The Illusion of Control


In an alternate universe, I could be in a mental hospital.

Okay, that’s a bit of a crushing blow. How about I back up a bit?

A recent conversation got me thinking about where I’d be without my faith.

My mind is a swirling pot of dialogue, characters, and scene structure. When I’m bored, I mentally describe my surroundings as though they’re the setting for the next New York Times bestseller.

I’ve often said that each character I play on stage becomes a part of me. It’s the same with writing, though it works the opposite direction. Every character I’ve ever created carries a little piece of me inside them.

Many of them are better versions of me – living in places and experiencing adventures I can only dream about.

Embarrassment, defeat, fear, sadness, and anger all drive me into my stories. I try to channel that emotion to write better scenes, but the long and short of it is that I retreat into these imagined worlds when the outside world is too hard or scary.

If I didn’t have anything holding me to this world, I think I’d disappear there entirely. It’s isn’t uncommon in the realm of human experience.

Because I believe I was put on this earth for a reason, I have a reason to stay. Even when my life doesn’t seem half as interesting as those I create, I know I can’t abandon my own adventure.

I use my story worlds as places to recharge before jumping back out and facing the hard parts of my real life. But I could’ve taken a different path.

This thought scares me to death because it brings into focus just how little command I have over my life. We love to cling to this illusion of control, but it’s like a silk curtain that crashes down when you put your weight on it. In the end we’re all hanging by a thread over the pit of who we could’ve been.

When I get to class on time, finish my homework, write a great sentence, or find English breakfast tea in the dining commons, life can feel pretty simple.

But I could easily have driven myself insane with the very thing I now consider my greatest asset. Imagination.

When the smiles, makeup, and lace are ripped away, I find that I don’t have the control I thought I did. I think if we all peeked into the darkest corners of our lives, the ones we’ve conveniently shoved furniture in front of, we’d find the same thing.

It’s scary, but it’s also freeing. We don’t have to hold so tightly to these myths of control. We’re not the ones in charge, anyway.

Perhaps such a thought will drive us to the one who is.

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