When I was growing up, I spent huge swaths of time without meaningful human contact. I didn’t have siblings or live in a place with a random spawn rate of kids outside to play with. Due to this, my social skills were poor and I’d struggle to make and keep friends throughout childhood, which added to the problem. Unfortunately for me, I had an insatiable lust for interaction and discourse (I think a lot of children do), and this need often went unmet. At times the longing was excruciating. The desire for stimulation grated at my being like an empty stomach groans to be filled, and eventually all I could do to make up for the hunger was think my way out. I learned I could have the interaction I craved if I imagined it. So, I taught myself how to imagine everything I wanted but could not have. Looking back, I understand that I developed this response to more or less keep my mind from shredding itself apart from starvation.
While sitting quiet and unnoticed in the changing room of a department store, or entertaining myself for hours after school until dinner, child me would retreat within the powerful simulation machine of my mind and overclock the GPU imagining places, scenarios, and circumstances. I’d use what I knew and liked about people and characters to forge templates for my own projections of personalities, all so that I could talk to them and have conversations that felt real. Other kids would call this having an “imaginary friend” – but what I did was more like construct an imaginary universe to fill the void where general life left was lacking.
Over years, I got so accustomed to pulling this response that I could disappear entirely within these spaces on a moment’s notice. As I grew and found myself in more lonely situations, I escaped within my head so often that I became more concerned with the simulation I was running than the reality my meat body was existing within. I’d even become annoyed and frustrated when circumstance pulled me away from my architected fever dream and back into the shlock of daily life. The weight of importance flipped.
My parents would explain my behavior to their friends out of passive aggression, “she has an over active imagination”. My mentor would tell me one day as a young adult that, “You probably wouldn’t be so compelled to create things if you weren’t an only child”. I realize this response that I developed was likely due to some level of neglect. I’m not trying to pin blame on anyone or anything for the general concept of this phantom past neglect… but it’s likely the cause for one of the biggest chunks of: why I am this way™.
This superpower GPU I’ve grown in my head is not all bad. As an artist it is quite the asset, for obvious reasons. In fact, I use this survival mechanism as a weapon in the capacity of normal life. The caveat is that when things get dark and barren like they do in the wake of mass social unrest and a global pandemic that slams the momentum of life to a halt… I instinctively call on those tried and true survival responses once again in their original capacity. Sarah is here in meat form, but her mind left the scene a long while ago.
Now that the world is beginning to ease up into its usual swing I should be doing so as well, but I’m not wanting to leave this safe-mode that I’ve been booting into. Just like getting out of your warm and toasty bed cocoon to the open air of a chill morning: I wont do it without bringing one of those pre-warmed blankets along with me. The blanket in this case is a few modifiers to my perception.
Having an overdeveloped imagination to interface with was a response to extreme boredom and isolation, but it can also be viewed as having learned at a young age to alter my own take on reality. Why is this important? Even though it was born as a survival response, taking control of my perception might also be the key to my personal growth and healing right now as an almost functional adult swimming in a cultural sea that is mostly… toxic. So let’s talk about the power of perception for a while: the good stuff and the ugly stuff. This seems like a good place to start.
to be continued…<3