Have you ever felt like you just didn't fit in? Like you were standing in a crowd, and everyone there was oblivious except you?
To some extent, I've always felt this. Growing up in rural Louisiana meant that most of my friends never shared the same interests that I did. I was reading horror novels when I was ten. Was reading epic fantasy and sci-fi when I was twelve. Was into games and adventures and things most other kids didn't care about. You see, my brain has always been somewhere else. (My apologies to all the teachers I had growing up... it wasn't you, it was me. I'm sure what you had to say was interesting, if only I'd been on Earth at that particular time.) Mostly, I was somewhere else, or wishing I was.
As I grew older, my penchant for feeling like a stranger in a strange land intensified. The more amazing new worlds I discovered, the less interested I was in this one. And without knowing it, I was slowly detaching myself from life in general, in exchange for something that was only a fantasy.
The biggest turning point in my life was in 1995, when I came to the knowledge that God really existed, and I wasn't alone. In fact, it came as quite a revelation that I wasn't all that different from everyone else. I had just expressed it in the only way I knew how; by escaping into other worlds. My pain and loneliness wasn't unique, even if my expression of it was.
And for someone who was on the brink of giving up on life in general, this was earth-shattering. If you scrape away everyone's particular coping mechanisms, the pain underneath is very much the same.
Now here I am, almost twenty-one years later. On a daily basis, I find myself letting my mind wander into places that seem awfully familiar to those worlds I used to visit when I was a child. Granted, they're darker, brighter, more intense, and colored with decades of experience. There's joys and pains there that my adolescent brain had no inkling of back then. There's the allure of going someplace where I can belong, where people don't look at me strange when I say what's on my mind.
I mean, part of me wants to think about significance, meaning, deep things. Strength, determination, weakness, and how that affects me and everyone around me. Those are important. But it's just too much. Everything here seems shallow. So I feel like I'm always off on some other plane of existence, while everyone around me is just doing whatever, or checking facebook on their smartphones. Like I'm the only one who can see anything bigger... and I'm stuck here in the Matrix. Can't unplug. Can't stop thinking deep thoughts, and I have to get spreadsheets done, because I'm a cog in a machine.
It's like I'm Dorothy in the Wizard Of Oz, when she's in color and everything back home is in black and white. It's a jarring juxtaposition. A juncture of jaundice and joviality. (Okay, I'm done with the alliterations- just joking!)
So in light of my brain's flights of fancy, I have to figure out how to deal with this in a way that is productive, and yet doesn't shut down my deeper cognizance. How can I keep my brain on track with menial things when I'm much more interested in pondering the deeper things in life? How can I strike that balance and find that harmony? When will my mind and my flesh be at peace with one another?
Deep down, these feelings are rooted in the thought that where I'm at now isn't fulfilling, and isn't what I was meant to do. My brain tells me "if I keep thinking, dreaming, and escaping, maybe someday I'll be able to be something important." But this undermines the fact that what I'm doing right now- being a dad, providing for my family, etc- is extremely important. It lies, and tells me being a working dad isn't good enough. I have to be more. I have to be a supervillain. Or something.
All this is based on my own evaluation of myself; it's not based in truth. In reality, most people would do anything to have a loving wife and family, and a steady, good-paying job with benefits. And I have all that, and more: I have my health, my mental faculties (at least, I think I do), and a comfortable life. I lack nothing. So why do I want to go somewhere else, be someone else, when I have it so good here?
It's because I haven't taken the time to really, fully live here, in the moment. When I let my mind wander into fields of doubt and fantasy, I'm unable to look at where I'm at. I can't be in two places at the same time. I can't see both worlds simultaneously.
My mistake is thinking that I can find that vibrant world somewhere else, in some other time or place. I totally ignore what's right in front of my eyes, because it doesn't look like what I think a vibrant life should look like. And in searching for that perfect world, I miss the one I'm in now.
So what do I do?
I pray that God will open my eyes to the amazing things that are going on around me every single day. To not tune out, and miss the opportunity to share a friend's burden, or help relieve someone's hurting. As my wife is so fond of saying, "If you're going to be here, be present!"
And of course, she's right. So many of us wish we could live in an alternate reality, but most people haven't tried fully living in this one.
You're here, now. Make the most of it.