The Impact of the Romanticized

There are people in my life that never became real, and yet I attached to them for some reason. Usually the method of attachment was standard attraction, although not always physical attraction. (I hate always feeling the need to clarify my choice of words like attraction and romance to take them out of the modern dialogue of love and sex.) I was attracted to these people because they were outgoing, or because they were spiritual, or because they had a cause, or because they had a skill, or passion. As an example I will give my co-crew leader from five years ago, Brian. My first season as a crew leader I did not have the best of luck with co-leaders. First I had Isaac who decided that the only way to bond with our all-male crew was through the objectification of women. I have no doubt that my unveiled, vehement threats of starting the process of official sexual-harassment proceedings against him aided in his decision to quit. Well, that mixed with a healthy dose of laziness that did not suit the trail-world particularly well. My second co-leader was Russ. Now Russ was a major improvement on Isaac. First of all he was my friend. Secondly, he knew what he was doing trail-wise. He had skills. But he also had anxiety issues and perfection issues and we were in rather constant conflict. I will take a lot of the blame for that one, but the fact of the matter is that I still had not had a positive crew-leader experience. Then came Brian.
Brian was like a breath of fresh air. He was professional. He had trail-knowledge. He was creative. He was absolutely positive and determined to have fun. He found ways to bond with the crew that were not based on sexuality. He was, compared to all of my experiences, perfect. He was the first real mentor that I had been given as a crew leader. We were co-leaders for about a month, and it was my happiest time as a crew leader despite a dysfunctional crew that could not be brought back from all of the mommy-daddy issues that my prior leadership combinations had inflicted on them. I am thankful for my experience with Brian because it changed many of my rather dismal perspectives about trail life and affirmed many of my life values. In a very short time he endeared himself to me as a trail-god, and I completely romanticized him.
But what exactly is the romanticization of a person? I never got to know him. There just wasn’t time, and yet I filled in the blanks with all of the positive attributes that I needed to believe in. Brian became this open, vulnerable, strong person that I thought was the ultimate goal in life. These are not imagined attributes- they clearly existed in him, but due to circumstance they were all that I knew of him. We all have struggle- I am not so naive as to discount the place of humanity on earth as one of struggle and becoming- but his struggle was veiled, not through his own shame but through time and circumstance. Therefore Brian, in my imagined world, became only the romantic side of whoever he may be. Over the years I have kept up with him through facebook and the occasional personal exchange, and it is as if we know each other well. I would be hesitant to say that I do not know him, because our romantic persona is perhaps as important to the functioning of the world as our whole persona. However he is hopes and shadows and possibilities, without the muck of real-life.
Alternatively there are people who have touched my life and cannot remain romanticized despite my heart’s better efforts. As an example I give Cyrano. She is an amazingly strong force in my life, from the creation of beliefs to the affirmation of others. She also started as a romanticized being. For two years she was the epitome of camp-counselors. She was forceful, charismatic, unbelievably intelligent, and with a strong sense of values. Then she became real. Our relationship was messy and I was exposed to the faults of her, and able to accept her as a full person instead of an ultimate being. To this day I have a split interaction with Cyrano- that of the romantic and that of the realistic. Every time she writes me an email or a message from her pops up I am jolted with the negotiation of my romanticized version of her against the real version, and I have to carefully choose my mode of interaction in order to maintain the depth of the real relationship that we have built together. Sometimes it would be much more simple to let her slide away into perfection, but the benefits of the reality and trust within the act of relating outweigh my laziness, most of the time.
Then there are the people who were never romanticized. Nikola did not have the time to be romanticized. He fell into my life complete and real from the first day, and even now still grows in dimension, without running the risk of being flattened by my standardized schema. My constant closeness and interaction with Nikola does not give me the space or time necessary to classify him within my standard categories. He is a constant surprise.
So there are these people- the ever-romantic, semi-romantic, and never-romantic, and the question becomes what are the effects of these people in our lives. I think that society tends to extol the benefits of ‘real’ relationships and so I do not have to elaborate there. But what does the romantic imaginings of a character contribute to my experience as a being? Returning to the concept of Brian I will say that he has been critical in shaping my schema. In the way that I sometimes say a sentence out loud just to see if I actually believe it, I can try on the romance of an individual to see if I actually support an ideal. Brian  acted as a sentence that I let echo- the sentence that men can be sensitive and yet strong, that leaders can be confident and yet humble, that trail work can be enthusiastic and yet serious. He was my testing of the ultimate in contradictions concerning a more rugged form of life. And the test passed, with flying colors. Yes, I do believe those aspects are worth striving for. Yes, I do believe they are possible. Yes, I do believe that they are worthwhile values to hold onto. Now, when I falter in my convictions I have that warm spring month to reflect on, and to remember my romantic notion of perfection, and all that life can hold for those that give an effort and a care. It is an important role for romance to fill, that of hope.

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