Laying the Realist to Rest
Someone I love dearly recently said to me, “You’ve got to be a realist, Jaime.”
No. No, I don’t. Here’s why.
I was raised in a world of realists. They taught me to always be prepared and follow the rules. Keep your feet on the ground and head out of the clouds, kid. It led to a steady, successful adult life and career. But at the cost of my peace. I lived in a constant state of fear. Rather than acknowledge and differentiate between what we can control and what we cannot control, I lived on the defensive consumed with playing it safe. In order to be prepared, I had to anticipate all the worst case scenarios. The fear of being irresponsible was an invisible fence upon my life.
The problem did not arise because the perspective was faulty, but because the role was a mismatch. I was an idealistic sheep in wolf’s clothing. Inauthentic and insincere, it was yet another layer to unbecome. My instinct was never broken. It just needed to be acknowledged as equally valuable in a culture that tends to favor realists.
Some of the greatest loves of my life are absolute die hard realists, and I need them desperately. My husband is my kite runner— two feet firmly on the ground as I soar and dive on a whim riding the latest gust of wind. Our son, a junior realist, will no doubt one day help to solve some problem or envision a solution by focusing on the reality.
Self-awareness has led me to realize there is another way. At my core I am a born beauty hunter, not a fault finder. Forcing myself into the latter box has literally drained the marrow from my bones. My daughter, with a light in her eyes and a song in her heart, is me. She’s the version of me who did not succumb to a traditional world lens. The “me” who did not find solace or comfort in staring reality in the face. If that girl can't spot the bright side, she will create one.
But unlike me, I hope she always recognizes the worth of her perspective.
Our critics want to protect us by telling us to "get real." It comes from a place of genuine concern. And it is with gratitude and my daughter watching that I say to them, "No, thank you."
I don’t view my perspective as living in oblivion or denial. It’s not irresponsible. I must live my truth and that means owning my perspective and using it to benefit those around me. As a mother, for example, I don't believe it is my job to toughen up our kids for the real world. This philosophy extends into my teaching. Some say that I am soft or too permissive, but if I get burned, then let that be how I go down— looking straight up into the sky with a strong back and open heart.
Pain and heartbreak are inevitable. I’m not naive. I have seen my share of losses, but to borrow from Mr. Rogers, I also know that when there is tragedy, look for the helpers. They are always there. And they will be realists and non-realists working side by side. My family will come two by two.
As a parent, teacher, wife, friend and human, my freedom lies in being the visionary who has learned to find a silver lining in the middle of a total eclipse. It is in moments when I try to fight my own nature that the darkness consumes me. So call me a dreamer, irrational, or unrealistic. I am my mother’s daughter and understand that without a vision the people will perish.
Nah, I’ll pass. A realist life is not for me.
Photo by Colleen Brockway. Colleen's friendship is a bonus for being dear friends with her sister. Thank you for your support and sharing your art. Those umbrellas spark joy every time I see them.