I LIVED IT: My Dream Was Derivative

We all love a good dream, putting us in situations that only our imagination can make happen. It’s free daily escapism from the mundanity of everyday life, and we want to hold onto our best dreams as reminders of happy moments, but what happens when we realize our dreams are completely unoriginal?


I had a glorious dream where I was older and thriving in a stable career in New York, reconnecting with an old friend who had seriously glowed-up (played by Noah Centineo) and falling in love with him. I woke up feeling so content – someone should write that movie! But as I told my co-worker Sarah about it, she said the six words that devastated my happy morning: “Ooh! Like that Jennifer Garner movie!”


She was right: My dream was just a sadder version of 13 Going on 30.


It’s devastating to realize your subconscious is just creating a trite facsimile of another’s work. It’s like painting a beautiful portrait of an eyebrow-less woman, only to remember the Mona Lisa already exists. I felt no better than those Hallmark hacks trying to capitalize off of watered-down Nora Ephron stories.



I tried to play devil’s advocate for my plagiarized dream – maybe I was paying homage to a classic rom-com like Sleepless in Seattle did to An Affair to Remember or adapting it with subversions like Fire Island did with Pride & Prejudice.


But no. My dream was about a basic white girl learning her childhood best friend grew up hot, but without any of the charm or whimsy of the 2004 classic. No amount of mental gymnastics could justify the fact that it was a generic Toasted Cinnamon Squares to Jennifer Garner’s Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Even down to Noah Centineo, standing in as a knock-off Mark Ruffalo.


Like any director realizing they’re doing nothing more than ripping off their favorite Fellini film, I had to accept the cold, hard truth that my dream was merely imitating the greats. But I took it as a learning moment – if Hollywood could have three different shows of Nicole Kidman as a rich woman entangled in mysteries and various coats, I too could be derivative and eventually find originality. And the next day I dreamed of slowly falling in love with a man I met and then befriended for over a decade. At least that’s not from anything!