Is This Real?

Have you ever had so many crazy things happen that your brain tells you it can’t be real? Or has someone ever come into your life who has such a different view on things that it makes you question your own perception of reality? That was my 2016.

I’ve always thought of myself as very level-headed. Not too optimistic. Not too pessimistic. I’m realistic. Like Goldilocks, I found what’s “just right”. I like to stay right in the middle where I have the best view of the world and can clearly see all sides. But, from my position grounded firmly in the center of reality, what if I’m still only able to see my reality? Is there really only one version of reality, or is reality variable based on perception, experience, etc.? And if someone doesn’t see the same version as me, are they crazy? Or am I crazy?

For example, if someone is intoxicated, they know they are the most attractive, friendliest, wittiest person in the world whose dancing skills should have them touring with Beyoncé. But is that reality? It’s their reality, and you won’t be able to convince them otherwise. If someone suffers from depression, they could believe they have nothing to offer the world and things will never get better. Their reality is an eternity of dark skies and hopelessness. They won’t believe anyone who tries to tell them things can get better since they don’t see a world outside of the darkness.

But what about situations where mental impairment isn’t a factor? If someone grows up in a life of privilege, where they are told they can be anything they want to be and opportunities are abundant, their reality is that a person’s accomplishments in life are limited only by their own dreams and motivation. They would likely believe that anyone living a life of hardship is in that situation due to their own weakness or lack of effort. However, someone surrounded by hardship might equate opportunities with fantasies that don’t really exist. There are no dreams, only survival, and taking advantage of situations or other people is commonplace and necessary for survival. Their reality could be a “kill or be killed” world: use others to your advantage before they use you.

All of those realities are very different, but they’re still very, well… real. Trying to debate with someone or convince them that their version of reality isn’t the “real” reality is pointless. It’s like arguing with someone about whether or not there is a purple unicorn standing in the corner of the room. If someone knows there is a purple unicorn in the room because they can see it, and they’re looking at it right now, it becomes a ridiculous argument. I know there isn’t a purple unicorn in the room, but how can I convince someone that it isn’t there when they really believe it is? Or is it there? What if it really is there, and I just can’t see it?! What if my reality isn’t the real reality?! Am I the crazy one, or are they?!? Oh my God, I think I might be crazy!!!

Thus describes my 2016 insanity.

My brain has been working overtime to preserve my sanity and save me from a complete mental breakdown. Here’s what I’ve come up with. We all indeed live in our own personal version of reality based on our perception, background, and experiences and on our brain’s way of coping with our environment. It’s like we each live inside our own private bubble containing our own little universe where everything makes sense to us. Catching a glimpse into someone else’s bubble could seem like viewing a chaotic dystopian society: it’s scary and “wrong” and sends us running back to the safety of our own bubble.

Of course, we can’t survive as solo beings, confined to our own bubble. We have to merge bubbles and interact with others eventually. In order to maintain balance in our personal universe and our mental state, we should find other similar bubbles to merge with. Trying to merge with bubbles too dissimilar to our own will result in nothing more than ridiculous, endless debates since we all believe that our own reality is the ”real” reality and that those not agreeing with our version live in those crazy dystopian bubbles. As 2016 taught me, being continually forced into that situation makes you feel like you’re going insane and can’t trust your own judgment anymore. Self-assessment is a good thing, but questioning your sanity is a dark, scary place to be.

So my New Year’s Resolution is this: Reclaim my sanity and my firm grasp on reality… my reality. I will find similar bubbles to merge with and avoid chaotic bubbles that don’t enhance my universe. I will trust myself to decide the reality that is “real” and “right” for me, and I won’t let anyone make me question that judgment. But if I’m wrong, I really hope that unicorn is here to whisk me off to another universe because I can’t take another year of this.

Oh, and my career? I have no idea. I’m insane.

Cheers to 2017 and finding the balance between dark skies and purple unicorns!

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