“Just because something is the product of your imagination or someone else’s imagination doesn’t mean that it’s not real. That doesn’t mean that it’s not significant, not important. And I don’t like the idea that we seem to have in contemporary culture that the only good stories or relevant stories are “true stories.” Because it ignores the fact that all true stories are also constructs. We choose what to tell and how to tell it.” – John Green
Things have been a little tough for me lately.
As I’ve done for most of my life, I find refuge in fiction to escape my problems. A lot of people will tell you that’s unhealthy. That’s it’s not real. Fiction heightens things. Manipulates story. Real life doesn’t work like that. Which gets me to what I want to say this week.
We spend so much of our youth in school, learning about mathematics and history and science. These things are important to be able to understand the world. They’re also important because they teach you to think critically. No, you won’t need to calculate the square root of x when you’re 40 and juggling a day job, and, say, a long-distance relationship, but all that time you spent trying to solve equations — that’s how you learned to think, to question, to solve. And yet, sometimes I can’t help but feel like none of us are prepared for life at all.
How about having a comfortable life on a tight budget? Dating? The opposite sex? Who teaches you about buying a car? About keeping a good relationship with your parents? About job hunting?
For me? It was my TV shows and books. Sure, fiction always stretches reality to accommodate storytelling rules, to impact emotionally, to capture the audience. But unless we’re speaking alien invasion, chances are, these fictional characters with fictional problems are just like you and I. Their lives are just more dramatic.
Fictional characters taught me how dating was supposed to work. They taught me things might be hard once I entered the real world (and boy, did they ever.) They helped me understand other people. They guided the way. They helped me decide what kind of person I wanted to be. They showed me there was more to the world than I could ever imagine. They helped me cope because I saw other people overcome adversity, bias, discrimination, heartbreak, loss, grief and so many types of obstacles.
No, my life will probably never be anything like my favorite drama series (which is fine. I’ve got enough emotional trauma on my plate as it is). But these people are a part of me. That makes me a TV/book nerd, and I’m damn proud of it.
The truth is, I love my fictional family more than I could ever say.