Only in dreams

“You know what Dee, I don’t want to hear about your dream, okay? I hate listening to people’s dreams. It’s like flipping through a stack of photographs. If I’m not in any of them, and nobody’s having sex, I just… don’t care.”

-Dennis, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I had two separate nightmares tonight. In one, I was assisting in a murder investigation at a coal mine in South Africa, when a previously unknown pocket of oil was struck. The oil was flooding the mine, and I barely escaped with my life and could feel myself choking on the rancid liquid as I fought for air and saved one of my fellow investigators. I honestly thought I was going to die.

In the second nightmare, I was in a classroom filling out a worksheet, while a strange man would come around and ask basic science questions. I was sitting next to some friends, both those new and those who have gone their separate ways, when he came to me and asked what were the three types of rock. “Easy,” I say. “Sedimentary, Igneous, and… uhmmm,” I stammered.

Guess which one woke me up in a cold sweat. And I still can’t think of the damn third rock. I refuse to look it up.

Our fear of being embarrassed is often what holds us back, and has been a large hurdle for me in life. For a long time I always thought I wasn’t good enough, or strong enough, or tough enough. As a relatively small man who doesn’t really follow sports, plays RPGs, and who spends countless hours using more baby talk on my dog than my wife does, sometimes it’s hard to feel sufficiently masculine.

One nightmare included me using my masculinity to save the day. The other had me fail at something so simple that someone who prizes themselves on their love of knowledge freaks out. I still can’t think of the third rock type. My brain is throwing out different dinosaur time periods now because they sound science-y.

Being a man is weird in a social aspect. I am expected to know about football, even though I don’t give a damn. I do like hockey, but enough to just watch the games, not follow trades or scandals or whatever. I’m an American that thinks the World Cup for soccer is the most important sporting event in the world. Needless to say, I’m missing those common ice breakers that exist between men.

“Did you see the game last night?” they ask.

“Oh no, I was stuck at a family party/work/a meeting of my doomsday cult,” I would lie, and then agree with whatever was said.

Another thing, I’m a firearms enthusiast.

Did you feel that? The arguments just being prepped for this article? Guns good! Guns bad! Don’t worry, we’re not going there.

I promise this isn’t compensating for the lack of sports knowledge or my small, fragile stature or small fragile other things. For me, it is just a fun sport, I assure you. Even still, it’s hard to shake the stereotypes that exist within the sport. I target shoot, skeet shoot, and trap shoot. That’s it. I don’t hunt or lust after a Desert Eagle or anything like that. I just like that when target shooting, the most important instrument to success is me. It is something I’m good at. I have to know where the trigger touches the pad of my finger and the amount of pressure to steadily pull with to prevent me from throwing off my aim. I need to know how to hold a pistol properly (i.e., not like in any movies but Michael Mann movies,) to prevent jamming and to keep recoil in check, and thus my aim steady for follow up shots.

I don’t long to kill or hurt anything. I’ve refused several requests to go hunting because I don’t see the point. I’ll respect you more if you shoot a bear with a camera than a .300 Winchester Magnum. And I’m not stockpiling for the zombie apocalypse or collapse of civil order. I’m just a guy that likes punching holes in paper, and killing orange clay discs.

I actually worked in a gun shop for a few months, and learned a lot. I learned I don’t know nearly enough about shooting as I thought I did. I also learned that it’s a larger buyer base than just old people and the teens who play all the video games. There were other guys like me. There were lawyers, doctors, mechanics, electricians, and Chicago council members. Some men, some women, and people of all races. To their credit, the shop I worked with was amazing at dispelling the stereotype of racist hillbilly gun shop workers. But stereotypes persist. There were guys I met at parties that thought I was bad ass working with guns. Others that thought that they could drop racist bullshit in to conversation because they thought I would agree with them based solely on my job. I did speak up in those conversations.

I also believe in the right for someone to defend themselves, but that’s a discussion for another post. My point is that I can field strip a 1911 in the dark since I’ve taken it apart to clean it so often, but in my nightmares the heavy .45 round bounces off the monster that’s dripping with a strange ichor and possessing an alien intelligence. My British Enfield from World War II that I refinished just doesn’t load a round at all. (To gun enthusiasts, it was a parts gun, I didn’t run anything of value I promise.)

But my small 9mm Glock never fails in dreams. I don’t really like to analyze dreams, but I think it’s interesting that the smallest firearm is the one that always saves my life in action hero or horror dreams. Maybe it’s me telling myself that it’s okay to be a smaller guy. That I have just as much potential power as someone twice my weight class. It’s not a penis analogy though, let’s just head that one right off at the pass.

Dreams reflect who we want to be, or who we’re scared of becoming. I want to be a bit manlier (it’s just a gender construct, I know,) but I’m scared I’m also squandering my intelligence as I grow older. Could I have been a rocket scientist? Biochemist? Or am I right where I’m supposed to be?

We fail to realize that everyone has these doubts. There’s a reason the ‘stuck-at-school-in-my-underwear’ dream persists. There’s a reason we let opportunities pass us by. They could be jobs, dates, or even something as simple as holding a door for someone.

I’m a husband. A writer. A video gamer. A reader. A dog owner. A firearm sport shooter. An RPG player.

I’m intelligent. I’m strong. I’m short. I’m a picky eater. I’m moderately handsome. I’m just now the right weight.

None of these define me though. I am more than a sum of my parts.

A year ago if you told me I would be boring the Internet with my fears and passions I would have thought you a lunatic. Maybe one that plays all the video games. But now, I believe in myself. That took hard work. Work I didn’t think I could pull off. I’m a new, but same man.

I’m a writer. I might not be professionally published with the exception of one article, but my words have been read by more than a thousand people, all over the world. I’m not afraid to discuss my strengths anymore.

I’m not too proud to admit defeat either.

It was metamorphic rock. Thanks Google.

Let me know what you think!

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