The genie was floating in front of Efraim, impatiently. Efraim had somehow got a hold of his magic lamp, given it a rub, and freed the genie from his imprisonment.
Although the genie had promised Efraim three wishes, like he always did, this particular lamp-rubber was being incredibly difficult about asking for wishes. Unwilling to really trust the genie, Efraim had spent his first of three wishes on wishing that he could trust the genie, and the wishes themselves.
The genie hovered and wondered what the next obstacle would be.
“So, you can trust me now, thanks to your first wish. Where are we at with these remaining two?”
Efraim looked back at the genie and took some time before answering.
“Well, I was asking you what I should wish for, and you told me that I was a jerk for that.”
The genie laughed. “Sorry, I don’t think you’re really a jerk, it’s just a weird thing to ask me for. Like, wish fulfilment is about what you want. I don’t know what you want — that’s your department. My job is to fulfill on the wishes. Your job is to make them.”
Efraim thought some more. He felt paralyzed by the magnitude of possibility in front of him. He had two wishes he could spend on anything at all, but didn’t really know what to ask for. It all felt so vast.
“Well, what do people commonly wish for?”
The genie spun around in the air, mostly so that he could roll his eyes without Efraim seeing him.
“Well, some people wish for untold riches. That’s quite a popular wish. Love is another common one. A wish to find the person they will fall madly in love with, and share the rest of their lives with.”
The genie paused and thought a bit before going on.
“Oh, and also people often wish for a beautiful home. Like a castle or something like that.”
Efraim jumped in. “Well, I wouldn’t wish for a castle. There’s no way that would fit here in New York where I live. Plus it would be kind of ostentatious. And I don’t want to move, I like where I live.”
Efraim thought some more.
“And that seems like it would be an awful lot of space to have to manage. No, I don’t think I’d want that.”
The genie took a deep breath and looked around Efraim’s law office. His antique oil lamp was sitting on the shelf, where Efraim had set it down after rubbing it. Outside the window of Efraim’s fourteenth floor office, the genie could see a view out across the city, watching the wind whip through the trees in the park nearby.
Pulling himself away from the view and back to Efraim, the genie responded.
“Okay, so, you asked me what other people wish for, and I’ve shared some of that, and now you’re explaining to me why you couldn’t wish for that stuff. But here’s the thing, it’s a wish. Like, you get to design it however you want. You don’t have to wish for a castle that would be ostentatious. You could wish for a castle that beautifully fit in with Manhattan’s skyline, and that everyone had always just experienced as being there. And you could also wish that it was maintained, and not any extra work, and you just got to enjoy it.”
The genie was trying to keep his voice from rising.
“Is this making sense? It’s like your wishing muscles are broken or something. You don’t have to be reasonable with your wish. You get to ask for whatever your heart desires.”
Efraim nodded, listening to the genie with a single eyebrow raised. Efraim had heard promises like this before.
“Sure, I get it. I mean, they said things like this when I went into law school, and then when I joined a big firm,” Efraim changed his voice in an imitation of the people who had made promises to him. “Go to law school. It’ll be tough at first, but then you’ll be able to have whatever you want. And then go join a big firm, and you’ll have to work hard, but then you’ll make partner and you can choose whatever you want.”
Efraim looked at the genie. “But there’s always some compromise, and, I’m not complaining, but I just don’t trust that you can have whatever you want that easily.”
The genie felt like he was running a remedial course on how to ask for what you want.
Efraim seemed to be picking up some steam, now that the conversation’s tone had shifted a little more into that of a debate.
“I mean, look, I can tell you what I don’t want,” Efraim began counting things off on his hands, “I don’t want to have to work quite so many hours, even though my job isn’t bad and I don’t mind what I do. And I don’t want to have to commute so long to and from work, I hate that drive and traffic. And I don’t want my associates to keep bugging me with dumb questions. I want them to be better at their job.”
The genie listened to Efraim’s complaints before interjecting, trying the tack of reflecting back what he was hearing.
“Okay, so it sounds like you don’t really love your job, and there’s a bunch of things you’d like about it to change. Honestly, you don’t sound that happy in it.”
Efraim interrupted, “Well, I don’t know that I would say that. Like, it’s not bad. You know, like, if I look at it, there’s a lot of good things. I have some nice perks, and my salary is decent, and I like that I get to work on challenging problems. And I don’t always have to work late hours, and I do get to go on vacation three times a year.”
The genie was flabbergasted.
“I’m confused. Are you trying to convince me why your job isn’t that bad? Or trying to convince yourself? What are we doing here? My job is to grant you wishes. Why are we in this conversation?”
Efraim blinked and looked at the genie.
“Well, you were asking me what I wanted to wish for, and I’m getting clearer on what I want.”
The genie sized up Efraim before responding.
“Are you? It seems to me like all you’re doing is convincing yourself why your current life isn’t that bad, and why you couldn’t wish for anything different. Are you actually getting closer to wishing for something?”
Efraim was frustrated now. This genie was messing with his process.
“Yah, sure, I think I am. It just takes me a lot of time to arrive at a decision, that’s simply the way I am. And, I want to make sure I wish for the right things. And, my life is complicated buddy. It’s not like I can just magically wish for everything to work. I have to be reasonable here.”
The genie’s voice was raised now, bordering on shouting.
“That’s exactly what you can do. This is literally a magical wish for whatever your heart desires.” The genie heavily emphasized the words.
“You know what? Maybe it’s time you went back in your lamp for a while. I’ve got some work I need to do anyway. Can we pick this up later?”
The genie hovered irritably.
“Sure thing boss. Just rub the lamp when you want to pick this back up.”
In a puff of smoke, the genie vanished.
Efraim picked up the papers on his desk and began his work.
This post is part 2 of a series about our relationship to possibility. You can have anything you want — but first you have to allow yourself to ask for it. Reasonableness is the killer of dreams. You don’t create an unreasonable life by making reasonable wishes.