If Wishes Were Fishes

This morning Maya is watching Aladdin. You know, the whole poor boy loves princess, meets genie who grants him three wishes, wishes to be a prince so he can marry her, blah blah blah.

Why won't she fix the couch cushion?
Maya really likes Aladdin. ( Actually I like it too. The songs are catchy and the dialogue is very funny.) You can tell because she watches almost the whole movie in silence, staring glassy eyed at the TV. When she gets really engrossed in a show she will sit in any position, on the top of the couch, on the floor, directly in front of the TV so close I start sounding like my mother. ("Don't sit so close to the TV, you'll ruin your eyes!" Is this true? Is Maya going to go blind??)

Watching Aladdin always makes me think about wishes. We, as a culture, really like wishes. We wish on shooting stars. We throw coins into fountains and wells. We make a wish before blowing out candles, when an eyelash gets stuck on our fingertip, when we scatter dandelion seeds into the wind. We even have a bone inside a greasy turkey that we have somehow designated as a wish granter. In addition to all that we have genies and fairy godmothers and the Quick Pick lotto ticket. 

The appeal of wishing is obvious. Who doesn't want a quick fix to all their problems? Who doesn't want to be able to ask for anything and have it instantly at their fingertips?  Whether it is riches or health or love or just a new Barbie, there is something great about the idea that you can just wish for it and poof, there it is. When you think about it, wishing on a star is really not that different from praying. The same desperation. The same feeling of hope and relief. The same imaginary force that will fulfill all your desires if you just ask correctly. 

I am not anti-wish. I still blow on dandelion seeds and put candles on my birthday cake. Star light, star bright. The way I see it, a little magic can never hurt. But really, I am more about dreams.

A dream is something you envision for your life and then you get up off the couch and work for it. Dreams are active. You achieve them. They involve planning and trial and error and patience. A wish is like tossing a quarter in a slot machine. Dreams are years of careful card counting.

Dreams are the things that motivate you to get out of bed in the morning. It is ok to go to your filing job in the basement of the law firm because while you are mindlessly shoving papers into a metal cabinet, the rest of your brain is writing your novel. You may just be babysitting now but it is only practice for the school you plan to open in ten years, the one that will change the way we think about education forever. And don't worry that you are just a cashier at the Gap. Someday you'll be Batman.

When I was younger I did not envision having my own dojo. First I wanted to be a writer. Then I thought I would be a teacher forever, perhaps eventually even open my own school, but not a dojo. This life I have now fell in my lap with the unfortunate death of my teacher. Now my dreams are about new spaces, new kids classes, perhaps a beach house someday. And of course, Maya.  Our life is a lot of work, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

It is an extremely empowering thing to know that if you were given three wishes you wouldn't change a thing.

I hope that all of you have a dream you are working towards. Not a quick fix like the lottery, but a long term goal like becoming the president. Want to be more healthy? Before you look for a shooting star try eating less french fries. Want to be a famous artist? Go buy some paint. Stop tossing your coins into the fountain and do something.

Maya says she wants to be a chef when she grows up. Or run a dojo. Or be a teacher. Or a princess. 

What do you want to be?