…or, perhaps more appropriately, set a scene.
Imagine a small child, dressing up like a princess and pretending that her dolls are her royal subjects. Imagine her pretending to make tea, having full-out conversations with them. Now imagine she’s 13, and still pretending.
She can’t sleep one night and pretends to engage in a long, heartfelt conversation with Tom Cruise while sitting under a tree. The girl was in bed, the tree, in her imagination. It was fun for her to imagine the conversation, that she was friends with him. That night was the start of a long, long journey down the road called fantasy. From then on, if she saw a movie or tv show that inspired her, she’d “write” her own character into the story and play out new scenes in her bedroom. Her parents spent most nights in front of the tv in the living room and when she was 15, her older brother moved out, so she was rarely bothered. Each day she’d come home from school, shut herself in her room and imagine she was Tom Hanson’s girlfriend on 21 Jump Street or MacGyver’s true love. Sometimes, she’d make up a character to interact with real life people. She imagined she was married to William Hurt…that she even had children with him. Prior to that, she had been involved with John Taylor of Duran Duran. The character she created to interact with these real-life people was creative…a dancer or a singer. She was strong, healthy, beautiful, desirable, successful, talented, kind and sexy. The girl played these reindeer games, make up plot-lines, sing and dance, hone dialogue, off and on for years, well into adulthood.
It took me 25 years to realize that the characters I had created weren’t really fiction, but who I imagined I’d be when I grew up. Acting out who I wanted to be as an adult shielded me from much of the pain I felt as a teenager. In high school, the boy I had a crush on for three years stood me up (and heralded in the era of melancholia I still live in) on what should have been our first date. But in my fantasy world, I was never rejected or overlooked.
As an adult, however, I’ve come to realize I did myself no favors, because those dreams, not only of who I’d be with but who I would become, would haunt me as I came up so short. So as I continue down Mid-life Crisis Boulevard, I realize that all these dreams I’ve had and not followed…of writing, of acting, of singing…they are about more than just being unhappy with my chosen profession. My crisis is seeming less to me like an issue of careers, but of who I am in the world. I’m not as kind as I want to be…I’ve become far too jaded. I’m not healthy and confident like I wanted to be. I’m not strong and assertive. I’m not sexy or beautiful like I aspired to, though I know my husband would beg to differ.
Aside from setting myself up for disappointment, I also now realize how my insecurity fed into my fantasies. I’d get far too bored pretending like I was in a GOOD relationship with whoever I fantasized about, so I always, ALWAYS, without fail, created some drama where I was rejected, then heavily sought after for forgiveness. Hmm, why would I do that? Why would I need to act out being begged for forgiveness? Anyone taking Psych 101 have the answer? Everyone?
One last thing…I find it highly amusing that years later I’d discover that of the five members of Duran Duran, the one I fantasized about, John Taylor, is the one guy who came out as a coke-head alcoholic. Waiter, I’d like my slice of irony covered in awesomesauce, thanks.
Honestly, there are times I still fantasize, though not about real people. While my projections of my hoped-for future self were central to my teenage fantasies, these days, my fantasies involve me being someone completely different. I aspire to one day feel good enough about myself to not have to pretend to be someone else.