Scott McCloud’s ZOT! is one of my favorite comic books. While the book is about a superhero from an alternate dimension, towards the end of its run it becomes another animal entirely. Zot gets trapped in our dimension and all of the sudden the stories seem to almost completely ignore him, and instead just focus on the lives of the people around him. What started off as a sci-fi superhero story became simply a story about normal people and normal life, and the issues they face.
One of the issues, #30 to be exact, is told from the perspective of Barbara Weaver, Zot’s girlfriend’s mom. She’s going through a divorce, and relates the story of how she met her husband, Horton. In the beginning, Horton was a dreamer, he had big plans, lofty dreams, ideals, etc., and that’s part of what she found attractive about him. So they got married. But as time went on, Horton wasn’t doing so well financially. They had bills to pay. A kid on the way. So Horton gives up his dream, and enters the corporate world. Not for himself, but to be able to better provide for his family. To be able to give them a good, comfortable life. Horton grows up.
The funny part is, it’s implied that that’s the reason Barbara doesn’t love him anymore is because Horton is no longer a dreamer. He’s a realist. It implies that poor Horton lost his way. Now, I understand what the author was trying to say with this. He himself was considering giving up his dream at the time, due to his comic not being so successful and having financial difficulties. He wrote this to convince himself that he’d be happier following his dream, even if his family suffers as a result. But if you ask me, Horton is an amazing family man. He gave up his dream for those he loved. He shouldn’t be made out to be the bad guy. He was acting selflessly.
Perhaps I’m wrong though. Maybe I’m just writing this to convince myself that I made the right decision, giving up on my dream. I write, sure, when I can. But at the moment it’s a hobby. When someone goes out and works or goes to school and only writes in their free time, all it is is a hobby (or perhaps a second job, stressing the second part). I would like for it to be my profession, but I can’t very well drop everything and jump all in. Not when I have rent and bills to pay, a wife to take care of and a child on the way.
“When you’re a little kid you’re a bit of everything; Scientist, Philosopher, Artist.
Sometimes it seems like growing up is giving these things up one at a time.”
-The Wonder Years
Giving up dreams is never easy, but its essential, most of the time. We come to realize there are things more important than what we thought we would always want. We come to realize that these new dreams are more important to us than the old one, but letting the old one go is always difficult. And we always look back, wondering ‘what if…’
One of my favorite episodes of The Wonder Years is the one where Kevin goes with his father to work. While there, he asks his dad when he knew he wanted to be a manager at NORCOM. Jack explains that while “Being manager of product support services is a good job, but it’s not what I thought I’d be doing with my life.” He goes on to tell Kevin about how he always wanted to be a captain of a ship. Kevin asks why didn’t he do it, and Jack responds, “How come? Well, you know, one thing leads to another, went off to college, met your mom, next summer I got a job on a loading dock here at NORCOM, the rest is history.” Then Jack says what is probably the most important line, at least to me, that’s ever been said in a television show: “You know, Kevin, you can’t always do every silly thing you want to in life. You have to make your choices. You have to try and be happy with them.”
There’s no shame in giving up a dream. In fact, I’d venture to say there’s honor in it. And I’m sure, somewhere, Horton kept his dream alive. Some part of him hopes that he can quit one day and be the person he was. If only life was that simple.