When I was eight my parents brought my sister and I on a trip to Montreal. One day we stopped by a magnificent cathedral, with gorgeous stain glass, colorful candles up and down the aisles. It was called The Notre Dame Basilica, As we walked up the stairs into the church my mom reminded my sister and I that every time you visit a new church you get to make a wish. Sitting in the wooden pews gazing at the ornate details of the altar, I thought about what I wanted my wish to be.
Growing up I had a wild imagination. I think my creativity and imagination was cultivated so immensely because I was so very shy and it was hard for me to make friends. If it weren’t for the dolls I had it would have been an even lonelier childhood than it was already. I took comfort in spending more of my time with dolls than kids my age because I knew they weren’t going to judge me. I couldn’t be in control over the people in the real world, but the dolls in my imaginary world I had absolute power over. It was a relief to come home to my imaginary world after feeling so trapped and constricted in my real world. My time playing with dolls long outlasted my friend’s time with dolls, whether this is bad or good is up for individual interpretation. But in retrospect I see this was an escape from the inevitable: transitioning from child to adolescent to adult.
I think it was the fear of the unknown that intimidated me the most. I had all these wild and crazy hopes and dreams when I was a kid but what if I couldn’t come close to achieving them? What if I grew up to be miserable, unhappy and all alone? What if I died before it was my time? My grandmother got cancer very young, I saw the way my mom dropped down to her knees, cupping her head in her hands, moaning at the news. I feared the day I’d be in either one of their shoes. I felt as if I was to shy to life amongst real people. I’d rather live inside my head, pretending my life was a movie, where there were endings as well as beginning, but fate
was in the hands of my imagination. And in my imagination grandmothers wouldn’t get cancer and make their children fall to floor crying. In hindsight I guess my wish came true because the following years after eight, I only existed.
When you only exist life becomes pretty boring. But it’s hard to move out beyond just existing when you’ve grown up in a considerably “cushioned” world. I’m immensely grateful for my family, but I sometimes wish they didn’t hide the all of life’s mess from me. Maybe if they had enabled me to make mistakes, I wouldn’t have been so afraid of making them. I’m not blaming my solely existing or my eating disorder on my parents, my parents are wonderful, I just wish they had encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone a little more.
But that is also a hard claim to make because they did encourage me to get out of my comfort zone. My mom encouraged me to take dance lessons, theater, and join basketball and soccer teams. Quite honestly they tried very hard, but something in me was still so fearful of growing up. I didn’t want to cause my parents pain. You know in the movies when the kids move to college and their parents drop them off and later go back into their child’s room and starts to get teary eyed? Or the movies when the father walks his daughter down the aisle and they both get emotional because he is “giving her away”? The parents look so distraught, and I didn’t realize when I was young that maybe those tears were not only feelings of sadness but also pride. But since I thought the parents in these movies were so sad by their children leaving I dreaded the day I’d ever have to leave them, because I couldn’t stand the idea of them being sad.
Growing up and being an adult is nerve-wracking, overwhelming and intimidating. There are so many expectations rolled out in front of us. So many choices, it’s almost impossible to choose. So much is unknown and it is so easy to find ways to cope with this. Eating disorders are one of them, but to be honest it’s not a very good one because they only ever end in solitude, isolation and misery. You can’t stop the inevitable. Life is messy, life can be a bitch, but it’s also pretty damn wonderful and amazing. My eating disorder made it so I could just exist, but I know longer want to simply exist, I want to endure all the messy parts of life in all its extraordinary and formidable wonder.