Sally Sampson has one hell of an imagination and, though many think her crazy, there's really nothing wrong with that.
Forget young and beautiful; I remember what it was like to be young and stupid! I don’t mean party all night, go home with a guy who undoubtedly has gonorrhea and find yourself lying face-down in a puddle of someone else’s puke stupid. Or the kind of reckless stupid that so many teenagers seem to be so willing to throw themselves into these days (or even back when I was at high-school!).
“Hey man, I bet you can’t down this bottle of vodka, take your pants off, stick your finger up your ass and drive your mum’s car into a fucking wall, man!”
No, I was young and stupid, but in an annoying, self-righteous, look-at me look-at-me, goody two-shoes sort of way. I was constantly in my own head, I was loud and obnoxiously sure of the fact that I was going to be a big star, and I was mentally handicapped when it came to dealing with the opposite sex (something that hasn’t really changed over the years)!
But the thing that I remember the most about myself was the fact that I was a living, breathing and walking paradox, in that I perpetually craved approval from my peers and yet, I was always doing and/or saying some seriously peculiar shit, which, as you can imagine, ultimately ended up pushing people further away.
I remember a good friend of mine, after school one time, casually asking me if I was bipolar. I said I wasn’t, knowing that deep down, I was just a bit needy (with a pinch of just plain crazy), but she didn’t seem too convinced. To this day, I still don’t think I’ve managed to disprove her theory, but I don’t blame her for thinking that I was a bit of a manic depressive. I had insane mood swings (I mean start crying randomly for no reason in the middle of biology class insane!), as well as a bit of a reputation for making mountains of molehills and of exaggerating when recounting events.
I wouldn’t say I lied; I just habitually embellished stories and experiences in order (I thought anyway) to make them (and me) seem more intriguing. The problem was I frequently lost track of which versions of my stories I told to which people. So it did occasionally happen that I would tell the same story quite differently to the same person. I should probably mention that this wasn’t too problematic when I was telling a story that had actually happened in real-life; it was much more of an issue when I was relating something entirely fictional and then was made to repeat it for whatever reason.
So yes, people knew that I was a bit of an embellisher, shall we say, but they just sort of accepted it as part of my larger-than-life, I’m-a-drama-queen-get-me-out-of-here personality because they knew that I wasn’t malicious or deliberately deceitful. I just wanted people to experience life my way and love me for it.
I can honestly say that, back then, reality was a foreign land to me; a place that I rarely ever visited! And whenever I’d briefly land my not-so-dainty feet back on earth, I was frequently reminded of the fact that I was very much an alien! This, in turn, only pushed me deeper within myself and my waking reveries. All the while, people dismissed my behaviour and put it down to immaturity, although some weren’t as kind in their diagnosis…
“Sally, I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with you! You fucking need help!”
That wasn’t quite the way I saw it. And I can honestly say that it was truly never just about being an attention-seeker!
Looking back, I think I just wasn’t afraid of living in more than one world at the same time and I couldn’t understand why people had such an issue with that. I created elaborate scenarios and believed in them. I lived in other people’s imaginary worlds as well.
For many years, for example, (and I wasn’t as young as you might think I was) I genuinely believed in the land of Narnia. I would spend my days reading the Chronicles of Narnia, not for pleasure...but for research!!! I spent hours sitting in my wardrobe, begging Aslan to open the secret portal and let me in on one of the many adventures that went on there (#truth)!
Truth was, I was really bored with reality. It was all so dim, ordinary and mundane. It wasn’t special. And even though I was always a ‘good girl’, I cringed at the thought of being forced to live life as a conformist.
The world in my head was always (and still is) so much more vivid! Over there, love is not confused, anger shakes the foundations of the world, compassion is boundless and infinite, and possibility is its own continent!
I used to spend so much time on the continent of possibility that when I visited our beloved Earth and saw that there were countless land masses of pessimism and injustice, among others, to confront every day of the year, I made a choice. I very much decided to take up permanent residence in my imaginary world and only drop in on the real world occasionally.
As I have grown older however, (and more mature, as most people would put it), I have changed. I‘ve found that I don’t visit my childhood sanctuaries as often as I promised myself I would. I have given up entirely the habit of embellishment and stick very much to telling stories as they happened…which I don’t think is a bad thing, by the way! It just indicates that I am not as keen or as able as I used to be in plunging and immersing myself in parallel fictional worlds and taking them with me into everyday life. And that was something that I never thought would happen!
I am now aware of a thing called consequence, and while it is important, of course, to realise that every one of our actions merits a reaction, I’ve seen it create an inertia within. Not just within me, but in everyone too eager to ‘grow up’.
There was a fearlessness that used to possess me and an insatiable hunger for creativity that used to keep me awake at night! And of course there was the presence of that constant contradiction, eating away at my insides: i.e. doing what would make me popular vs. following my instincts.
And as I grow up, I find that I don’t really mind if people call me stupid or immature. After all, everyone who ever did anything that was worthwhile started out as losers, idiots, mental cases, juvenile dreamers or all of the above, before being recognised as visionaries and trendsetters. As J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, once said: “We are all failures – at least the best of us are.”
And my beloved Oscar Wilde also confirmed what I have come to believe as the ultimate truth, “I am not young enough to know everything!”
The older I get, the more I want to get my fearlessness back. I want to be able to invent and take chances like I used to. I want to be able to share my creations with the world and realise that people’s disapproval is not the worst thing that could happen to me (finding out that Narnia didn’t exist was a hard enough blow as it was!).
So I will continue to converse in made-up language and play dress up! I will lead epic armies into legendary battles in my head. I will fucking sit in wardrobes and dream that they can be gateways to undiscovered worlds.
So if you’ll kindly excuse me, I have an appointment I must be getting to.
Narnia awaits my return.