Reading the classics can teach us a lot about life if we let it.
This past week I discovered The Great Gatsby is a tale of midlife crisis, and that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy it more as an adult than as a teenager.
In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby returns to East Egg to woo his long-ago sweetheart, Daisy, away from her abusive and unfaithful husband. What Gatsby does not realize is the real Daisy is not the same as the fantasy Daisy who has occupied his imagination for several years. When the fantasy Daisy meets the real Daisy, Gatsby’s world spins out of control with tragic results.
It’s hard to believe the imagination has any shortcomings. But it does. Without being tempered by reality, imagination becomes fantasy. Fantasy, although an entertaining escape, can transform into a dangerous weapon when used to replace reality.
A week before launching the Coffee Shop Book Tour, I received a message on my phone that someone had contacted me through my website. Curious to discover who the new fan might be, I logged onto my computer to find out.
The person who had contacted me was a high school acquaintance. When I responded to his email, it started a dialogue. After several exchanges, he wrote, “We would have been together if I had pursued you.”
While I was thankful for his honesty, I did not share the sentiment. Sure, there were guys in high school I would have dated if they had asked. None of them, however, had been my Daisy. I had closed the door to teenage angst and had opened the door to the rest of my life. Apparently, this gentleman had decided to nurture his teenage infatuation with me, creating an imaginary world in which we lived happily-ever-after. Now that he was older and disillusioned with the rest of his life, he had decided to contact me and make his fantasy come true.
Armed with reality, I told this gentleman we were both married with children, living in different cities, with different objectives. While he wanted to reconnect and start over with me, I only wanted to build my platform as a writer and discover how to make enough money to buy back my time. I was not interested in romance, an illicit affair, or a dangerous friendship built on shared memories and sexual attraction. That toxic cocktail was not on my menu, but it was on his.
Luckily, the conversation ended with him realizing it was unwise to pack up and take the next flight north. This sobering epiphany translated into a huge cautionary tale for me, since the experience illuminated a hidden truth: the real power of imagination lies in its marriage to reality. For when imagination connects with reality, the ordinary becomes extraordinary and dreams manifest in ways we never envisioned as possible. If Gatsby had known this, he may have chosen a different path and found beauty instead of tragedy.