Sometimes I wake up sure in the knowledge that I will not be able to make it through the day. I feel defeated before I even open my eyes, and immediately start thinking of ways to get out of any commitments or responsibilities expected of me that day. Most days, I’m able to talk myself into getting out of bed and carrying on with the day. Other days, I give in to this feeling of helpless paralysis and take what I call a “mental health day”. When that happens, I try to not spend too much time wallowing in my self loathing and try to escape into a story that takes me out of my head.
Usually, the stories I choose are familiar friends to me; Harry Potter, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, or About a Boy. Whether in book or movie form, these stories give me endless comfort. Sometimes I find myself wondering how badly I’ve been damaged by these fictitious stories. As much as I now loathe Twilight, I must admit for a small time (between reading the first and second books) that I thought of that story as compelling and dare I say romantic? I have read almost the entire Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series, I can recite full episodes of Sex and the City, and my favorite love story of all time is between a naive governess and a rich man who kept his insane wife locked away in a tower.
I often have conversations with friends that bear a close resemblance to one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors: Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.
“People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands - literally thousands - of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”
Sometimes I wonder if my anxiety and dissatisfaction with life comes from the fact that I have stuffed my head so full of stories of romance, adventure and fantasy that day to day life can never measure up to. Though when looking at things from a clear objective perspective the lives lived in the stories are no way to live at all. I’ve had the same New Year’s resolution for the past few years and with 2015 coming to a close it’s likely I will have the same resolution again: to find contentment. Jane was content until she let herself fall for Mr. Rochester and believe they could have a future. Harry didn’t find contentment until after years spent in fear for his life and the lives of all he loved; even then he had to kill someone (a few people actually) to find peace. I don’t think I have it in me to kill and I’m certain I don’t have it in me to forgive a man I loved for lying to me about having a wife and finding her locked in a tower.
Contentment does not mean that I want to live a life without adventure, however. I want to push myself to do things that make me scared, I want to stretch the limits of my imagination and creativity. I have goals that I have set for myself that I want to reach, but those goals need to be firmly set in reality. Reality means that if I fall in love and he turns out to be a vampire who stalks me when I sleep, I should walk away. If, by chance, a 1300-year-old alien asks me to travel in time with him, this doesn’t negate the fact that I still have student loans to pay.
“It does no good to dwell in dreams and forget to live, remember that.”
In one of the most famous quotes from Harry Potter, Dumbledore conveniently forgets to mention the mundane realities of everyday life. When Dumbledore implores Harry to give up the Mirror of Erised, he talks about people who have wasted away in front of the mirror but never mentions Harry having to take his OWLs or NEWTs. This is because life is not always an epic adventure. In truth, life is almost never an epic adventure. Life is waking up, feeling defeated before you’ve even started, yet getting out of bed and going about your day anyway.