thoughtwisps One commit at a time

high-octane dreams

I started writing this essay several months before the coronavirus pandemic. If this imagined life seemed unattainable back then, its glossy exterior has certainly been completely shattered by now.

In an alternative universe, things are, of course different. And glossy.

I planned the rest of my life one afternoon in 7th grade while reading an elementary Swedish language textbook. A staple piece of content in foreign language textbooks at the time were snippets where students of the same age as the learners but living in the native country where the foreign language was spoken talk about their dreams for the future.

It was then and there that I read the dreams of Janika, 13, from Uppsala, who imagined herself at 30, sitting in a luxury bath in her apartment in London, relaxing after a long day at work. After completing highschool, Janika moved to London and made a successful career in business. It was vague and suitably delicious.

Right then and there, on the wooden classroom chairs, this sounded like magic and for months after that I slipped in and out of random reveries of what it would be like to lead this high-flying existence in a specific, yet unnamed, cosmopolitan city in the world.

There would of course be busy mornings, large Chanel sunglasses and tall single-use coffee cups. One would glide into the office a la Miranda Priestly, the bossbitch devil wearing Prada, her morning entrace accompanied by the staccatto of heels on well-polished marble floors in the lobby of an anonymous but important looking office.

At other times, the reveries were about evenings after work, slipping into luxe baths in beautiful Scandinavian bathrooms with views into expansive living rooms. In those living rooms, the windows stretched from floor to ceiling and revealed a jeweled carpet of city lights stretching infinitely into all directions.

All of this obviously took place before I ever laid my eyes on the New York-London-Paris real-estate listings and even after I had laid eyes on the said information and computed the gap between what I could ever expect to earn in a lifetime and what one of these glamorous places cost, I still continued dreaming.

Of course, the imagined version of my future self did other things besides taking baths and wistfully gazing out of tall, expansive windows.

There were nights out in chandeliered bars where the light was just dim enough to be sophisticated, yet intimate, where the decor refused to place itself in any particular era or style but was anonymous, where the conversation was interesting yet didn’t say much and mingled among the light glint of piano, where people flirted by dropping references to an art exhibition of Picasso’s early works or this or that indie band they had seen perform in a hip area of the city that they loved being associated with but would never consider living in.

Then there were of course the weekends and here the dream’s geographies became vague. These days were occupied with shopping trips to other equally stylish, equally expensive, equally charming comsopolitan cities where glamorous, rich, beautiful people drifted from one chic pastel store to another buying things just because they could and not because they needed any of them. It was this air of casual nonchalance, of buying things just for the sake of buying that became so seductive. It seemed like the ultimate form of some perverted freedom. Of course, it was also a trap.

At other times, there were trips to the sea and the seaside mansions, whose total worth would by far exceed anything a whole town of people could ever earn in a lifetime. In the yards of these mansions, the occupants sat by the pool, barbecued and made arrangements to play golf together on the bank holiday weekend. They all had the air of people who had succeeded and would succeeded with seemingly little or no effort. The way they did it, they made success look easy.

Once the dusk had settled, there would be a garden party in the warm, balmy light of the evening, the air saturated with the excitement and exhaustion from the day’s activities, and the guests, in their summer whites, drifting from one conversation to another like large moths.

Of courses, this was all pretty much like the Instagram reel of an affluent person. No one around me lived a life quite as exquisite as I spent hours imagining, yet for some reason these images and their variants came to occupy my imagination, eventually occupying the very dangerous label of desireable life.

It was desireable on some abstract social one-upmanship level, a life that everyone was primed to strive for since the very early days of pre-school, not necessarily a desireable life in terms of social benefit or even individual liberty. After all, paying for all of the above would likely require golden handcuffs or some sort of familial monetary lifeline.

Although these images situate themselves in various places, continents, cities, places of a certain feeling and no concrete geographical label, a common thread weaves through these images, namely that they derive their pleasure and thus their allure from the possbility of unlimited consumption, wealth and prosperity. They are (in the words of a climate change activist) affordances of a high-carbon society, high-octane dreams.