Moments in time can be so perfectly captured by the media, in a manner that allows me to immerse myself in a fictitious world mirroring my own. With the simple click of a button, I can be back in that moment of time, reliving memories through means of fiction. Entire universes lie adjacent to our own, mere fingertips out of reach. Entire life experiences played out in perfect succession just realistic enough to draw us towards the realm of possibilities that exist for our own lifetimes. For the majority of my life, I have fallen entirely into stories and have discovered aspects of myself through my love for books, films, and so on.
It is a coming of age with a fragile identity, morphing along with external influence; there is no finding oneself amidst a cascade of set identities to choose from. Media is relied on so heavily to shape who we believe we are that we end up not only finding solace in those relatable characteristics, but an entire lifestyle as well.
We find ourselves in these worlds independent from our own, constantly in search of validation, of experience, of reaction, of emotion. It is much easier to find our way when we see what we want or what we believe ourselves to be reflected back on a screen or through a page. We are building identities from caricatures of humanity, taking bits and pieces, becoming all too loyal to the character that validates the ways in which we perceive our own selves.
In Rory Gilmore, I found my younger self. The exact portrayal of my mindset in my early teenage years is played out through the development of Gilmore Girls, allowing me to wander into nostalgia while witnessing Rory’s world. To be there is not to be back in my fourteen year old self, bursting with excitement for all that lies ahead and remaining loyal to the world of books and academics that I loved so dearly. Gilmore Girls is a journey back in time without ever regressing to the person I was. Rory is someone who I still see in myself today, but I have also outgrown in many ways.
Jane the Virgin immortalized the relationship between my grandmother and I. In this series, I feel at home with the strong grounding of familial relationships. Never before had I connected quite so deeply to the bind of two characters. It was seeing our own interactions dramatized that I understood how important my grandmother is in shaping who I am and how I interact with the world around me.
Through Connell Waldron in Normal People, I at last had the words to describe the terror I felt leaving behind the safety of my high school years. His composure admits a storm of internal emotion that I battle with as well. Quite like Connell, I tend to keep my emotions confined to the walls of my mind. No matter the circumstance, I remain composed and in control of my own reactions. Oftentimes for both Connell and I, this reaction can read as being emotionally unavailable or even disconnected from emotions all together, but for the first time I saw the truth behind it reflected back to me. It is here I see what I am and what I need to change.
Connecting to these characters within their own worlds has brought me peace in knowing that my experiences are not lived in isolation. Uniqueness in living often has traces of similarity tracked through each story. Yet, I cannot help but see the opposite end of this. When relating from a moment of darkness brings a fictional story to an all too relatable feeling, culminating in a loyalty to characters over reality.
These connections bring out realizations over the true nature of ourselves. At times, the impact of our own identities cannot be comprehended independent from our own self image. Witnessing the ways in which one’s actions can cascade into other’s lives implores a new level of self awareness.
I found that as I grow closely entwined with a fictional world, I begin to take on their mannerisms and find a home in these new universes; I would become a part of the show. Slowly, the aspects I saw of myself would become the vessels for more of my identity to align with what I saw. I craved the arcs that these characters I so closely identified with seemed to always have. That out of the darkness of uncertainty, sadness, anxiety, whatever it may be, something good would come from it. If I was living through similar experiences, why shouldn’t they play out that way? What I would come to know is that my story would be plagued by a lot of bad luck that I just can’t seem to shake. There are no perfect endings that overshadow the ugly moments. Life has been and will continue to be a game of chance that will likely lean towards the unfavourable, as that is just reality. Fiction is purely fiction; A segment of imagination capitalizing off the best possible circumstances and the most desirable aspects of humanity. To compare this to the true living experience is simply impossible.
Ultimately, fiction is not reality and growth contextualized against fictional worlds will never compare. There is a fine line wavering between the two that can easily be blurred through the lens of one’s own mind. Personally, it all comes down to control. I like predictability, to know what’s next. If life was as linear and if fate was as rewarding as it is in these stories, I would be entirely in control. Of course, this is far from the truth. Seeking comfort in shared experiences and finding solace in nostalgia is what is meant to be found in fiction. It is not to be used as a comparison for who someone is becoming or what life does offer. Reality is never as it appears and people are much more complex than the products of imagination that we find in the media. So, I will hold onto the notion of safety in the presence of those similar to myself, but will not fear deviating from the idealess that I have long sought for my own life.
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: DIANA STOYANOVA