Having dogs and a cute house. The perfect wedding (super dorky -- I know). To not feel lonely, not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well. Dogs. Lots of dogs. Tatum Van Dam falling in love with Lord of the Rings. Living in an apartment in Brooklyn with a rooftop garden. Traveling across the world and going on hikes. Peace and quiet. Seeing Odesza live. The lobster rolls from Outside Lands. Getting a good job so that I can GTFO. Being able to know every language; read, speak, write, and understand. Not worrying about my career or money. Being magical. Becoming really really successful. Playing the side buddy of Dwayne Johnson in one of his movies. Exploring my hobbies in greater depth. BTS. The birthday cake from Milkbar. Dropping everything and traveling the world. A pet alpaca wearing a knit sweater.
Fantasies. When I think of the word fantasy, I associate it with a six year old version of myself; a young Tatum, fantasizing about living in a castle with a prince, riding silver stallions through endless fields of wildflowers, and ruling over a vast kingdom. This scenario is what little me used to imagine as I sat atop my pastel pink Pottery Barn bunk bed disguised as a castle, sorting through my prized possession treasure chest of princess apparel, deciding what Disney princess I wanted to transform into next. Ariel? Belle? Mulan? This scenario is seemingly fitting for any young child who loves to play dress up and read fantasy books and is an avid watcher of the Disney classics. It only took an approximate fifteen years of growing out of my now-tiny princess dresses and shiny slippers fit for a stuffed animal along with realizing that being apart of any royal family is a long shot at this point -- to ultimately accept my fate of not becoming a princess. But, I mean, a girl can still dream. If Meghan Markle did it, so can I.
To fantasize means to imagine, or to indulge in daydreaming about something desired. Fantasies aren’t always sunshine and rainbows and puppies -- they can be scary, sad, and sometimes, a mixture of all the emotions and more. They do not have to be as large as becoming the CEO of a tech startup company in Silicon Valley, or becoming a rising pop-star in nations far and wide -- I mean, to be quite honest, nowadays I most often fantasize about what kind of food I want to eat or going out in public without making a complete fool of my socially-awkward-self. No matter how big or how little our fantasies may seem, whether it be becoming a royal princess in a far away land or indulging in that ice cream from the shop down the street with the fresh waffle cones dipped in chocolate and decorated with rainbow sprinkles, I have come to conclude that fantasies are exactly what drive any and every emotion possibly conceivable. We create fantasies, and we let the emotions these fantasies bring drive us crazy.
I like to plan, and, to an extent, the act of planning can be somewhat paradoxical. I plan things out to create less stress for myself for the moment that said planned things actually happen; however, when these things do not go to plan, I am faced with more stress than originally planned. Which has helped me realize that, sometimes, it’s better when things do not go according to plan. (How many times did I just use the word plan?)
Take my college experience as an example. My senior year of high school, I got rejected from every single school that I realistically saw myself going to (funnily enough, I had never visited any of the campuses -- I, for some reason, lead myself to believe that those particular schools were the correct schools for me). While kids in my AP Comparative Government class were boasting about their acceptances to Ivy Leagues and all "top universities" alike, I sat quietly, as my reality was quite the opposite. I ended up committing to a school in Colorado, but I didn't feel that wave of happiness one feels when they finally click that shiny gold "accept my offer of admission" button. After receiving my housing assignment for the school, I also received an acceptance from a different university I had nearly forgotten that I applied to: The American University of Paris. Last-minute-me ended up: de-committing from the Colorado school, clicking that shiny gold button yet again, feeling that wave of curiosity and enthrallment, full-sending it to a country I had never been to, and having the absolute time of my life. This sequence of events that began with a plan not-going-to-plan lead to my current enrollment at the number one film school in the nation (#fighton).
I am an anxious person, and with this fantastic trait of mine, saying I overthink would be an enormous understatement. I do not particularly know what word one could use to maximize the meaning of overthink, but whatever that imaginary word may be, it is exactly what I do. I plan out scenarios for absolutely anything and everything -- whether that be reciting my restaurant order in my head twenty times before giving the server my order (and still somehow managing to mispronounce the word gnocchi), counting off students and words to figure out the exact time and paragraph I will have to read out loud in class, or even planning out a shower schedule when I go on a trip to ensure that my luscious locks will remain as such. These scenarios all have one thing in common -- they are things that I know, for a fact, will happen. They are inevitable; I know that I will eventually have to order my food or read in front of my class or take a shower on my trip, and I do, and I end up being fine seventy-five percent of the time. The remaining twenty-five percent of scenarios that do not exist are the ones that get to me. These twenty-five percenters occur in my head as I am making my best attempt to shut my brain up so I can fall asleep, as I am showering whilst forgetting that I am in the shower, or as I am zoning out in Los Angeles traffic thinking about how much more I would love the city if the traffic did not exist.
As an artist, I create things out of nothing: pictures, videos, articles. Filling up a blank page with smudged pen marks, filling up an empty canister with a roll of film, filling up my walls with command hooks and photos… you get the picture (no pun intended). And, as an anxious person, I also create things everything out of nothing.
While I consider it to be one of my greatest downfalls, it doesn't quite have to be.
In psychology, non-critical thinking can lead to a number of erroneous conclusions. A common one is seeing patterns that do not exist (psychology for: your birth month does not necessarily define who you are as a person). Dr. John W. Hoopes of Psychology Today comments upon this notion:
“Although all living things recognize patterns, humans may be the only ones to assign symbolic meaning-sometimes deeply nuanced or with powerful emotional content-to those patterns. Religious symbols, intentional or not, are recognized in crosses, stars, or even lighted glories that appear around a spectacular sunset. Omens are symbols, as are patterns in the entrails of birds, tea leaves, crystal balls, birth charts, Tarot cards, and the I Ching hexagrams. All of these evoke connections, sometimes pulling them from the hazy subconscious or even deep recesses of unconscious memory. Music and especially smells do this. It's what makes us feel nostalgia."
Still confused as to what this means? My favorite (and highly relatable) example of seeing patterns that do not exist comes from this scene of 500 Days of Summer.
Kanye could not have said it better -- the most beautiful thoughts are always besides the darkest. I find myself staying up at night simultaneously freaking out and fantasizing about things that may or may not even happen, creating all these fictitious scenarios in my brain, linking one unlikely event to another, and conjuring up further non-worries to drive my brain absolutely crazy (and to further offset my sleep schedule). I think about the person I like, and create an ideal scenario of us professing our mutual likings to each other and holding hands as we walk off into the sunset as the cotton candy clouds watch over us. (This is not true. I only think about the person I like and the off-chance scenario that they like me back. But the added details and fluff make this much more interesting for: 1, me to write and 2, you to read and envision). I think about why the person I wanted to text me back, did not text me back and if my beautiful quarter-forehead Snapchat selfie that was left on read* had an influence on their lack of a text. Do they hate me? Am I being overbearing? Is this what the friend zone feels like? Should I send more than just a quarter of my face? This is because the first time we hung out his car got towed, right? It has to be. Are they organizing a hate squad against me, the one and only Tatum Van Dam?
I then begin to think about the “what ifs” -- what if he likes me back?** What if I get the internship? What if I stayed in Paris and never transferred to school here in Los Angeles? Then I wouldn't be thinking so much about this person. What if I didn’t say the thing I already said and literally can do nothing about it now that it has already happened? The “what ifs” of the past, the present and the future are the "what ifs" that mess with my brain -- because I will never really know the answer to them until they happen (or don’t happen, or didn’t happen).
*For the not-so-young adults out there, to leave someone on “read” simply means to open ones text message, or in this case, Snapchat and not reply.
**I wrote the initial draft of this paragraph a very long time ago before I knew he, indeed, liked me back. In fact, we began dating shortly after the paragraph was written. Life is a coincidental thing, sometimes.
Our thoughts about the things that don’t actually exist are what drive us to fear and to love. To cry and regret. To be filled with anger and, for some, to take action, and for all the others to do the exact opposite and hide. Really, these thoughts cause us to exist as people who have emotions.
Reality doesn’t always meet up with the expectations we have built up inside of our minds. Think about the common movie trope where boy best friend likes girl best friend, but girl best friend likes Mr. Hot Guy. Girl best friend goes on a date with Mr. Hot Guy, only to realize that he sucks! Cut to: girl best friend accepting the love of boy best friend. Or, perhaps, going on a Tinder date and realizing Mr. Perfect is only Mr. Perfect because of FaceTune. Mr. Perfect also lied about his height in his bio, and has a weird thing for mint condition Beanie Babies. All Mr. Perfect wants to do is show you his collection of Beanie Babies. It could also be as simple as being stoked to try a pastry from the popular bakery, only to find that it doesn’t taste as pretty as it looks (which takes us full circle, back to the Mr. Hot Guy trope).
Something I never really realized up until this point is that the expectations we have don’t exist. They are intangible; they are literally figments of our imagination. They are fantasies.
Take my 2018 summer trip to Europe as an example. I was so ecstatic to show my brothers one of my favorite cities in the world: Paris. I had these extravagant plans to take them to the lesser known bars, like the one in Bastille disguised as a laundromat and the one on Rue du Bourg Tibourg with the awesome bartenders and indie rock music, show them the classic landmarks like Sacré-Cœur, L’arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and give them the utmost local experience by conquering le metro rather than l’Uber.
Unfortunately, none of these things went according to plan. In fact, most of them didn’t even happen at all. Of course, I was very ticked off and upset about this, but I technically had no right to be. I had no one and nothing to actually be mad at aside from the situation itself. In my mind I had concocted these amazing scenarios of my brothers and I climbing the Eiffel Tower, balling out on the Champs Élysées, and eating baguettes, prosciutto, and camembert whilst drinking two euro wine as we are sat among the steps of Montmartre. If I had never imagined these scenarios, I wouldn’t have anything to be upset about when they ended up not happening. (I think this is also why I have decided against becoming a party planner, despite my crafting abilities and love for planning and all things Pinterest-esque.)
Though that last paragraph was a bit of a downer, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be fantasizing and imagining, because they are good things to do. It’s good to be curious and it’s good to imagine and, to an extent, it’s good to fantasize. Our fantasies keep us curious and keep us motivated. It’s just a matter of what we’re fantasizing about and to the extent at which we happen to be fantasizing. Ultimately, without our fantasies, we wouldn’t have a drive to do.
What do you fantasize about?