Quoth the Raven, “Get a Life”
Edgar Allan Poe, a role model in probably no way but his writing, once offered: “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” And it seems that Poe encountered hours and hours of sanity, if his death is to serve as any evidence. So, what can we learn from both his tortured life and his equally tragic death? The same things that we can learn from any great existence. What Poe teaches us, and what anyone pursuing their dream might be able to tell you, is that if you accept “reality” in any form than you will never be happy. If you hear someone say any of the following:
- be realistic, get straight
- grow up, be an adult
- stop dreaming
Then start running. Preferably now. And if that person is your mom, dad, sibling, boyfriend, girlfriend, closest friend, then I am even more sorry. But you’ll have to kill them.
Just kidding. But if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, or if you’ve never graduated with an English degree, then here is a version of the “reality” I’m talking about and advising you to avoid:
You tell yourself that you have to take the job because it will pay the bills. You don’t go out for drinks on a Friday night because you didn’t plan for it. You decide that you want to go back to school because your current profession is a dead-end and a pipe-dream. You don’t believe in magic, angels, miracles, mermaids, unicorns, fairies, or even love. You tell yourself to “be realistic” or “sensible.” You refrain from laughing too loudly, and have perfected the quiet chortle behind your napkin. You scream into a pillow when you are angry. You don’t entertain the notion of “what ifs,” you simply accept the world as it is.
And I pity you.
Hobbits and Big Macs
Here’s how I disregard reality. When I was a young lass, my father read to my sister and I every night. After a time, fairy tales graduated into The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. A love for mysteries stuck with my sister because since she still seeks out crime and cop shows on the regular. But for me, it was simply an obsession with reading that outlasted my childhood. I would read to myself out loud or silently. I would read books, signs, shampoo bottles (I love long ingredients) post-it notes, newspapers, and occasionally, tea-leaves. You can argue that I was pre-wired to love words, as nature might, or that the nurturing hand of my father reading transformed me into the bookworm that I am today. Either way, reading satisfies something in me that can’t be satiated in any other way. An itch that can only be scratched by the repertoire of Neil Gaiman, lately.
But it doesn’t matter what I read. What is important now is that I have learned to escape reality, and that I do. I read books, particularly fantasy and science fiction, because I am not at all concerned with “reality.” I am actually most happy when I am contemplating the civilization on a fallen leaf or what seas do mermaids enjoy the most or even what Hobbits would order at McDonald’s.
So, when the time comes to be “serious” or “adult” or “realistic,” well. I’m not.
A Hit of Reality
Because, without reality, people are filled with dreams and what-ifs. When individuals aren’t constrained or inhibited by their own beliefs or limitations, they are an altogether different breed. Occasionally, we see small glimpses of this type of human being. They ride trains to their mundane jobs and daydream about if their car began to fly into the air. They wish fully for a black hole to swallow them up when they are embarrassed. They imagine having the ability to shoot laser beams from their eyes to fry their boss or their ex. The point is, their imaginations run wild at these times, and their emotions flare, and they are alive.
As a result, my message is to avoid reality at all costs, whatever that means for you. If it’s drugs, alcohol and dark vices that allow you to escape for awhile, then by all means. But know that there are other ways to let yourself rise above the fray without doing as much damage to yourself and to those around you. There is reading, writing, math, art, running, walking, believing, swimming, hiking, loving, breathing or any other matter of activity. But no, I will not condemn your feints to preserve your sanity in the end, whatever you choose. I will never tell you to grow up or be more logical. And the truth is, what we need is not less addicts or problems in the world.
It is less people telling us no, less people saying that we can’t achieve all that we can be, and less people demanding that we need to be “realistic.”
In the end, if you must engage with reality, take a dose and let the effects wear off forever.