Real Life’s Fantasy

Madeline - Briarcliff, New York
Entered on June 13, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

A dragon would make a perfect companion. I have thought this for as long as I’ve been old enough to listen to stories of mythical landscapes populated by fantastic creatures unfettered by the laws of reality. I pictured myself riding a dragon into a painted sunset, fearless and warlike at four years old. Dragons were the ultimate symbol of creatures who could rise above rules that governed my world.

This was only the first of my many infatuations with surreal ideas. The dragon years were immediately followed by a sequence of similarly obsessive phases. As I upgraded my reading level and ravaged local bookstores, images of wizards, unicorns, flying, shrinking, time travel, mind-reading and shapeshifting began to march through my dreams like an impossible parade. I daydreamed about worlds with pink skies and white grass dusted by midnight-blue snow. Like so many children for whom reality wasn’t quite weird enough, I had found my strange world in fantasy; and, like so many children, I was hooked.

Eventually, my intellectual life became absorbing enough that I didn’t have much time for fantasy. I learned script, memorized state capitals and wondered how high the times tables went, but I still craved that otherworldly element. Though I pretended otherwise, maturity had only sharpened my desire to meet with the unreal.

In was the fall of my junior year of high school, I decided on a whim to spend my autumn working on the school’s dramatic theater production. The acting exercises siphoned off my creative energies beautifully, but it was a bit of offhand advice from my director that really gave me the magic I needed: “Take pleasure in everything.” He was referring, of course, to the wild pleasure of just being on stage, the blessed opportunity to exist in another world for a few acts and to experience the strangeness of theater. However, I have always had a tendency to overanalyze words of wisdom. I took his thespian maxim and interpreted it to mean that I should take pleasure in the strangeness of my entire life and every moment it contains.

With that, my paradigm shifted. The world is more inexplicably and delightfully odd than any mythical realm a children’s author could ever hope to invent. I take pleasure in how weird and wonderful the human form has evolved to be. I take pleasure in the absurdity of the fundamental laws of science that shape everything I experience. I take pleasure in the ridiculous colors that nature already has, in the oddness of human cultures and the fabulous fantasy of the things we build and do every single day.

That day, with my director’s inadvertent inspiration, I was able to wean myself off of fantasy. I still believe in magic, but it is no longer unattainable. I believe that everything about life, including and transcending science and logic, is perfect magic. Yes, I’m still waiting on that dragon ride, but until that day comes I’ve got plenty of other fantasy to enjoy.