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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Column: Make-believe

When I was younger, before I knew what I would major in or what sort of career I would pursue, I had very clear ideas about what type of person I wanted to be.

I played the children’s game of make-believe, imagining myself as a skater or a movie star — dressing up, acting everything out, and dreaming myself to another world, as another person.

But when I grew older, the imaginative antics became much more than just a game. Playing make-believe was my life, and I was the attention-seeking actor, putting on foolish charades for the amusement of others.

After a short period of pretending to be a skater with no success, I redirected my attention to a more feminine lifestyle. I spent every night after dinner studying the glossy pages of Vogue, memorizing every detail of various clothing designs and sniffing each perfume sample hidden between the pictures of haute couture dresses and Italian leather heels.

For years, I imagined a career in fashion. I dreamt of one day gracing the designer houses of Milan or Paris, dispensing critique and writing reviews for fashion editors.

I deserted that idea with no regret, however, when I discovered another lifestyle to occupy my daydreams. This one, although more down-to-earth in nature, was perhaps just as impractical in reality as the dreams I had before.

I wanted to be a surfer. My reasons, though, were purely aesthetics. The time that I should have spent out in the water, I spent online shopping for puka shell bracelets and listening to Jack Johnson. The laid-back lifestyle enamored me so much so that I even persuaded my parents to buy a bungalow on the Mexican coast.

Thank God they had more common sense than I did because after I attempted surfing for the first time, everything about the lifestyle that had appealed to me before, washed away in the bitter cold waves, along with my outlandish dream.

Following that fruitless undertaking, I turned my attention towards the Southwest — Texas to be exact. And as you may have guessed, I pretended to be a southern girl, blaring country music from my car speakers and collecting William Faulkner books (which I never read).

I abandoned this country girl charade when I entered college, but not because I realized it was silly and misleading, but because I became enamored, once again, with yet another lifestyle and I changed everything about my life to fit the character I wanted to be. From mixed-martial arts fighter to photographer, I wanted to be it all.

But after all that experimenting, I still haven’t found my niche. I’m still pretending, still walking with my head held high, imagining myself as someone great and extraordinary. But, in reality, the only title I hold is that of a college student.

I don’t know why I do it — why I pretend to be someone I’m not. If I were to be examined by a psychologist, I suppose she’ll attribute my need to play make-believe as a sign of insecurity.

And maybe she’ll be right. Maybe I just want to fit in. Or, perhaps, I just want to be labeled as something neat. After all, being called a “surfer” or a “fashion connoisseur” sounds so much more appealing than being called a “college student.”

Perhaps, all I want is to have a group of friends who share the same hobbies as me and we can call ourselves the “guitarists” or the “artists.” Maybe, all I desire is a feeling of belonging, to have a clan with which I can identify.

But maybe she’ll be wrong. Maybe, I am so talented, I can actually act out all these parts and turn into the characters I tried to play. Maybe I have a wealth of imagination and the energy to make it a reality. And, if I was a little more tenacious and serious about my pursuits, maybe I could’ve become all that and more!

For now though, “college student” doesn’t sound so bad. “College student” could mean “political science major,” “president of a club,” or a “writer.” And for that, I don’t even need to play make-believe.

MICHELLE NGUYEN just wants to talk. Shoot her a message at michellen1990@yahoo.com.

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