My wife and I rented Walter Mitty a few days ago. I wasn’t sure how I would like it because I’m not much of a Ben Stiller fan. On the other hand, being a dreamer myself and growing up with the story, I thought I’d give it a try. Even though the movie did not receive stellar reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed it. My wife, on the other hand, grew bored about 15 minutes in and retreated to the bedroom with a book.
In case you are a “clinical” thinker and don’t really know, or care, what the story of Walter Mitty was all about, let me share the basic premise. Walter is an ordinary man living an ordinary life. Maybe not even quite ordinary. An underachiever if you will. That’s the reality. However, Walter has a “secret” life. In this secret life, Walter is daring, adventurous, important, brave. As the saying goes, he is “a legend in his own mind,” because all of his adventures are lived out within the confines of his imagination. Walter is a dreamer. His fantasies take over his life as he lives them out vicariously.
In this particular version, circumstances driven by personal responsibility and a need to protect what he has spent his life’s work on, cause Walter to step out of his comfortable life and into an adventure that rivals all he ever imagined. I liked that twist. It spoke to me. After all, responsibility is often what keeps dreamers from being doers, yet in this case, had the power to make this dreamer’s imagination come to life.
Now before you misunderstand and think I’ve turned into a movie critic and this is a review, it’s not. The movie spoke to me because I know Walter Mitty. I am Walter Mitty. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. I have been a dreamer since I was a kid. Like a lot of you, in my mind I have accomplished great feats. But some of us go beyond simple fantasies. Some of us dream big. Some of us dream of life changing alterations to the way we really live. My “Mitty dream” is simple. In it, I’m not a spy. I don’t save the world. I’m not a famous sports figure or rock star. I’m not rich either. I’ve never dreamed of wealth and don’t have any ambition to accumulate it.
My dream life is simple. In it I do one thing: I travel. And I do it one way: by motorbike. And I do it everywhere. That’s it. The journey is the adventure. The people, the places, the culture, the experiences. They are my dream. It has been my dream since I was a teenager. Every year I escape for a few days or weeks and live the dream. I travel on my bike. Even then I have to pretend, because I know it it is temporary. I’m sure many reading this would say, “But don’t you know if you were a motorcycle bum, you still have to pay for gas and parts and a place to sleep. And you won’t have a pension or a 401K, etc, etc.” Yeah, I know all that. But to a dreamer, you might as well be speaking Chinese. They don’t care. Dreamers care about experiences, not possessions. Dreamers care about relationship, no matter how brief. Dreamers care about building memories, not empires. Dreamers live under the shadow of their own mortality and realize this is not a practice run…this is the race…and as Springsteen sang, “Baby, we were born to run.”
My advice to you is, don’t marry a dreamer. You can’t fix them. You can’t change them. You can’t satisfy that inner need. My wife is well aware of my dreams. Sometimes the realization that in my mind I’m planning, scheming and searching, can be painful. She sometime wonders if she will come home to a note on the pillow and and empty garage. Well, we’ve been together 19+ years and I’m still here…and still dreaming of my “great escape.”