Flights of Fancy

When I was little and things got rough, I used my imagination as a means of escape. That’s why I fell in love with reading in the first place. I could escape the real world and go with someone on a wonderful adventure, full of fun and laughter. If there was drama I knew it would be resolved by the end, unlike the drama I so often faced. Eventually, though, I needed to escape from the real world when I was really upset, and I couldn’t focus on a book. I had to act out my imaginings. So, I played pretend, like most children do. I used my imaginary adventures as a way to resolve conflicts or fill holes that I had in my life. If I was feeling bored, I’d invent a new world to explore. If I was scared, I’d invent some monster and make myself the hero who would defeat it. If I was lonely, I’d go on wonderful new adventures with a bunch of friends. If I felt powerless, I’d pretend I had powerful magic.

I never really stopped playing pretend. It’s a wonderful coping mechanism, really. I went through a phase where I’d write poems to deal with my life, or I’d write countless scripts or short stories. Sometimes all I had to do was write down the idea for a book and I could spend an hour imagining how the rest of it would go. It was a great distraction.

As I grew older, though, I needed my imaginings to become even more specific, and the fanciful ones weren’t cutting it any more. I needed something realistic in my life. I had to imagine that life was different than it really was. If my parents were fighting, I’d imagine instead that we were all off on a family vacation. If I felt lonely, I’d imagine that all of my good friends came to see me from across the country. If I was scared, I’d imagine either that I stepped up to the challenge and succeeded, or that someone would come and save me.

I still go off on flights of fancy, even today, when I’m supposed to be a mature adult. I often catch myself daydreaming: that I am living this wonderful, put-together life in a cute apartment with a great job, or that I am out with friends instead of stuck in my room doing homework or trying to find something new to watch on Netflix, or that the people I really want to pay attention to me give me the time of day.

It’s harmless, I suppose. Where would ambition come from, if not from dreams?  The main problem, though, is when you have to land. They always say that landing is the hardest part of flying, and I can agree. You have to somehow ground yourself again after imagining that your most fervent wishes had come true. It’s hard to come back down to Earth when you’ve been up in the clouds. Earth seems so hopeless, harsh, and unwelcoming.

So it’s important to watch how often you daydream, I suppose. Make sure you aren’t putting yourself through too many rough landings. Don’t go back out until you’ve put some plan in motion to achieve your dreams. Start looking for that dream apartment and the job that will pay for it. Make plans with friends so that you aren’t left alone. Work hard at always being your most fabulous self so that if someone looks at you, they can’t look away.

Use your dreams to guide your reality.

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