“It is not Daisy herself who is beautiful; rather the beauty in The Great Gatsby is in Gatsby’s idealization of Daisy, in the beauty of his dream.” This was my thesis statement on a 2008 literary paper in my sophomore high school English class. My teacher, a stunning writer and woman, verbally guided me through my messy thoughts to construct a statement of eloquence and clarity, one I surely could not have constructed independently. That thesis statement has always stuck with me for its poignance, and more importantly, the universal truth it holds.
Sometimes the dream of something is more beautiful than the manifestation of it. It’s why we hear the cliche “Never meet your heroes.” We idolize people, and sometimes the idealization of them does more for us than the reality of who they are. Our imagination constructs a whole world around them. The beauty then, is not in who they are, but in our brain’s conception of who they are.
Our imaginations are a powerful tool for sculpting a worldview. And this world can kick us in the balls. It can be gritty and hard and challenging. And so, it’s not all that bad to find arbitrary things to idealize.
Do I think Cheryl Strayed and I could be best friends? Yes. Does it make me better thinking so? Yes, it inspires me and lifts me higher. Her writing, her career, and her general way of outwardly moving through the world resonates with me. My idealization of her is a positive influence in my life.
Conversely, do I think that an idealization of Cheryl Strayed’s career should be the standard for my current career as a writer? No. Does it make me better thinking so? No, it would feel defeating because the reality is, though Cheryl Strayed produces prolifically, it is always harder than it appears. Plus, I have been a writer for half a long as she! Such an idealization would detrimental and crippling. My idealization of her career would be a negative influence in my life.
Do you see? There is a time an a place for idealization. Idealization is healthy when it inspires and uplifts us. Conversely, idealization is unhealthy when it creates an unrealistic comparison, which weighs us down.
Reader, it is time to let that go. Let go of the idealized parts of your life that hurt you. Why are you holding onto them?
Does wishing you have a bigger house distract you from loving the house you have? Does your peer’s instagramable days make you feel worse about your own uniquely darling, dazzling, daring life?
Our imaginations are a powerful tool. We have the ability to use our imaginations to create weighty comparisons or to use them to propel us forward. Which will you choose? Will your imagination make you feel stuck in the life you have? Or make you feel inspired to achieve the life you want?