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 distanced 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.
Bullies & Life’s Other Challenges
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’ve managed to conquer most of life’s challenges.
Throughout elementary school, I feared the bullies and severely lacked self-confidence. But I was also an insatiable bookworm. I buried my soul in the books that fed me. Pretended the problems my favorite characters faced were also my problems.
A prime example is 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 Yeerk-controlled humans from normal people. But any unusual behavior from the characters’ friends and families hinted at it.
Imagination As Self-Defense
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. Sounds cheesy and pathetic to admit this now. Almost like it’s 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 probably 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 self-defense also fits into the actors’ world. Actors observe and mimic the traits of others. Like writers, they wear a chameleon skin.
Whereas other career paths are less flexible, actors and writers can literally do whatever and be whomever their 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.
But I’m also not stuck if I decide next week to vacation on Coruscant, Middle Earth, or Alagaësia.
Painstakingly, these are also among the “worst” careers. Their precarious nature requires an often difficult level of dedication for success. Even then it’s no guarantee.
While on our journeys, whatever they may be, we all need to develop our own defense mechanisms against the worst bully offenders: ourselves. Because self-doubt is undoubtedly a bully. Just like the ones from school. And a career in writing guarantees a daily battle against our inner critic.
How do you guys survive the struggle? What’s your go-to escape from the madness?