By Ellen Jurgens, TIWP College Program
“Perhaps imagination is not where we go to escape reality but where we go to remember it.” —Glennon Doyle, Untamed
We all know too well the feelings that emerge on the last day of vacation, or perhaps more easily-recalled, Sunday nights. These feelings may lead to phrases resembling: it’s time to return to reality. It is a hard feeling to describe. My best shot would be some intersection of mourning and angst: mourning of the sacred time free from routine and angst for the return to it. If our lives consist of some routine, as almost do, is reality simply the repetition of what we have self-determined to be real life? If vacations and weekends are extensions of the dreamy lands usually found in imaginations, then they cannot be reality can they. Therefore, reality is also defined by periods of waiting for the next escape.
This has led to harmful ideologies being ingrained in our minds about not deserving prolonged time away from reality. Perhaps even further, we must suffer to a certain degree for a certain amount of time in reality to deserve any time away from it. How much and how long one must suffer is unique to the individual’s self-imposed and self-created standards of living in reality. Since reality is not really definable but more of a lens through which each person takes in the physical world, there is nothing universal about realities or how to live in them. However, our tendency to make reality something universal makes us rationalize the existence of universal requirements of living that in fact do not exist. If there is no singular Reality, then what constitutes reality, or real living, is entirely unique and entirely valid. (Think of Reality versus reality as parallel to the vernacular of God versus god).
So if we all are holding the power to create our realities, how do we know what is real? Although realness can’t really be proven, whatever is real is what we make out to be real. Therefore, reality does not have to be some cycle of suffering with a few moments to catch our breaths. There is no separation between reality and imagination—they are both self-created and self-sustained. Imagination is free-flowing and indistinguishable from reality. If we believe vacations and weekends to be reality, then they instantly become so.
A sustainable way of living is acknowledging that we deserve space to breathe and think and reflect and laugh because we merely exist. We exist to live the lives we imagine, not the lives that follow some misguided conception of Reality. The better we close the gaps between our versions of real life and imaginary life, the more we accept our self-determination to create a truer and more beautiful reality.