, “but I don’t wanna do the same thing as everyone else.” Man, do I get that.
I started asking him about his life and his family and what’s important to him every day. I think hopes and dreams lie in the little crevices of life, the ones we sometimes forget to explore.
He had just moved to Santa Cruz, he drove about 20 minutes to wait tables at this bar/restaurant. But here’s where Deven gets complex. Before he moved to Santa Cruz, he lived two hours away… and he still commuted to Santa Cruz to work. Two hours, each way, five days a week; because the tips were so much better than the small town he lived in.
When I asked him about working through high school, he said he’d always worked, even before high school. “I’m not scared of hard work. My mom’s always been an alcoholic and my dad owns a landscaping business. I’ve always helped out my family.” Because Deven is awesome.
He maybe wants to go to culinary school. He wants to start having babies when he’s 27, he wants to have “thousands in the bank” first, and he wants to give everything he has back to God.
His eyes are the color of ambition and he taught me how to origami a napkin like a pro.
Then something happened that I’d never even thought about: he started asking about me. He asked what my hopes and dreams were. I laughed and said that’s the whole reason I’m doing this; I’m not sure I know. He said, “Well thanks for the help! I’ve never rolled silverware this fast in my life. One minute I’m serving you onion rings and the next minute I’m having a cool conversation.”
Exactly, Deven. Exactly.