I used to tell myself that nothing outside of yourself—money, accolades, spouse, children, possessions—can make you happy, sometimes more than once a day, if I was feeling especially lonely, and then, in accordance with this philosophy, I would retreat into my imagination, like a princess returning to her high tower overlooking the kingdom, from where I would silently disdain, with upturned lip, the earthly attachments other people seemed so partial to.
I wasn’t wrong in my thinking. But I wasn’t exactly right, either.
For the longest time, I told myself I needed nothing and no-one except the worlds inside my imagination and the worlds inside books. I would live on dreams, eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and as a midnight snack, too. Who cared for love, for family, for holidays, for good food or nice clothes? Not I!
After all, such things were temporary, almost illusory, just like everything else, and I could, for instance, envision a thousand beautiful gowns using my imagination, while in real-life I could, at best, put on a couple of pretty dresses which would look quite disappointing once I was actually wearing them and looking at my reflection in the mirror. Things are always much better when they exist in your head, you see. I’d much rather imagine eating a wonderful banquet with the fairies than have a nice lunch with my family, and, after all, there was really no difference between the two meals, if you thought about it, for they both existed as images inside my mind, and one was obviously far more entertaining and lovelier than the other.
However, what I have discovered is that while it certainly is true that happiness ultimately comes from within yourself (if you are not happy with yourself, and who you are as a person, then not all the riches and love and success in the world would be able to fill the void inside your heart) anything outside of yourself, like going on holiday or having children, will only serve to increase your existing happiness, as well as throwing some inevitable pain into the bargain, as all things, good and bad, do. By telling myself I didn’t need for anything positive to exist in my real life, the one I lived using my mind and body, not some other mind and body I imagined myself inhabiting, I was denying myself a certain kind of happiness. I don’t know how exactly to explain it, but I suppose the best way I can put it is that sometimes it’s nicer to eat an apple, you see, a real apple, to hold it, in your head, feel its weight, its smooth texture, and then actually bite into it, your teeth tearing through the shiny red skin into the crispy white flesh underneath, the sweet juices flooding your mouth, than to imagine yourself eating one.
You see, it’s very nice to dream, to imagine. Oh, it can be very nice indeed. In your imagination, you can be anyone, go anywhere, do anything, eat and wear whatever you please, spend time with whoever you like—but at the end of the day, there is something to be said for the life that is passing before your eyes this very moment, your life, your very own, a story that must be lived, and will be lived whether you choose to participate much in it or not; and I have found, ultimately, that a life spent subsisting on dreams has a habit of making you feel very empty when you open your eyes in the morning to the world and to your life and the possibilities they hold, and must face the day.
So I have made a decision to step down from my great, ivory tower every now and then, and to let myself be enfolded by the life of the kingdom in the villages and the streets, and while it may be sometimes very dirty, and very noisy, and very irritating, it is, at the very least, real, and true. And while daydreams are all very fine and good, I think taking a break every so often from gazing down at the world from one’s beveled window is an important thing to do, don’t you?