Perchance to Dream

by Rob

Okay, so I know it’s the new year and folks here on Murderati are thinking about what’s to come, and making resolutions—or plans—for the future. 

But being the contrarian I am, I thought I’d take a look backwards.  Not at this past year, however, but waaaaay back, to the point in time when this photo was taken. 

Yes, believe it or not, that’s me.  Somewhere around 1974 or 75.  I can’t be sure.  The photo was taken by my future bride, although at the time no proposals had been made or accepted and the two of us were simply trying to enjoy life as much as two people in their waning teenage years can. 

When I look at the guy in that photograph, I remember all the dreams he had.  They were elusive, like most are, rooted in a kind of deluded optimism that youth seems to provide us in massive quantities. 

That kid was determined to be a rock star.  Or, more accurately, a singer-songwriter of the James Taylor/Dan Fogelberg variety.  He was rarely without a guitar in his hands, was constantly writing angst-filled songs, and girls would sometimes swoon when he played and sang. 

He probably also drove his neighbors crazy at four in the morning. 

My dreams back then weren’t limited to music, however.  I also wanted to write.  After reading the work of Donald Westlake and Richard Brautigan, I tried my best to emulate both, and probably failed miserably.  I don’t know, because I no longer have the manuscripts I attempted to write. 

There was a third dream, too.  Movie director.  The Rob of those days was a rabid movie fan with a Super Eight camera who thought he knew what it took to put together a film—even though those cameras didn’t have sound. 

But the only real strategy I had to achieve any of these dreams was to take each day as it came and try not to worry too much about the future.  It would all work out, I thought, and for the most part it did.  I obviously never became the next James Taylor, and the whole movie director thing seemed more trouble than it was worth, but when I finally grew up enough to know that I actually had to do something in order to make any of these dreams come true, I actually succeeded in getting noticed as a writer. 

Now, thirty-something years after that photo was taken, I’m making a living writing novels. So I can look back at that young man and say, hey, kid, at least you got part of it right.   

It’s quite possible that I might never have achieved my dreams.  And you know what?  That would be okay, too. 

So my question to all of you today is, what dreams did you have when you were nineteen, and did you manage to achieve them?  Do they even matter to you anymore? 


I want to thank those of you who took the time to comment in my last post to give me reasons to stick around.  I approached today from a different POV, so maybe I’ll be around for a while…

18 thoughts on “Perchance to Dream

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    Wouldn't it be amazing if our older self could go back and advise the younger version? But to quote the movie The Raiders of the Lost Ark: it is not to be, cherie.
    When I started college I wanted to be a journalist. Old school, All the President's Men, foreign assignments, etc. It didn't happen for many reasons. Today: from the viewer side of the news I love having the constant almost overwhelming access to information. From the journo-wannabe side, I don't like what journalism has become so I'm glad I'm not a part of it. I also wanted to be a writer of books but self reflection made me realize that I preferred reading.
    Who I am now and the choices made are exactly where I'm supposed to be so I can't argue against it.
    That's a fantastic photo, Rob. But I think we're always the better version of ourselves as adults. Experience is more attractive than youth.

  2. JD Rhoades

    At one point I wanted to be the next Hunter S. Thompson. Then I discovered I can't write worth shit when I'm loaded. Unfortunately, the getting loaded was the part I kept. Then I wanted to be a film director/producer, but I discovered that meant a lot of hustling to raise money, rather than devoting my time and energy to Pure Art.

    I was going to laugh hard at that pic, but then I realized how many horrible photos there are of me from my teen years and I shall therefore refrain.

  3. Spencer Seidel

    When I was 19, I didn't do anything except practice guitar and was convinced that if I did that long enough, I would morph into Steve Vai or Eddie Van Halen. I don't really do regrets, but I sometimes wish I had concentrated more on doing what *I* do best and not trying to become someone else in my playing. So, that dream? No. Not accomplished. I've never been on tour nor played in front of thousands of screaming fans. I'm okay with that now.

    Fortunately, I also loved to write. And now I'm smart about it. I write like myself and don't emulate. I'm not making a living at it yet, but I don't care. I'm happy taking things one step at a time. Every successful writer had a first novel published and mine will be in May.

  4. Brett Battles

    When I was nineteen I wanted to be a novelist. Hell, when I was twelve I wanted to be a novelist. It took a while, but I'm living my dream. And even though it's a hell of a lot of work, I couldn't be happier.

    Love the pic, Rob. Still the same smart-ass look on your face.

  5. Mark Terry

    19? Well, probably wanted to be a classical pianist, but that wasn't going anywhere, and I'm not sure at 19 I actually knew what the hell I wanted to do, which is why I majored in microbiology. It seemed like a good idea at the time (sort of). But 21 or 22, that's when I dreamed of being a bestselling author. Well, I make a living as a writer, and although I touched an Amazon Kindle bestseller list, hence making me a "bestselling author" I think the making a living as a writer thing has worked out just fine. It took me a long time to get here, but the water's fine, c'mon in.

  6. Alafair Burke

    I wanted to be Madonna. Or maybe Molly Ringwald. Needless to say, I did not live those dreams, but found new ones and am living those.

  7. Allison Davis

    I moved to SF right after college to be a beat poet. It was a little late although I did get to at least meet the living remnants of that era…wrote all through college and then afterwards, mostly journalism. I did many readings, which were mostly huge fun. I wanted to be THAT writer. Instead, tired of being broke, I went to law school (not unlike some of y'all) and now crawling out of that life to get back to the bohemian. The photo is classic and I"m sure we each have one. Nice reach out to the past/present.

  8. Joni Rodgers

    At 19, I dropped out of college, hopped a freight to Montana, became an all night disc jockey at a Top 40 station, and had a ridiculous acid-fueled love affair with a Vietnam vet 25 yrs older than me. No regrets. I later used it as seed corn for the plot of my first novel.

  9. JT Ellison

    When I was nineteen – God, I barely remember what that was like. I wanted to do well in school, and go into politics. I wanted to get married and have four kids, two sets of twins. I wanted to write. I wanted a lot of things without really understanding them. I envy those of you who KNEW what you wanted. I was all over the place and still listening to other people's opinions about what and who I should be.

    Glad you're sticking around Rob. : )

  10. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Rob

    Gosh, weren't you a pretty young thing? Erm, not that you aren't still a pretty young thing, of course …;-]

    At 19 I'd been out of school for seven years. During that time I'd delivered yachts, taught people to ride horses, rebuilt my first Triumph Spitfire, and written my first novel, which had received rave rejections all round.

    I was still three years away from meeting the love of my life.

    All in all, things got much better at 22, when I met Andy and started earning a full-time living as a writer. I don't miss my teens at all.

  11. Debbie

    At around nineteen, my mother sent me to the basement to purge the collected mass of childrensplaythings, now discarded and forgotton. I found a story that I had written in grade three. I read it, with the disconnect from self that time had given me, and decided that I wanted to teach; to read stories like this that amused me daily. I failed to see the creative part of me that enjoys weaving a story, built from the imagination. I wouldn't change anything though…I worked for years with children, and this year, will try writing for them. I doubt that there is a memory that we can recall that hasn't changed us, that if removed, wouldn't alter what and how we right.

    Rob, I too am glad you are planning to stay. Btw, I dated a Rob in HS who wore a guitar like clothing. He'd get home from school and put it on. I could tell his mood by what he played. He still playes, not to thousands, but on cruise ships, and although his talent is probably underutilized, he's paid to do what he loves…play guitar.

  12. Rob Gregory Browne

    Sorry, I haven't been responding, folks. I'm in deadline crunch, as you know. Great stories so far and Zoe, no need to sugarcoat it. I'm old, wrinkled and fat now. Time is a cruel mistress and all that.

    And Brett: Smart-ass look? Moi?

  13. judy wirzberger

    I don't think I was ever nineteen. I do remember 9. good luck with the deadline crunch…good news that you have one.

  14. KDJames

    I love that pic! You look a bit like Keith Urban… if he used Breck shampoo. 😉

    I don't think you all need to know what I was like at age 19. Really. At some point when I was younger than that, I desperately wanted to be a pilot. Then someone told me you had to have 20/20 vision to be a pilot. Who knows, that might even have been true back then. I was crushed. And then I wanted to be a singer. Never mind that I become paralyzed with fear whenever I'm in front of more than five people. It never occurred to me until much later in life that a person could have a career that involved being a writer.

    I do know that if you'd told me at age 19 I'd be making a living doing what I do now (crunching numbers, basically), I'd have laughed myself inside out. Not sure whether I find that amusing or pathetic. Amusing, I guess, since I now have a different dream, that of someday being a writer, and define myself not by how I am currently employed but as someone working toward achieving that goal.

    Glad you decided not to leave us, Rob.

  15. pari noskin taichert

    Great picture, Rob.

    At nineteen? I wanted to be an international environmental lawyer . . . by then I'd already started studying my 7th language. But, no, I didn't end up living that life. I wonder about that sometimes, the road not taken and all, but suspect I'd be facing severe heart trouble if I'd pursued it.

  16. Rob Gregory Browne

    KD, you bring up a good point. As we get older, our dreams change. If you'd told me at nineteen that I'd never be James Taylor part II, I probably would have been devastated. But as we grow, we begin to understand that not all dreams are meant to be fulfilled — at that's okay. So we replace them with new dreams and oftentimes they become easier to achieve because they aren't rooted in the unrealistic expectations of youth.

  17. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Great post. I think we should all drag photos of our 19-year old selves out for viewing.
    Nineteen – I was gonna be a STAR! I had two routes – one was to be a huge film director, and I had spent my youth making Super 8 movies, too, Rob. The other route was to be a musician – I was already at the NTSU jazz school at age 19. It was there that I realized I wanted to be a writer (although I was thinking screenwriter/director). That dream is still alive, and I'm still working toward it. I found the novel-writing almost by accident – I was so disgusted with the film business that I decided to write something just for myself, which became that first novel. And I'm so glad I did.
    We should compare photos someday. I think you and I and JD would've spent a lot of time jamming and doing drugs together, if we had known each other when…

Comments are closed.