As far back as I can remember I’ve lived with one foot in imaginary places. Whenever the world around me quiets down enough for thoughts to form (and sometimes even when it doesn’t) I stitch together stories in my mind.
No two have ever been quite alike. If I don’t like the direction a story is headed I begin again from the first scene to create something better. I tell myself stories that are funny, sad, outlandish, as cliched as I could possibly make them and as unique as I dare. I tell stories as I go to sleep and pick them back up again while getting dressed or eating breakfast in the morning.
Sometimes as a kid I’d whisper the lines or scene I was working on to see if they sounded as good out in the open. It was something I was deeply ashamed of growing up, though. No one else I knew crafted stories like this or, if they did, they never talked to themselves while figuring out a particularly tricky plot point. At 11 or 12 I’d cycle through these feelings, promise to put away childish things and never do it again and then slide back into storytelling a day, week, month later. Life without story-telling was and is:
- Eating the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of your life.
- A vocabulary of 100 words, 90 of which are about the weather.
- Eternal February.
I assumed that other people had internal dialogues rarely if ever* and that there was something unhealthy about continuing to make up stories after puberty. Like an early bedtime or training wheels on a bike it only seemed appropriate for kids half my age and yet I had zero interest in what I thought I should be thinking about as an adolescent: clothing. makeup. boys. dating. calories.
*I’ve since learned this isn’t true!
It sounds nonsensical now but this bothered me for years. More than anything I wanted to blend in, to think the way other people thought. Being different wasn’t a perky slogan or a beat marched to with pride back then it was something to try to get rid of (or hide well) at the first opportunity.
I began to grow more comfortable in my own skin as I stopped worrying so much about the thoughts I thought were rolling around in the heads of everyone else. What mattered was this: I like telling stories and hashing them out has never hurt anyone.
If it’s weird, well, there are far more destructive things that I could be doing with my time.
Do you have any slightly eccentric habits or personality quirks that you’ve always felt a little ashamed of? How did you learn to resist the urge to compare your thoughts with how other people behave in public?