From the Basement

April 21, 2010

Imaginary Talents

You know how when you’re little, you have imaginary friends? Well, I think that the adult version of that is imaginary talents – the talents you wish you had, those figments of your imagination that keep you comfort when what you were given falls through. Or maybe that’s just me.

Myself, I’d be in musical theater. I can act, sort of. Enough to get a small theater scholarship, anyway. But I cannot sing. Imagine a cross between Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend’s Wedding and your run-of-the-mill American Idol reject, and you’ve got me. But in my dreams, I strut into a bar singing some bluesy Janis Joplin that makes everyone sit up a little straighter in their seat. Or I’m Velma Kelly belting “All That Jazz” in the latest Broadway revival of Chicago.

Maybe we all have those “If I was just good at [fill in the blank]” as adults because we are so inundated with warnings of failure. As a kid, the fact that I’d never been to a ballet class didn’t stop me from dreaming that I could be a prima ballerina. And a lack of mathematical aptitude didn’t stop me from dreaming about becoming a molecular geneticist and curing cancer (that was after the ballerina phase). But as an adult, I am so acutely cognizant and self-conscious of my weaknesses. It pushes me to the center of the box rather than to the edges where I can really push.

While I poke fun at my singing voice, I genuinely miss performing onstage. Slam poetry became my performance outlet in college, but I didn’t step on a theatrical stage once. That’s my own fault in that I never auditioned for a show – whether I was too busy or too intimidated, something always got in the way. I got in my own way.

Our “imaginary” longings have some hold in reality. No matter how unrealistic or unlikely our fantasies seem to be, it’s worth getting to the bottom of what that desire means. For me, maybe a desire to perform onstage in a musical means that I want to be seen, appreciated, or uniquely expressive. Our subconscious can powerfully impact our conscious self.

To drive that point home, let’s switch gears to imaginary friends. When I was a little girl, I lived on a gorgeous acreage in the Iowa countryside. It was just outside of your stereotypical, tiny, everybody-knows-your-name Midwestern town. I didn’t get to see my friends outside of school very often, and I had an overactive imagination. Consequently, I had an imaginary pack of tigers that played with after school. I shared this pack of tigers with my imaginary twin brother, Ryan. Ryan was always waiting to play with me when I came home from school. I stopped playing with him around fourth, fifth grade.

Shortly after that, my mom told me that I had been conceived as a twin and that she had lost the other baby. My twin and I were fraternal.

All this to say – it seems like there comes a point in our adult lives where we shut off that intuition, that sixth sense, that knowledge of who we are and what we want.

Our “imaginary talents” or hidden desires can be telling. I don’t know what yours is, but I encourage you to explore what it may mean and – just maybe – to try something new.

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