The Semi-Adventures of a Nomadic Mathematician Rotating Header Image

The Falseness of Childhood Dreams

Childhood dreams are overrated. Teenage dreams are even more so. At a juvenile age, your knowledge is limited in non-Euclidean geometries and quantum logic, without which it is impossible to conduct a balanced life. How could you have sufficient imagination for lasting and meaningful goals?

I had an acute shortage of both childhood and teenage dreams. Most notably, I wanted to beat Dr. Robotnik in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, visit Legoland in Denmark. Later I dreamed of clubbing in Hong Kong in an orange turtleneck, and die a conveniently early death to spare myself from the horror of ageing. Nothing imaginative ever visited my brain.

Beating Dr. Robotnik had the highest priority, as this was the first objective I acted on. A savage enemy he was. His malicious brain was accelerated by the 7.6 MHz processor of my Sega. For seven months, I single-mindedly collected rings, jumped on robots, drowned in chemical sludge, fell in bottomless pits, and chased after this moustachioed rapscallion. If I had that much focus at work, I would be a famed scientist by now.

Dr. Robotnik

Dr. Robotnik, the envoy of evil. He would toss a twelve-year-old on the path of heroin abuse.

Naturally, the 7.6 MHz processor and Dr. Robotnik followed me to my grandparents’ place for the summer holiday. It was there where I finally defeated the devil. The outro played, and credits rolled on the screen. The intravenous use of heroin has a similar effect: it was like riding the dragon, and I was never going to feel it again. Then a sense of void emerged: now what?

I was not able to answer that question, and goals got out of order. Fast-forward a decade, the dream with the orange turtleneck followed. I was surprised to find myself in Hong Kong. That was not the plan: we booked a ticket to Macao. Having zero idea of the geography of Asia, we discovered it on the plane that Hong Kong was next door.

Blurred image of half-mathematician clubbing in orange almost turtleneck

The orange almost-turtleneck made me feel like a stud. So did the numerous prostitutes we encountered while barhopping.

My travel companion was not a gambler, and my own risk-seeking behaviour was also limited. Macao’s famed casinos provided no attraction, so we boarded a ferry to Hong Kong. We consumed alcoholic beverages at a steady rate while we were exploring the city. As dark was settling, we chanced upon a market, which, among other things, sold orange garments. I found a sweater that was not a turtleneck, but it was orange and I was drunk, so it didn’t matter.

Imbibing more booze, we met a French expat, whose sobriety was also compromised. He dragged us along through underground bars. Some had no signs at all, just a rusting metal door in a dark alley, but inside a bevy of maidens anticipated of our arrival. None of them had any financial interest in us, of course.

We hopped bar after bar, drank more, danced here and there, pissed in the shrubbery, but nothing vaguely interesting happened. Wild nights do not absorb those who are not wild. We took the morning ferry back to Macao, and we managed to catch the end of the breakfast at our hotel. The exercise was pointless.

Equally pointless, but financially more damaging was my visit to Legoland. After nearly two decades of longing, I finally made it to Denmark. Getting to Legoland within Denmark was an equally big challenge, but I made it just a few minutes before opening. It was a gloomy Saturday morning in April, with humid, cold air penetrating the flesh of us lost apes. It was so bad I could have been in England or some other horrible place.

Entrance of Legoland

The gates of Paradise.

The average age of the visitors was around ten, but that did not bother me. I energetically shovelled them aside to take pictures of every single brick on site. There were a total 25 million bricks. The kids were annoying: they were everywhere, they were happy, and they kept squeaking in Danish.

More bitterness followed once I left the scale models and moved on to the rides. Most of the rides were not open yet. The others were swarming with hyperactive, under-aged humans. Some of the rides had height or weight restrictions. While I am not an enormous specimen, I weigh more than 35 kilos. The Duplo Driving School was out.

Derailed train in Legoland

Childhood dreams derailed.

I was sipping a bad coffee at the Lego cafĂ©. A screaming British tadpole was rejoicing over his new airport; I cast envious looks. The parents looked exhausted and grey — they were hardly a few years older than me. I was out of place, and I was also very cold. I left disillusioned. For some things, I am just too old.

On the same note, I am already too old to drop an early death. Wrinkles carve my ignorant face, injuries take longer to heal, and the slightest flu will waylay me for ten days. The onset of dementia is taking its toll: I keep locking myself out of my apartment. I grumble about more and more things, from the wickedness of shoelaces to the conspiracy of cab drivers. I do not need a denture yet, but the days are close when I will not be able to handle my own discharges. So much about a conveniently early death.

Graveyard in Kyoto

A Japanese graveyard is a place where I will not be buried, at least not anytime soon.

When you are young, a vacuity of experience makes you believe that by birthright, majestic things will happen to you. That love and adventure await you, and all you have to do is sit around and `be yourself’. I was a bit different. I always knew nothing awaited me. That there was nothing to look forward to. That things could only go from bad to worse. For this reason, my imagination was never particularly vivid. Even with my mediocre dreams, I achieved nothing but disappointment. Wipe off dated items from your bucket list, and focus on the important stuff. Unattainable dreams are the best.

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