I recently came across a number of old essays and stories I wrote in college or shortly thereafter. This is an abridged version of an essay I wrote when I was 19, I believe. It is interesting how some things stay the same, some change, and some come full circle.
Reasoning with Monsters
When I was a child, I was sure a monster was going to get me, so I adopted a number of defense mechanisms. I’d hide under my Strawberry Shortcake bedspread or hug my Wrinkle Dog, Charmin. Sometimes I played a game where I’d envision a vampire, a werewolf, and Frankenstein having a conversation over my bed. They’d reason that they couldn’t possibly hurt me and therefore they couldn’t hurt anyone in the world because it might hurt me indirectly. The world was safe and I could go to sleep.
I have had lots of other safety icons throughout my life: a favorite pair of shoes, some apricot nectar when I was sick, a good imagination, a book. I always dealt with scary things by pretending. The shoes made me look better. The apricot nectar became the magic potion to heal my illness. I would imagine that my friends from school and my favorite cartoon characters were part of my team on elaborate spy missions. We all lived happily ever after.
Throughout my childhood, happy endings fell into place that easily, but as I grew it became harder to convince myself that happy endings existed. Imagining my friends around me didn’t stop my loneliness, so instead of pretending they were there, I pretended I didn’t need them. Around junior high books became my escape from reality. I pushed away everyone real until I truly was alone and realized my plan wasn’t getting me anywhere near happily ever after.
My disappointment compelled me to face the world of people again. Coming back, building new relationships, letting people in wasn’t easy. I don’t imagine it ever will be. For five years I’ve tried to break my habits of closing myself in, and I have changed. I know longer cringe when I look someone in the eyes, but my life remains a fragile balance of push and pull.
Tonight I look at my engagement ring and think about getting married and growing up. It seems to get married one has to grow up. Maybe I’d have to grow up anyway. Maybe I never will entirely. It doesn’t matter because either way it looms over me and it’s scary. It involves responsibilities and burdens and worries. Sometimes I just want to escape–I want to be a child again whose biggest fear is the monsters under my bed. I want to hide under my bedspread with Charmin and feel OK again. I want to save the world by simply reasoning with the monsters, but I don’t know how anymore.
Somewhere I lost my ideals to my reals. I lost my innocence for what? To pursue the American Dream? To know if I’d ever be famous or own a new car? I don’t know.
But. There’s always a but, and it holds me to his world. So here I am growing up and living my life and making plans. Tomorrow I will wake up and go to class and pretend that everything is all right, that I know what I’m doing and where I’m going. Tonight I’ll hug Charmin and try to sleep.
I wonder if anyone has grown up or if we’re all just closing our eyes to our childish desire to love and learn and live. Maybe growing up means recognizing that fact and opening our eyes back up. Perhaps it means learning to remember how to see the beauty of life in each flower, sunset, and kiss we share with our lover. Maybe it means hugging Charmin for comfort and believing it will be all right.