I have been obsessed and enthralled by fantasy and magic for as long as I can remember. I was plagued most by these fanciful ideas during my late elementary through middle school years. I can remember clearly lying on the floor of my kitchen at eleven years old sobbing and screaming hysterically because someone had told me at school that Santa wasn’t real. For some reason, as illogical as the reality of Santa Claus is, the concept represented the “unknown” and the “mystic” for me; therefore, if Santa wasn’t real, then how could the world contain any mysticism? I was raised and still am a Christian. One would think that my love for “magic” and “mysticism” would conflict with my beliefs; however, to believe the stories in the Bible, it takes a great amount of faith in the unknown because in their own way they seem just as “magical” as a fairytale. Somehow Santa not existing made me question the existence of God and fairyland and miracles and every dream I ever had in life. It’s ridiculous, I know, but my eleven year old brain couldn’t comprehend having the world shrink to just the flat and grey landscape of reality.
Before this world-changing incident, I had discovered at a sleepover with a few of my girl friends in the darkness and silliness that comes with the night that if I ran my fingers over my sleeping bag, little flashes of light would appear wherever I touched. At this point in my life, I had been convinced by all the Disney movies and fairytales I had mentally consumed that when I reached adolescence my magical abilities would start to make themselves known. The Harry Potter series probably contributed the most to this belief so that even though I lived in the United States, I imagined that there had to be an American version of Hogwarts that would soon be sending my wizarding school acceptance letter by owl. We were just a gaggle of giggling girls at the time, marveling over my newfound abilities, although the sparks of light soon diminished and we finally retired to bed with smiles but tugs on our hearts. Would the flashes come back? Were my fingers really magic? Or was it just a weird three a.m. hallucinatory phenomenon?
I don’t know how or when I forgot about this incident—maybe I decided that my magical powers were too dangerous to risk exposing my secret to the world—but it was soon after the Santa Claus Debacle that I found the same phenomenon to be happening. I have never been so excited in my life. It wasn’t a hallucination induced by too much sugar and girly sleepover adrenaline! Here I was in my bed alone at only 9 p.m. and my hands were lighting up my bedding. I put on my glasses just to be sure and there, plain as day, were sparks of light emanating from my finger tips whenever I ran my hands over the comforter. I was ecstatic. I don’t quite know how I actually managed to go to sleep that night. However, I mulled it over the next day at school and determined there was no other explanation than that I finally had begun to become magical—like I had always imagined I was as a child. And here was my proof. For me to be entirely convinced though, my magical powers would need to go through one final test: my dad.
Now my dad is one of the most logical and analytical people I know. He can do large calculations in his head, is incredibly interested in weather and should have been a meteorologist had the world been kinder to him, and can spot a lie a thousand miles away through a concrete wall. He’s also the person I trust the most in the world (especially at that point in my life) in terms of deciding what is and is not true in the world. Essentially, if dad believed it, it was true.
As a side note, I can attribute most of my intense belief in the great beyond and the mystic because of my father. Although he’s a rather no-nonsense kind of guy and firmly plants himself within the realm of reality because that’s the way he grew up, he’s always encouraged my imaginative and fanciful tendencies. He carried on the Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy traditions for far longer than most parents would have. Because of my intense reverence for his opinion and his lack of one on the matter of magical childhood traditions, my child brain generalized it to be that all magic could possibly exist even if I saw no apparent signs of it in my daily life. Only time and experience has shown me about his beliefs otherwise. He, in fact, can’t stand to watch any movie that involves magic. For example, he can’t stand to watch The Lord of the Rings which has always held a special place in my heart. Instead, he much prefers his mysticism to come in the form of science-fiction. The “it-COULD-happen” rather than the “you-have-to-believe-for-it-to-happen.” They’re both grounded in the same awe of the great beyond but are portrayed quite differently. Also, just so you know, I love science-fiction too!
With this knowledge, I faced my dad at the dinner table the following night and tried to gently turn the conversation over to my theories of magical ability development. But my hopes were dashed quite quickly. He played along for a little bit (because I never mentioned it being magic), but soon he started asking too many practical questions that began to debunk my theory. What type of material is my bedspread? What season is it? Did I know that the dry air of winter coupled with the friction of rubbing my hands over a silky material like my bedspread could create static electricity? And that sparks of static electricity in the dark could look like lights at my fingertips?
Was that really the easy answer to my magical phenomenon? How could it be so simple? Shouldn’t I feel the jolt of the electricity on my fingertips like when I run through the hall with my socks on and then touch a metal doorknob? Why can’t I just be magical?
After only a little consideration of my father’s leading questions, it made much more sense for the bedspread light show to be scientifically explained as static electricity rather than my burgeoning magical powers, but I can’t say that I wasn’t exceedingly disappointed at this realization. All my life I have wanted to be special. I don’t know where I get my overwhelming sense of feeling unacceptably ordinary from (especially since my grades and personal achievements over the years would suggest otherwise), but no matter what I do or how “awesome” people say I am, I can’t quite escape the depressing feeling of being “ordinary.” Maybe it comes from watching too many Disney fairytales as a kid. Or having an overactive imagination. Wherever it comes from, it has plagued my sense of self through my whole life. Somehow “magic” became a synonym for “special” to me as a child and preteen so that I longed for what I saw portrayed in movies and books. But today, with magic a whimsical memory of the past, where do I find my “specialness?”
It’s a tough question. And one that I’ve been working on for years and will have to continue to develop. Experience and schooling has taught me that “specialness” is all a mindset, but that doesn’t completely erase old habits. It’s hard to believe you’re special when you’ve spent your whole life believing you aren’t and when society definitively tells you that you can never be. Well, unless you buy these clothes and get your hair done this way or read this book and go to this university or get this job and become so famous. It’s exhausting, you know? All those societal expectations, they’re just people filling in the blank for “specialness comes from _________.” I filled it in with “magic” as a child. And sometimes fashion now. Or achievements. But deep down, I know that that only thing that makes any of us special is something we can never lose: ourselves. We’re special by merely existing. Think about the chances of YOU actually coming into being at this time and place with your particular history and traits. It’s like a one in infinity chance! I don’t even know how to calculate those odds. But here you are. And me. And them. All of us here in this world and we have the audacity to call ourselves “ordinary.”
There’s absolutely nothing ordinary about our existence at all.
And that makes for an entirely new kind of magic.