There’s a problem with believing in fairytales.
I bet you thought that’s a sentence you never thought I’d write. Me neither. I’m just as surprised as you are.
Now, I enjoy fairytales and fantasy fiction, very, very much. It’s almost entirely what I read, instead of all those smart books piled up in my office (and on my bedside table, and in the living room bookshelf, and…) that I’m “supposed” to read.
I love a good story. And honestly? I prefer the fantastical world of make-believe, because it’s full of magic, adventure and possibility (and also dragons).
So clearly, I have no problem with reading or telling fantasy stories. Adam would have you believe that I embellish the stories I tell, while I would argue that I’m merely using creative license to convey the story with greater feeling, and paint a fuller expression of what happened. My second-favourite form of writing is creative non-fiction, which means you tell the truth, but you can make it better, for impact.
So, if fairytales and fantasy are great, then what’s the problem?
Nothing, as long as it’s a story that you’re reading, and not a story that you’re trying to live.
I’ll give you an example. Growing up in poverty meant that travel was not a high priority for my family. As I grew up, I was able to create more opportunities to see the world, which meant I had been to many far corners of the world, places I’d never expected to see, like Brazil, Bali, Hawaii.
The one place I’d always wanted to visit, though, was Paris. I mean, I could close my eyes and tell you exactly what I’d do, what it would look like, smell like, sound like, and what I was wearing, in my imagination’s City of Love. I wanted to go there so much that it had become a fairytale. A unicorn: something I always wanted to see, but I knew would remain out of my reach. Paris wasn’t actually real for me, no matter how much I wanted it.
So then, in the spring of 2012, when my best friend, Jennifer, sent me a message asking if we should stop joking about visiting Paris and just go there, I laughed. I mean, one doesn’t just go to Paris. It’s not a real thing you can just up and do.
I told Adam, “Jennifer thinks we should meet her and Jonathan in Paris and then travel around France together,” the same way I might have said something like, “Let’s swim to the Moon.”
The moment he said, “That’d be awesome—let’s do it,” was the moment I realized I’d made Paris into a fairytale. That moment the opportunity to go there actually became a real possibility was the exact moment I realized that I’d been holding it like it wasn’t.
There was no reason for me to believe I couldn’t go to Paris; after all, I’d traveled farther abroad to lands more exotic. But I’d wanted it so much, for so long that it had turned into a daydream that stayed a daydream. A fairytale. A myth.
Even though I KNOW already that things I want only remain impossible because I’ve decided they are, there are other things that still feel like a fairytale to me. They tend to be things I really, really want, like getting a book agent and landing a publishing deal, the same way I wanted to find a talent agent and become an actor (remember: I spoke to precisely zero agents in my illustriously non-existent acting career).
The more I want it, the less likely I am to take much real action towards it, which means they stay dreams and not reality. You do the same thing with some of your dreams, too. Maybe it’s a career, or an adventure, or a romantic relationship. What is the thing you want so badly that you’ve inadvertently turned into a fairytale? What is the thing for which you yearn wistfully, but don’t make real?
The problem with fairytales is that if your future vision of life feels like a fantasy to you, then that’s probably what it will remain: a fantasy. It’s unlikely that you’ll take the steps required to make it real, because it’s not realistic, and you’re no fool. If some part of you—even a small part—doesn’t think there’s even a remote chance that you can become who or what you want to become, and do whatever it is that you want to do, then you’re probably not going to try all that hard to make it happen.
The story will remain a fantasy, an escape from your reality, filled with what-ifs and if-onlys and a lot of sighing. This is not satisfying, as you already know, and, if you don’t already know it, then you can trust me: it’s not.
The issue here is that you’ll just keep trucking along in this “real” version of life, waiting for something magicalrishical to happen that will change you and your world to match your dreams.
And honestly? Given how many fairytales take place “once upon a time, in a faraway land,” I don’t know if there are enough fairy godmothers and genies locally still in business to grant all of us our wishes and make our dreams come true today.
Looks like it’s on us.
If the protagonist in that future fantasy isn’t you, or it’s some version of you that you don’t believe you can become, then it’s someone else’s biography and not yours. If you need to become something or someone before you can go after your dreams, you’ll be waiting a long time. Possibly forever.
Are you willing to never live the life you want?
I’m sure as hell not. I hope you aren’t either.
So look, I hate to be a naysayer, but if your desired life feels like a fairytale, and it seems like it’s going to take magic to make the impossible happen, then you’re probably out of luck.
Lucky for you, though, you don’t need luck to make your dreams come true.
Our heroes become heroes during their adventures, not before them.
And you don’t need to wait for anyone else’s magic to save you, either. As Glinda famously tells Dorothy after her adventures, “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.”
If you want something, check in and see if you’ve turned it into a dream that will remain perpetually outside of your grasp. If you want it enough, then make a plan and start taking some action. If you don’t know how to do it, then read literally ANY of my other posts or watch my videos, or reach out to me. This information is not a secret.
Leave the fairytales for bedtime stories. Stop waiting for someday and take some action instead.
Oh, and fairy godmothers? Wish-granting genies, and all other kinds of magical assistance? They tend to show up and get to work when you do, too.
It all starts when you stop letting your desires remain daydreams, and start saying yes to the life you want.