I have spent a large part of my life imagining it to be different. I have spent many, many hours dreaming of lives with me as hero, in which I am thoroughly happy, illuminedly beautiful, incredibly intelligent, fabulously wealthy, in which I can speak dozens of languages, play many instruments, sing flawlessly and read minds. I've also imagined less perfect lives, in which I am merely fabulously wealthy -- many of these imaginings begin with the words -- "When I am fabulously wealthy, I --"
And even though I knew with most of my mind (I am, actually, quite intelligent, after all) that I was never going to be fabulously wealthy, having no such opportunities in sight, and having been scrapingly poor up to that point, there was always a tiny, subterranean and largely ignored part of my mind that stubbornly said, "But I could be -- I will be -- someday -- maybe."
Well. But now I am fifty. By any imagining, my life is half over, and and I have used up the resilience and energy and burgeoning potential of my youth. I am no longer one of the kids -- I am not a girl -- I am not even a young woman. I am decidedly middle-aged. And I do not have any wealthy relatives who are going to leave me a sudden influx of wealth -- my family has been one who took pride in poverty. I will not stumble upon a buried treasure, since I never leave my little corner of the world, and certainly do not spend any time in locations where pirates or traveling armies or other people with chests of gold might hang out. My job, although I enjoy it, pays just enough to keep body and soul together, allowing me to save very little (I look forward to an old age which will be similar to my young age -- one of carefully counting my pennies) and avoid all amusements which call for cash. My library is my best friend. I eat a lot of beans and rice (yummy!) and drive an old car. I never buy new clothes. Or new books. New anything, really -- they call me Second-Hand Rose!
Knowing this ought to make those daydreams less interesting, less engrossing, less exciting. I know that they are never going to happen. (At least, I know it with most of my mind.) It ought to make me sad and melancholy to think of my life, which is draining away like everyone else's throughout history, never having risen to any of the elevated points I imagined so well and with such satisfaction.
And it's true, I don't indulge in the game of "let's pretend" nearly as often anymore -- this could be because I am no longer in a marriage that was of such misery I had to distract myself in order to fall asleep at night -- nor am I a child-teenager-young-adult who always felt that there was more, there had to be more, it was just around the corner! -- or it could be because I am old. But when I do, they are just as interesting and comforting and soporific. No melancholia. No despair. Life will end, and my life will end, too. It will sink like a tiny pebble into the pond, no splash, hardly a ripple.
I will never be rich. I will never be gorgeous. I will never have a brilliant intellect that amazes millions. And it does not make me sad to know this. I am, truly, quite happy, a large percent of the time.
And I could be -- someday -- maybe!