Monday, November 11, 2013

F.... Fantasy

I live in a world I don't quite belong to. It's like I really am that square trying to fit into a circle and I really can't fit no matter how hard I try. I know, I know, doesn't everyone feel that way at some point? I agree, most everyone does. We don't all fit together perfectly, but usually that's just because we haven't found our spot in the puzzle of humanity and life yet.

Maybe this is just teenage angst kicking in, but I wonder if my square isn't ten times harder to fit into a circle, if I don't belong to this puzzle at all.

I've been thinking and pondering and wondering over this for a while. What exactly is wrong here? Is it me? Is it the people around me? Is it both? I mean, why, why is there this huge difference, this gap, cavern, Grand Canyon, Pacific Ocean standing between me and everyone else around me?

Then it hit me with the weight of a hundred books with hundreds of pages.


I grew up on fantasy. Lived breathed, ate, slept fantasy. I immersed myself in Greek myth early on. I was seven when I first sank into the world of Middle Earth and shook hands with Sam Gamgee and was fascinated by Gollum. I was in middle school the first time I even heard of The Chronicles of Narnia, but I immediately found myself staring longingly at my closet, hoping that one day I would push past my dresses to find woods and lampposts and everything I longed for. I was so enraptured with fairy tales and myths that I wanted to name the baby in my mother's belly Cinderella and Prince Philip and Hercules when I was three. There were so many Saturdays my father would turn on the sci-fi channel as I sat by his side.

All of this was so wonderful and exciting and comforting and made my heart soar whenever I opened those pages. But in the end, it sort of ruined my life.

Not exactly ruined, but almost everything that twisted knives into my soul and taught me the bitter meaning of disappointment and longing came from fantasy.

Sam Gamgee taught me what a true friend is. As did Merry and Pippin, and Legolas and Gimli. Those friends became integral parts of my life. How I thought, who I modeled myself after, what I was looking for. And I believed, so truly believed, that everything they were, friends were.

If I am to be a friend, according to this world, what am I to be? I am to be loyal - to a fault, if there is such a thing. I am to be steadfast and unwavering. I am to mean every promise I make, even if death is staring me in the face. If I am to be separated from a friend, I am to fight my way back to her as soon as I can and do anything possible to save her if she is in need of it. I am to be there for laughter and for tears, that shoulder to lean on and a promise of the future. Willing to lay down my life if it helps my friend achieve his goal. To push through all boundaries, mental and physical and emotional, because I know that person is so much more than anyone else around me might think. I am there to help him better himself, iron sharpens iron. And I will fight for him. I will throw myself in harms way and risk embarrassment or anything else to come to his defense in his time of need or when someone has hurt him. No matter what life throws my way, no matter how grey the sky is and no matter how burdened I am with the weight of a thousand years, I will bend, but I will not break. My heart is yours and I will never disappear of my own accord.

I have tried my best to live up to this definition of friend. At times I have failed, as a human will.

But this is what I was taught a friend is. Not should be, not in a perfect world. But is.

I lived my life with this definition of friend. And was disappointed and hurt time after time as friend after friend faded away and disappeared and watched me break and crumble and stood by, expecting me to catch them while I could barely stand.

I didn't know it until recently, but this all hurt so much because no one had the same definition of friend I did. No one else had been raised on fantasy and had the values such stories held running through their veins. Only me. So of course I was disappointed. I was looking for someone who no longer exists.

I have always had a high set of standards for leaders, be it teachers or politicians or leaders within my church. Especially the leaders within my church. Leadership that fell so far below my line of expectations that I barely recognized it as leadership hurt me a lot, drove me away from church. I knew it was my standard for a leader that caused this.

If you are accepting the role of a leader, act that way. There should be someone there training leaders, standing beside them and helping them through the early hiccups. This person should be wise and knowledgeable, with a good heart and a balanced perspective. Good leaders look beyond the surface, past the dirt and grime of stereotypes and shallow judgments, to the person buried beneath, to the heart of gold and characteristics that will win the war. They are forgiving and merciful, leading with justice, but compassion, too. They ask for help when they need it and look out for all involved, not just a certain set of people. They will go out of their way to save the wounded and won't leave anyone behind.

These are the leaders I grew up with, men of women of such noble characteristics, I couldn't help but admire them and desire to stand among them.

Then I began to look at the world around me and no one with the title of leader was following these rules.

It broke me to see these men and women not even trying to be the leaders I knew they could be. But why, why weren't they? Because they weren't fed fantasy. They didn't grow up in worlds built upon these kinds of leaders.

I learned that things were sacred. The connection between one person to the next. Marriage was a life long commitment and the secret promises of lovers were as thick as iron trees. Though they didn't swear to be true in front of a whole congregation, til death do they part. Blood and marriage and friendship were all sacred things that wove people together in such beautiful patterns.

Words held meaning. There were no empty sentences. False promises only belonged to the wicked.

I was taught from the moment I could hear my parents' stories that I can be a hero, too. That I can slay dragons and nothing can hold me back from being the victor in this ongoing battle with 1,000 different enemies. One day I will find my wardrobe or a wizard will appear and call me to my destiny or a god will touch the threads of my life and the greatness I feel swelling in my chest at times will be held in my hands. I can do so many good things and save the world simply by being alive and trying to live my life the best I can.

I was taught to believe in the impossible. In the magic that coated all things. To never say never because who would have guessed a Hobbit would be the one to deliver the Ring to it's doom and would Susan have ever guessed that she would visit a world through the wardrobe. The most fearful of girls turned out to be the bravest and with determination, the greatest curses could be removed. With the heart of being human, the courage and determination and love, anything, anything was possible. I listened to the mustn'ts and the shouldn'ts and the can'ts and I vowed to spit in their face because all the friends I wandered through woods with and fought alongside did.

But here I am. I am nineteen and there is nothing spectacular about my life. I live at home because I don't have money to move out. I want to do good but everything limits me. I try to fight the dragons all around me but I can barely fight the mosquitoes. I thought I found a knight in shining armour, but of course, the princess got him and here I am, in my loser-hole with falling apart walls and ceilings and I wound up with a loser in tinfoil who sided with the dragons. Because life isn't fair. Cinderella doesn't really get her prince. The prince will choose the girl from the palace, not the gutter. No matter how much that beaten down girl deserves something more than the same old dirt and dust collecting in her apron. I am no hero and there isn't about to be one on my doorstep. This is the real life and I fantasy only touches my life through reading and writing.

But above everything else, the thing that ties it all together, is the real definition of magic. Magic, in these stories, was so much more than spells or gods or power and energy being harnessed. Magic was the friendships, the unbreakable bonds between people, the love for a friend or lover that made you risk it all. It was the way people came together to fight injustice and the way good triumphed over evil. The real magic lay in the way people viewed things and who the characters were.

And even that magic doesn't exist here. At least not around me. So I long for more fantasy to build around myself because it is there that the values I adhere to still live. But whenever I emerge, a little piece of me cracks further. This world is tearing away at me because there is no magic here. No one tries to live up to these standards anymore. I'm not so sure people even know what these standards are anymore.

It sucks. It sucks so much and I want to throw things and punch things and slam my fist into the ground and watch the earth shake. But I can't do anything.

Anything but realize that fantasy really is fantasy. That growing up means seeing a world without any magic and figuring out how to survive it.

But I'm never going to stop hoping, wishing, dreaming, that maybe one day, somehow, a wizard will come and I will slay a dragon and I will stand with a band of people coated in the magic I long for.

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