For the past ten years or so I’ve been looking for my shadow. Like Robin William’s character of Peter in the movie Hook I feel like I’ve lost all sense of creative magic I may have ever had. I thought once I graduated university some child-like part of myself would wake up now that I’ve got some more free time, grab my face and say,
And boom. The stories would flow. There would be so many I’d have multiple projects going on at once, constantly scribbling on junk mail envelopes and coffee-ringed napkins.
It’s been several months or so since then. My first student loan repayment-payment is due next month, and I’ve done nothing. I continue to frown at my swelling beer gut and type furiously my contempt for my current situation to my neighboring co-worker, who is just as disenchanted with the place as I am, but also not making any moves to other things just yet. Oh woe is me, I work in a call center. I feel so empty.
When I was a kid I did this thing that haunted me up until I was about 20 or so. I considered it my deep, dark, secret; the one thing I was most ashamed of. As a kid I was highly active and imaginative. I was everywhere. My favorite imaginative pastimes were my action figures. I was fortunate enough to have an expansive collection of TMNT and Marvel Universe figures because my dad is also a huge geek who collected comic books and collectible figures. I had worlds upon worlds upon worlds with stories and characters I can still recall with those toys. Toy Story had been out for a little while, and I loved the idea of my toys coming to life when I wasn’t around. Being a military family, we moved around a lot, and I even remember lining them up and giving them the rundown on the move and how they needed to buddy up and who would be riding with me.
Like I said, I did this up until I was 12. The garage was a place where I’d like to be alone to play with my toys. I thought the environment made for more interesting scenery in my stories. Unfortunately at this time, I was already a couple of years into puberty, but becoming increasingly more aware of the pressures of judgement. My mom walked in on me one day playing with my toys in the garage: full on character voices and cries, jumping from ledges and into their tree-house, animated faces. She stood there and stared at me, and I can’t remember if she said anything or not, but I felt suddenly very aware of how awkward that must look for a middle schooler to still be playing with toys. I felt stupid, and ashamed. We had a quiet household, and the silent judgement shook me more than anything. I never really knew what my parents were thinking half the time, but I knew that I didn’t want to disappoint them. I am pretty positive that I stopped playing with toys that day.
I started doing something different. If I think hard enough I might be able to recall the very first story, but while I loved the adventure and stimulation of video games, it was rich, character-driven narratives from movies that compelled me to begin inventing my own to further feel as though I had become an integral character in a complex world.
I found that it felt really good to pace. It helped me get into the characters more and allowed me to sort of act out some parts. The stories needed to be said out loud too. This helped me remember them, and made the world more concrete. It was also more fun that way. Summers when school was out but my parents were both at work was prime time. I could transform and transport myself to this world in which I was at the center of everything. I was a boy. I was a quarterback who looked like Devin Sawa who always had girls fawning over him and always had cool clothes. I was on a sandlot team with friends who had a rival gang. I was on an ice hockey team. I had special powers. I actually had a twin. It was every kind of experience I had seen in all of my favorite movies and wanted to have for myself.
I never gave the act much though until I was into my mid-late teens, and at that point I was in the full form of teenage angst and thought there was something seriously wrong with me. Despite our family being early adopters of the internet, it did not seem to occur to me to try and find answers, but I guess there were more pressing things I was agonizing over, and the daydreaming helped me cope with it. It was only a couple of years ago I had discovered that this was recently coined Maladaptive Daydreaming. What I had was a thing. It had been a few years since I’d done it, but for whatever reason I was thinking back on it one night and played around with keywords in google and that’s when it finally revealed itself to me. It was kind of like the Man in Black discovering The Maze in Westworld, except this maze is meant for me. Since then I’ve been trying to figure a lot of things out, and trying to figure out how to tap back into that creative side of myself again. Many Maladaptive Daydreamers seem to want to quit, but I personally want to be able to use it to my advantage.