Thoughts from the personal experiences of a hopeless romantic
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
We tend to romanticize our lives a lot. Hell, I know I do it all the time. The first time someone pointed it out to me – with the clear intention of trying to somewhat hurt me, or maybe to just wake me up – I was fourteen; I was walking on the shore of the beach where my dad lives, there was such a dense fog and I couldn’t even see the deck I was walking to. I was texting my girlfriend at the time, telling her where I was and she said Martina, you need to stop thinking that your life came out of a book or something. I was stuck. Was that what people thought about me? That I lived my life unauthentically? This was back in 2012, when we didn’t talk about living your life like the main character, not at all. We were all aiming to be humble and at best, posted depressing pictures on our Tumblr blogs. That comment hit me hard, but it didn’t make me stop looking at my life like I was in a movie. I had always read a lot; I had daydreamed about situations and conversations and what clothes I’d be wearing and what the other people would say. In my musical phase, I even had a daily soundtrack with songs I thought were opportune for each situation. Going to school, having a fight with my parents, texting my crush late at night. Sometimes I’d even sing those songs in my head.
I romanticized my life so much that I started making short movies. I didn’t have much except for one of those old small cameras that worked with batteries and a computer, so I’d go around taking clips of my friends on the bus, the birds flying in the grey sky of the winter, my cousin learning how to walk properly. Then I’d paste them together and put a sad song as soundtrack and save them to show to my friends. No one really had the courage to tell me, but I think we all hated them.
But romanticizing my reality so much actually helped in some cases. When I was sexually assaulted at 17, I didn’t really know what had just happened to me. It wasn’t because I wasn’t aware – I was educated and knew what rape and assault were – it’s just the dynamics in which it happened weren’t those I had always been warned against. The pain I felt – physically, mentally and emotionally – was somewhat filtered by this habit of mine. I was okay; something bad had just happened to me, but the sky was still blue, the sun still shone and I was able to walk, to run, to talk and even cry. Even if sometimes I enjoyed the drama, the love I had for life was so strong I was able to love myself even in those moments. When I finally realized what had happened to me – and gained the strength to talk about it with its real name, even if just to myself – the urge to feel like I was part of a bigger story made me seek out compassion in books. I looked for stories that were similar to mine, finding strength in how they got through what I was going through in the first place.
Even now at 23, I find myself putting filters on my reality. As people normally do on their Instagram stories, I have a branded filter on my eyes. I see my time on a farm in Australia as wonderful, in all its moments; no matter the breakdowns I had in the middle of the orchards when picking lemons, I almost grabbed an enormous spider. It was huge, the size of a lemon, hairy and black. I retracted my hand and immediately had a panic attack. My boss came over to check on me and the other backpackers, and was sincerely worried and surprised by finding me like that (he also said from then on, he would check with the backpackers to see if they suffered from arachnophobia before hiring them). Or the times when I didn’t want to go to work because some girls were known to be bullies to their housemates and I didn’t want my vibes to be ruined. Things like that get completely flushed out by my brain when I think back to the farm, and realize it was the happiest time of my life in Australia. All I get to remember is how pretty it was when we were in the orchard and found a baby bird in its nest, or when I got to hold a baby kangaroo in diapers that a family nearby had adopted, or when me and my housemates hung the clothes out to dry at sunset and how pink the sky was over the roof of our house.
Romanticizing is also something that helped me during the pandemic. When the lockdown hit Italy, I had just come back from Australia a couple of weeks prior. I found myself in a home where I grew up, but that my parents had left behind. I was alone and took the chance to renovate the whole house, because in the movie of my life I was finally living on my own – no roommates involved. The solitude that many suffered – and don’t get me wrong, I suffered too – helped me live my single woman writer dreams. I would wake up early, paint the walls a new color, then sit down with coffee and my computer and write fiction or take classes online. I did a lot of yoga and sometimes pretended I was in an ashram, where I wasn’t allowed to speak to others. Living in a fantasy makes you creative.
When I think of my future, I have clear scenes in mind: how I’ll be dressed when I first go talk to my daughter’s teachers, how my home office will look like, what sports my wife and I will be doing. These scenes I picture are what makes me hold on during tough times.
They are romantic and slightly orange-pink.
I don’t know if romanticizing our lives is a coping mechanism or if it’s enhanced appreciation. I like to think about it as a tool that makes my reality more exciting, and it makes me even more grateful to be alive and to be able to enjoy it. It’s like adding glitter to makeup or an outfit or a project; it would be fine on its own, but why not make it sparkling?
I am aware that some people might find this childish or naïve. But I am none of those things; romanticizing my daily life does not mean I cannot see reality as it is. I do, and for the bigger picture, I do not romanticize life at all. It is the little things though, the passing moments, the memories we later go back to in our minds – that are always better in hindsight than while we were living them – that make any action we take more enjoyable. That is what, I believe, makes our lives worth living and puts us in a higher vibration with the universe itself. It is something I recommend everyone tries, at least once.
So what if while taking a shower, I light up candles, play rainforest sounds and pretend I am a fairy.
Anout the author:
I am a lesbian intersectional feminist who loves to read books and write thoughts down; I mostly travel around in search of new adventures and cultures to learn from!