Stress exists in many forms—bullies, peer pressure, parents, academics, nagging bosses. Equally various are the ways in which to deal with tough, stressful situations.
I used to think my imagination worked to distance me from my classmates. With several psychology lectures behind me, the more logical answer is that my imagination shielded me against the many woes of childhood and prepubescence. Maybe I do simply “waste” too much time with my head in the clouds, refusing to grow sessile in the place we deem reality. But my reasons aren’t as important as the efficiency it presents:
It’s because of my imagination that I manage to conquer most of life’s challenges.
Throughout primary school, I feared the bullies and severely lacked self-confidence. I was also a ravenous bookworm. I buried my soul in the books that fed me. Pretended the problems my favourite characters faced were also my problems. A prime example is in relation to the children’s sci-fi series Animorphs. In the first book, five teens discovered their world being invaded by a race of parasitic aliens. It was rare to distinguish Yeerks-controlled humans from normal people. But any unusual behaviour from the characters’ friends and families hinted at it.
Putting imagination into practice, I often told myself the reason my peers bullied me was that they had no choice in their actions—they were being controlled by Yeerks. Admitting this defense mechanism feels awkward and pathetic. Almost like a manifestation of E.L. Doctorow’s quote that “writing is the socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” Since writers are prone to channelling emotions and experiences through our creative filters, it’s possibly true.
But again, the unchallenged beauty of books is the power they have to remind us we’re not alone. Escaping into other worlds is one of the most magical things about humanity. Books carry us to worlds where characters confront challenges, other characters, and themselves–resulting in self-growth. By the end of that story, we, too, feel changed for having shared in the adventure.
The Two Best Jobs… And The Worst
I suppose this form of defense most deservingly fits into the actors’ world. Actors observe and mimic the traits of others. Like writers, they wear a chameleon skin. Other career paths are less flexible. Actors and writers can literally do whatever and be whomever the imagination allows. In this sense, they’re the two “best” careers because, within them, every other job or task is possible. I can wake up tomorrow and decide I want to be a lawyer. With a bit of research, I can create a story and a universe full of legalese.
Painstakingly, these are also among the “worst” careers. Their artistic nature requires precarious dedication for success.
We all need to develop our own defense mechanisms against the worst bully offenders: ourselves. Self-doubt is a bully, just like the ones from school. A career in writing includes a daily battle against the inner critics.
How do you guys survive the struggle? What’s your go-to escape from the madness?