I used to daydream all the time; in the shower, in every class, in front of my computer at home, lying in bed at night, eyes wide open, thinking, concocting, creating. I knew it wasn’t constructive. At one point, I realized that I was using my daydreams like currency, paying myself one or two units of imaginings as a reward for studying, completing a spreadsheet, reading a chapter, returning a few calls. Rarely was anything as attractive or satisfying as my own imagination. I was addicted to the waking dream.
What was it all about? Most daydreams played on my desire for an identity switch; I would be powerful and generous, or poor yet heroic. Sometimes I was the villain (fierce retribution against those who had wronged me or my family), sometimes I was the rescuer (always the quiet type to start), sometimes I was the rescued (rarely). Often I had some fantastic ability, physical or otherwise (psychic ninja!). But it was never perfect in the sense that I was flawless, or without remorse or regret. To some extent, my fantasy self was always broken. And, like all heroes, that’s what made her strong.
I was re-reading one of my favorite mangas, Mail by Housui Yamazaki, tonight. In the first issue, a brief origin of the protagonist’s special powers is told slowly and thoughtfully, urging the reader into a sense of empathy and anxiety, until his curse becomes a boon. This is how I imagined my alternate self to be, and how we demand our heroes to be built: the rough road leads to a fair-minded, soft-hearted, human weapon. How many heroes have we lauded for their struggles in such a fashion? Superman, loved and pitied for his strength and inevitable, eternal solitude; Spiderman for his durability and agility with the heart-on-his-sleeve personality; and the ultimate: Batman for his broken innocence and brutally dark rebound onto the offensive, occasionally blurring the line of justice to satisfy his own fantasy of what justice should be.
What fueled my insatiable hunger to daydream? I submit that I was, like most of us, an innocent victim of my own humanity. The desire to be special, the drive to procreate, the rush that comes with great risk, the need to re-experience the enormous euphoria after a brush with death; what combination of these shared experiences created the perfect cocktail for this sharp reflex to recoil into my own head? Maybe any combination would have done that. I can’t claim to know for sure. How strange, the mind. How unique, how common.