Being an idealist in this world is a bit like being able to see unicorns popping out of rubbish bins and from behind walls which no-one else seems to notice. A lot of the time, even when you’re down in the dumps, you go around with a big smile on your heart because unicorns are appearing and grinning at you from everywhere, but because only you can see them people either think you’re crazy or refer to you as a “dreamer”–and in condescending rather than complimentary tones.
And it’s actually very traumatic. Honestly, it is. Because there’s so much beauty in the world around you, and you really wish others could see it, even just a glimpse of it, but even when you point it out to them they don’t, or they sort of go “Mhm, yes, very pretty,” then secretly think to themselves that you are a very strange person for gushing over clouds and flowers or caterpillars. And it’s not traumatic to be an idealist only because you tend to find beauty where others do not—it’s also traumatic because since everything exists in such a beautiful bubble in your imagination, when anything in reality fails to live up to your extremely high expectations (we’re talking up-to-the-moon high here) the disappointment often feels as crushing as a million tons of bricks falling in a huge cascade onto your chest. And because nothing can completely live up to our imaginations, not even ourselves, we live in a state of perpetual disappointment, glancing back and forth unhappily from the picture in the magazine of the perfect life to the ruinous, haphazard heap of our actual life.
Can you imagine what it would be like to never be happy, to have your heartbroken almost every second by the realities which face you? That is what it is to be an idealist. The only way we cope is by escaping into fiction, into stories in books and inside our own heads, layering over reality a much more aesthetically pleasing picture so our hearts don’t wither and die. I mean, everything is disappointing, in so many ways. Take people, for instance. People are immensely disappointing. They tend to be professional disappointers. It doesn’t matter where you live or who you are—sooner or later, somewhere down the line, a person is going to disappoint you, and make you want to slam your face into a brick wall and groan. But for idealists, people are especially disappointing. From afar, they always seem so lovely and wondrous, especially when we haven’t seen them for a while and are secretly in love with them (or, at least, in love with who we think they are). But the moment we get up close and actually get a good, proper look at the person, untainted by any of airy-fairy daydreams, we just sort of frown quietly inside our hearts and think to ourselves, “Hm. I thought you’d be more pleasant. And interesting. Instead, I kind of actually don’t really even like you. In fact, I think I kind of loathe you.” And then we usually exit from their lives, without them ever realizing what it was they had done wrong to make us shy away from them like that. And the thing is, they didn’t do anything wrong. Not in the least. They were just unlucky enough to be the object of our affection, and transmuted by our imaginations into a dazzling creature no person alive, and perhaps even dead, could possibly live up to.
In my experience, it is better by far to keep things at arm’s length. That way, they stay pretty and pure. Why do you think so many idealists enjoy reading so much? Because fantasy, or fiction, is never up close and in your face the way reality or people can be. As it is imaginary, it will always exist at a remove from ourselves. And that is what idealists ultimately adore doing: viewing things from afar, and daydreaming about their wonderfulness, their beauty, without ever letting reality’s ugly fingers stain or mess it up. The heart of every idealist, if they have been living for a while on this planet, is very much broken, and cannot be put back together again. Instead, the more life shows us its ugly and imperfect side, its impersonal and dull side, the side without magic, without hope, without beauty, the more we retreat, like turtles, into our minds and our imaginations, where we can spin castles in the sky even as the house we are actually standing in comes crashing down around our ears.