They say, “you can dream beyond the sky”, but what is the limit?
When does one remember to stop fantasizing about all the cities and streets they want to walk through? What does one do when those dreams shatter?
As Vina zigzagged through the cobble-stoned alleyways of Malé, the capital city of the Maldives, she wished to walk across New York's Fifth Avenue with yellow taxis rushing by. As she smelt the savory trace of Maldivian fish curry, she began to instead crave the famous Danish smørrebrød iconically made with rye bread. The more she lived in a mundane routine in a familiar place, Vina selfishly, or reasonably according to her, wanted more excitement.
Her mother would bug her saying, “Doll, you always watch the same old 90’s rom coms.” And Vina had no answer for her because it was her insatiable need to watch New York through the lives of Kathleen Kennedy and Joe Fox in “You’ve Got Mail.”
The train stops on "Ticket on Ride" all the way from Kyiv to Copenhagen were the pinnacle of her dreams. While building each train path during the game, her childish mind also built towers of dreams to visit all of those cities.
She was just someone filled with wanderlust. That was her fancied identity: Vina, "the Wanderer".
One day, Vina declared to her family with determined eyes, “I will move to New York, København and so many other cities, just wait and watch”.
“Of course, you will, but you have to do well in school to go abroad,” laughed her father, not realizing how much his daughter will take it to heart.
Vina realized that to fulfill her dreams, she needed to succeed in her life. And that’s what she did. She resorted to hanging pictures of New York downloaded off of Pinterest onto her walls and staring at them while banging her head on the bane of her existence, the math textbook.
You might ask, did she reach at least one city of her dreams?
Oh yea, she did. But it came along with shattered dreams and unrealistic expectations of her imagination.
Vina scanned all of the views from the same porthole next to her seat while trying to memorize her dream that had come true. The pictures of NYC were becoming real in her mind, and that feeling was surreal. The New York skyline rising from the Hudson River came into sight. The skyscrapers sprawled out across the land. The lights reflected from the thousands of windows created a Christmas-like ambiance at night. If it wasn’t August and humid, one might think the holidays came early for New Yorkers.
The first week of life in New York was full of window shopping, eating $1 dollar pizzas, and trying to understand the subway lines which mirrored mazes. However, Vina noticed how her hands started getting clammy while walking to her campus to attend classes. The beauty of the high-rise buildings started fading. The fascination with the bobcat mascot of NYU felt more suffocating than liberating all of a sudden. Walking through the streets dodging people and trying not to spill her coffee became a routine. Hiding the dissatisfaction with her new life from everyone especially her mother became harder and harder. The picture board filled with pictures of New York felt wrong hanging in her shoebox-like dorm. The urge to remove them and replace them with another city increased day by day.
The routine of her past life in the Maldives was returning unexpectedly to NYC, and it made her want to flee. But, where though? Where could she go after reaching the peak of her dreams?
One evening, the smørrebrøds she wished for as a child brought another plan to her mind, “Oh, maybe Copenhagen will be my next destination”.
Considering how she already had started at NYU, Vina chose to continue working towards her computer science degree there for the time being. The manifestation of the routine was her fear, and regardless of it happening in her dream city, Vina trudged through every day of the university while muttering, “I will leave soon. I will leave soon. I will leave soon”. The four years of university in the smack center of New York City flew by before she even realized it.
And, her luck took her to Copenhagen just as she dreamed.
The day of walking through Strøget came for Vina. The longest shopping street in Europe seemed to stretch endlessly lined with cozy stores on both sides. The round, doughnut-like pastry called vwienerbrød sold in one of the cafes in Copenhagen lived up to the expectations she held. There was a time when she thought the Holidays had come to New York early, but that day in Copenhagen was Christmas Eve. The beauty of Christmas lights wrapped every building and street in its warm glow. As she exited Strøget, Vina stumbled upon the Christmas market at Kongens Nytorv. One of the stalls caught her eye, they were serving a Danish version of mulled wine famously known as gløgg. Deciding to indulge on her first day in Copenhagen, Vina drank the spicy wine before setting off towards her hotel before it snowed harder.
But, she still didn’t feel satisfied. The beauty of the city during winter was consistent with snow and rain; however, Vina’s heart wasn’t content.
The dream which began while playing "Ticket to Ride" seemed stagnant. Regardless of whether it was NYC or Copenhagen, Vina kept failing to find her happiness anywhere. She only moved forward with her life in search of places she could fall in love with. The disappointment of every place not living up to her dreams and expectations crushed Vina further and further.
Because even in Copenhagen, the feared routine came again. It never seemed to leave her alone, always chased her from one city to another. Never content. Never satisfied. Never at peace. Always the wanderer.
Vina kept questioning herself, “Where to next? Will my heart never be content?”
Maybe there should be boundaries to how much you dream to make sure they don’t destroy you in the end.
However, Vina dreamt again, but her dream was different.
“This is the final boarding call for Vina Ahmed on flight 580B to Malé, Maldives. Please proceed to gate number 5 at once”, announced the flight staff.
Maybe it was time for Vina to stop wandering and rather live. And, what better place than her hometown?