Letters From Our Youth: How Have Your Dreams Changed Since Childhood?

In Bhutan, they dream of rainbows.

The year was 2010. I remember because it was the era of low-rise jeans and the circulation in my legs was starting to feel like a slow fire burning out.

It happened on one of the weekends I spent in my grandparents’ sepia-washed living room. Back when life used to be about two things and two things only: weekdays and weekends—simple, unencumbered, the telos was play and play ‘til you slept like the baby you were. Pure bliss. Ask anyone. 

This was a time of commercial tv, people figures booming from the bulky black box that was all sharp edges and always, to my mind’s eye, bearing a preordained sense of nostalgia. Like it knew it was made to be missed, tucked away and forgotten.

Before social media was a thing, we scrolled through channel after channel. Technology may not have invented mindlessness, but it definitely enhanced it.

The Japanese news channel I landed on covered a story on modern medical advancements. They were trying to grow a man’s ear on his forearm. Scientists could have said they were able to birth unicorns in a glass tube and it would’ve made no difference to me.

Artwork by Elizabeth Goodspeed

Just four years ago, in 2006, a man invented a wearable bathroom. “Bladder Buddy,” he had called it—a black garment worn like Dracula’s robe with hidden pouches where you could always go Number 1. Genius or madness? The lines are perilously thin.

What caught my attention, though, was something a doctor said in passing. He brushed over the sentence so casually that you’d get the impression that what he said wasn’t important. Maybe it wasn’t. I’m not entirely sure. But I haven’t forgotten what the doctor said since then.

Hilary Duff, What Are Dreams Made Of? 

In Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, he writes: “Dreams are the language of God.” For Sigmund Freud, dreams were repressed desires, motivations, and longings, a detachment of the soul from the fetters of matter. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between. However, we know as much that nothing passes unnoticed under God’s nose.

That day, when the doctors emerged triumphant from (ex)otic explorations, I found out that the ringing in your ears was caused by damage to the hair cells responsible for sending information about sound to your brain. And how, in some cases, the hairs did not grow back.

The more I knew about it, the more frequent the ringing sound came. Is this what low-level paranoia looks like? Or is it a trick of the mind, a bias we’re susceptible to? Like if you’re looking for red cars, you’ll keep on seeing red cars.

Artwork by Ray Dak Lam

Then I had a dream—I was running frantically through a dark forest. A figure was calling to me, but I couldn’t hear anything. The world was pitch black and deathly quiet, save for a sharp, linear sound that never faded. 

Again, I took off. And the other person only grew desperate in the attempt to grab my attention, try to tell me which way to go. All I could hear was the ringing in my ears. In the dream, I ran out of land and fell into a dark pit, and woke up in the waking world.

Some days feel like that dream. You know, always rushing and moving. Not away, not towards anything. In your belly you carry a sense of panic you can’t shake off. And always there are voices insisting on which way to go, “Here is better,” “This path is safer. More certain,” “This road is not for people like us.” People like you.

But we keep at it anyway because there’s a ringing sound in our ears and because if we run out of land and fall into a pit, we’ll wake up in another world, in a place where Bhutan dreams of rainbows.

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