Once upon a time, I was a little girl who wholeheartedly believed that my life would turn out exactly like a movie. A rom-com to be exact. The thing is, movies all go the same way. The main character starts out pretty average. Then some inciting incident takes place which marks a turning point in our main character's life: either they found out they were the princess of Genovia or they fell in love with their resort's dance instructor. The rest of the movie is filled with our character's struggle to overcome the conflict, and right before the end, everything falls apart. Inevitably though, there's always a happy ending.
I lived in the longing expanse that my life would follow the same 'three-act-structure', heels dug in the idea of 'happily ever after'. I had the entire plotline of my life planned out, and it went something like this: some guy would look at me, fall madly in love with me (on-site), stand outside my window with a boombox, and sing "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," in a football pitch after we'd had a fight. Obviously then, we'd live happily ever after. End scene. Roll credits. Imagine when I had to learn that the characters in our lives don't react in carefully crafted ways that drive the plot forward! That real people are messy and multidimensional and devastatingly real. That I am a mess, multidimensional and devastatingly real.
A 'happily ever after' indicates an ending, and even though some movie director can slap those words onto the screen, endings are always sad and life never stops. The carousel never stops turning as our favourite TV doctor Ellis Grey so eloquently put it. We are the infinite repetition of the kaleidoscope of colours shattering through the canvas of our days. Lessons learned through failure and tedium simultaneously bring us into being and leave us broken, until the only option left is a metamorphosis. Even then, the transformation that comes about as a result, is not a climactic moment of immediate, lightning-like realisation. It comes soft and slow. It is calm and quiet. It is an unspectacular string of inconspicuous recasting. It is a new electric current running through your veins that you do not even realise between the vast expanse of minutes collapsing into days.
Plunged into the uncharted and boundless sea that is life, I'm beginning to realise that love might not be all rainbows and soft glows with angels singing in the background. Just like a storm at sea sharpens sense and perspective, the tempestuous waves of realisation urge me to understand that a lover does not equal a hero and that a prince charming does not equal a happily ever after. Rom-coms are not based on reality but are scripted by humans who love a happy ending. As a writer, I can understand it. As a hopeless romantic, I hate it. It has undoubtedly been the biggest disappointment of my life.
Despite being weaved with imperfection and pain, there is something quite profound in reality. I know the fact that I’m a writer totally contradicts that because I willingly choose to live in my head most of the day. But most of our fantasies have some semblance of reality, right? The truth is, I’ve been stuck in wishing for a fairytale because I desperately needed an escape from the physical world I was existing in. I grew up as a child of an extremely broken marriage, like shattered glass that was swept away from centre stage. Pain was spread out like fine rugs, and I could still show you every ache hidden in every intricate embroidery. I was taught to conceal everything, reveal nothing. What happened at home, stays at home. Never speak of it to another soul.
To survive, I found solace in believing that life would have the same cliched twists and epiphanies that a movie did. Prince charming would show up and fix everything and I would unfold in his arms while he kept my pages bound. Being loved was an illusion so beautiful, I clung onto it for dear life.
I realise how unhealthy that is. I know that now. But when you have no one, or no obvious way out of a bad situation, taking refuge in life playing out like the movies where a handsome stranger stumbles into your life and magically mends everything, is a hope that falls from the screen, and it’s impossible to resist the urge to indulge in it.
I called a burning house a home. I called home, the first place I learned to run from. I call myself a great actor.
What is home, if not the first place you learn to conceal the damage?
Walk out onto the ultimate stage - the real world - like you carry perfection in your back pocket.
Big smile, and whatever you do, do not use your voice.
I never did use my voice, up until the moment I realised no one was coming to save me. I found my vocal box buried deep within the earth’s core, dusted it off, and began to figure out how to use it. I began to heal from the bitter sharp cuts that shot from wounded lips and slit my wings. I began to understand that no one could see me until I learned to stop acting. Even then, most of the outside world will never know the kind of childhood I had or the hell I called home. It drives me mad to think certain people will never accept me for anything other than a girl who’s had it easy.
At the same time, I’m starting to understand that what people see is like light, made up of different waves and sizes. Our eyes can only see certain wavelengths: the visible spectrum. Like light passing through glass and landing on wood, people can only absorb the wavelengths they can see. And when light passes through broken glass, it creates a beautiful illusion. One that I helped uphold.
Am I disappointed my life didn't turn out like a romance movie? Honestly, a little. Although, there is something quite romantic in saving myself and learning that I can give myself the love and acceptance I so desperately crave from another person. There is something quite magical in embracing my unrefined and unfinished parts. There is a rarefied comfort in taking my mask off and uncloaking my vulnerabilities. There are so many beautiful, coincidental, perfect moments that no movie can ever capture. It's the bonds that I built with my girlfriends. It was in the moment I decided I needed help and went to therapy. It's in the moments where I opened up about my traumas to my friends and learned that I had people to lean on. It's this moment where I'm sitting in a coffee shop, sipping an iced latte, so far from the unconfident, shy and awkward child I once was.
Life has so many more plots than a movie. So many more facets. So many more complications. It’s so much more of everything.
It’s real. It’s difficult. It’s rewarding. And I’m here for it all.
But look, if someone does want to write a song about what makes me beautiful or how I’m forever their love, or if someone wants to propose to me with a thousand yellow daisies or under the stars, waiting for a comet to be visible, I will certainly not object! For better or worse, some things never change!
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That real people are messy and multidimensional and devastatingly real. May I grab this quote and hammer it to my bedpost?!
I'm so flattered! You absolutely can do that! :)
Nicely written F.J. I enjoy the flow in your writing, and how much it comes from your heart. I look forward to reading more of your work.
Thanks so much Betty!
" I know the fact that I’m a writer totally contradicts that because I willingly choose to live in my head most of the day " So many beautiful descriptions in this piece, but I really related to that line. I enjoyed reading this, nicely done!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read it! I guess all of us writers relate to that bit!
You could, of course, make someone else’s life like the dream you seek. That way you propel the action and maybe the movie script does become real life.
Open and thought-provoking.
Wow. Thanks for sharing this.
I definitely live in my head, reality can be inspirational, but it can also be depressing and traumatic. In our heads, we can shape the 'reality' however we like. I really get that.
I enjoyed your story. I knew all your references, which made it even more relatable. Nice heartfelt, genuine writing.
This was good, really good, you nailed it!!!! I loved how you gave the character a "real" sense, and fully knowing life isn't like the movies. happy writing