Since I turn 63 in 16 days, I have found myself reflecting on my past history. This essay has grown out of that.
As a young lad I was very unhappy. I didn’t know totally why that was so, but there were conditions that I knew contributed to it. My parents never seemed happy with their lives. Even times where celebration was the expected, like Christmas, turned into times of strife. In later years I have wondered if my father didn’t suffer from some sort of PTSD, having been a B-17 bombadier during WW II.
Whatever. I guess I turned to my dream life to escape the unhappiness. I mean, it wasn’t an intentional choice, but I discovered that I really never wanted to wake up in the morning…to cease being who I was in my dreams and resume being the me who was so dismal.
It wasn’t a total loss. I discovered books quite early on and sought my escape into them for a time. Being an avid reader is vital to becoming a efficient learner, so I did very well in my academic pursuits.
I fantasized a lot. I was Charlotte spinning her web and Winnie tracking the Heffalump. When I was a bit older, I was Alice down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass and Beezus on Klickitat Street. I was Dorothy in Oz and Nancy Drew on the case.
Since my parents’ library was very thin, I was also a character in Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe. At my grandmother’s house, I was also a character in the Swiss Family Perelman, but everyone should get a little bent when they are growing up. But none of those stories fit me as well as far as me identifying as any character, so I had to invent my own and add them into unwritten chapters and new adventures…in my dreams.
One day I discovered A Canticle for Leibowitz under my parent’s bed and I discovered the concept of alternate realities. Now some of my dreams…a great many, in fact…assumed an apocalyptic or pst-apocalyptic nature. Picture Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren, if you will. But no matter how bad life may have appeared in those dreams, it was preferrable to the daymare that was my reality.
Instead of reading biographies of Marie Curie, Hellen Keller, Sacagawea, Dolly Madison or Jean d’Arc, I gravitated to the science fiction novels. Unfortunately at the time these tended to be written by men. Although I found alternative existence fascinating, it still didn’t really speak to me in the way I wished. But I kept reading it…and kept my eye out for what I really wanted…a heroine to show me the way.
At the movies I was Debbie Reynolds or Shirley MacLaine or Kim Novak or Myrna Loy (even then, I liked old movies). These women nurtured the world of my dreams.
There came a time when my dreams began to bleed into my life. I slowly began to change. Eventually this slow change became very sudden to people around me…who up until then must have been, from my point of view, remarkably unperceptive.
Tastes changed, bringing new writers and new topics and eventually I was able to identify with Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer, Killashandra Ree, Melissa Scott’s pilot of the Dreamships, Reverdy Jian, and John Varley’s Titan heroine, Cirocco Jones.
These were the heroines I had longed to be. It wouldn’t take much more time…no more than another decade…and some deep contemplation of Emma Bull’s character, Sparrow…for me to decide to try to become the heroine in my own life. I don’t know about the heroine part yet, but I’m still striving. And my reality has become a better fit.
Now if only the playing field of life were level…
I guess that’s where the heroine part comes in. Every hero and heroine needs a quest, right? Surely equality is a worthy goal.
Seems like it will take a long time though.