This I Believe

Elana - Columbia, Maryland
Entered on March 14, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I spent most of my childhood on a floating teacup the size of a ship. It had about 50 different floors. Each floor represented a different type of place in the world; a deserted city, the suburbs, Egypt, everywhere. I lived in this teacup with 1000 or more other people, and I’d have different interactions with them over time, on different levels. I had closer friends on the teacup, rivals, and even enemies. I find it funny when, nowadays, when asked if I ever had an imaginary friend. “I had around fifty,” is usually my reply.

Oh! How beautiful, how powerful imagination is! We all have our teacups, our places where even now we can escape to when life seems too practical, too disappointing, too horrifying. It was the appeal of books to me, as a young child. I was never to be found without a book in my hand, it was a natural high. I’d find myself getting swept away onto Treasure Island, looking the devilish white whale in the eye, blushing as Romeo would kiss my hand, doing things that life’s limits would not allow me.

My mother was a drug addict, and many times she’d take me to alleys and strange apartments and I would be left there for a period of time. That was often when I’d imagine myself out of the situation, to keep myself from getting scared or sad. I would often find myself in these situations, and therefore I spent most of my time in a pseudo-reality. It mad me quite brazen, and foolishly courageous. I would do dangerous things, and convince myself to believe it to be a game. I remember my mother telling me, on Christmas Eve at 11pm, that she was going to the store to get milk with her friend. I was not a stupid eleven year old. She left with her friend, and I followed her at a distance, through the wooded area behind our house, through another part of our town, to an apartment. The whole time I pretended what I was doing wasn’t risky, wasn’t foolish, but that I was just playing a spy. After she went in, I worked up the nerve to knock on the door. Later, I passed on this story to my father, who admonished me for doing that. He saw the dangers, whereas I thought it was clever, and brilliantly daring of me.

As much as I feel imagination has kept me going, sometimes I wonder if it has stunted my growth. Alas! Has my key to every possibility available betrayed me? Has it deceived me? Have I become its prisoner? Has it kept me from being able to accept that life’s a fact?

Perhaps it may be the chain that binds me. I still find myself escaping into my mind when life becomes too hard. I write books, fiction of course, where I determine the fate of everyone and everything. Have you ever thought of how amazing it is, to write a piece of fiction? You create your own universe. You are, in a sense, God. It sounds a bit odd, but it’s a large part of the appeal of being a writer.

It’s also the reason I love theatre. Being an actress constantly allows me to be a different person, constantly. I have a dozen scene books in my room, which I can pull out at me leisure and dive into. It allows me to practice my craft and cut myself from the ties of reality.

Music, oh my God, music. Here is an example of the effect music can have on your reality. Before I started writing this essay, I was overtaken by melancholy. Therefore, I turned off the lights, put on my headphones, and listened to Beethoven. Now, usually Mozart is my primary choice when I am down, but I went for a change. For the first time I listened to all of the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. For 12 minutes, I went on an incredible journey. I closed my eyes, and let each perfect note wash over me. I saw myself in a forest in the 1700’s, wearing the appropriate attire of the time, running, with this music in the background. Then, I saw myself at a costume ball, dancing with my love.

Suddenly the notes became brasher, the drums beat louder, faster, and so did my heart. Conflict was afoot. I was being kidnapped by the prince of a neighboring kingdom, who would save me? Did I want to be saved? Wouldn’t it be a marvelous adventure to save myself? Who knew where I would end up next? Ludwig’s music was proving to be unpredictable, taking me to safety and romance at one moment, then the next I was fighting off attackers on a cold winter’s night.

Then, it happened. The melody that he had used twice already suddenly became minor. All minor chords. It was so unexpected, so exquisite, so fragile yet flawless. I said, “Wow,” and I started to cry.

The aforementioned experience is one that may occur often when listening to music, especially classical music. It doesn’t tell you what to think, the notes are there, and if you close your eyes, they will take you where you should be, where your subconscious desires lie.

Yes, I did this, took a musical escape, instead of facing my problems and trying to fix them.

Blanche DuBois, in the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, loved imagination, too. She used it to run away from her grief-stricken past. She cried the exact words that make up the title of this essay. “I DON’T WANT REALISM! I WANT MAGIC!” Her frequent escape into imagination, her inability to deal with raw reality, brought her downfall in the end. I sometimes worry if I’m heading down that path. If, because of the escape I took from the troubles of my childhood, I’ve never learned how to cope with that dirty four letter word: LIFE. Am I lingering on dreams, and forgetting how to live?

I’ve tried to find my way back to that teacup in recent years, but I’m lost. Experience and maturity have clouded my vision, and I see it there, but it’s out of reach. I feel almost as if I’ve lost a close friend. Sometimes, things happen in our lives that make it clear that we’re getting older. The fact that I can no longer reach that world is an indication to me.

Yes…I believe imagination is a beautiful and powerful thing. It is much like sirens, the gorgeous mythological women whose enchanting songs would lure mariners to their destruction. So appealing, yet too much of it could be detrimental. I sometimes wonder if I am losing sight of the line between realistic and unrealistic. I try not to let it bother me, though. Everything will turn out well in the end, I imagine.