An Incomprehensive Guide to Romanticizing Your Life

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Vienna photos
Wien | photos by me

We’ve talked about brands selling us stories before, but what about the stories we tell ourselves?

This Thanksgiving I’m in Vienna and everything begs for romanticizing: the Christmas market lights, the warm punch, the mermaid-haired students in fluffy scarves, and the somber gaze of dead emperors as we dare to dance in their palaces or Instagram their statues.

Back in America, the settings are less poetic: at times Baltimore’s crime rate and fellow students’ obsession with grades convince me not to wear my white beret and not to listen to the Hairspray soundtracks, because life is life and maybe I should face it as it is.

But soon something – a song, a movie, a lipstick shade – snaps me out of it and I am yet again the heroine of the carelessly fabricated plot.

101: Why Choose to Romanticize

As the ancient proverb goes, there are two terrible things that can happen to your dream: it can not come true or it can come true. The latter is possibly worse. We choose fables and semi-realities, because we are heroes, not humans. We are famous for 15 minutes. We fall into tropes and literary archetypes to derive courage from them.

This is why representation is so important: fictional characters are more real than we give them credit for and they can be there for you if needed. Relating to a character is like having a friend who is just like you, only with cooler remarks and a better wardrobe.

I recall the days of my youth spent imitating Blair Waldorf and only half regret the huge red headbands and classic green coats; I also channeled her determination to get into a good school and it made my SAT preparation more bearable. Romanticizing can be fun and useful, if you are careful in your choices.

102: Which Trope to Pick and When

Sometimes in my encounters with a certain type of jaded and sarcastic guys, I involuntarily follow the Manic Pixie Girl trope: I take them to museums, wear ’50s-inspired dresses, and make quirky, infantile remarks. Then I have to stop myself and go back to being me.

It is important to pick and choose which character and in which aspects of your life to romanticize: Blair Waldorf in academics may be great, but Blair Waldorf in jealousy and arrogance doesn’t sound too delightful.

Being a trope in social interactions is only cool as long as you are willing to keep the performance up and never let them see the actual you – a sort of game of “conceal, don’t feel,” that doesn’t tend to end well.

Be responsible in your choice of characters. Just because Effy from Skins makes her depression look blasé and cool, doesn’t mean it is. Don’t make up your aspirations either: I decided to be pre-med because Dr. House made it look so effortlessly smart. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

In that sense, fashion gives you a complete freedom of choice: channeling anyone in style is fine, whether it’s Lana Del Rey or Dracula or Barack Obama. Period dresses may difficult to pull off, but Lolita girls still manage. Somewhat separating the character from the style is a skill to practice as homework.

Another is to construct a fashion identity, like a potion, from the exact right measures of the characters you like, forgetting age, gender or race. I am now going to wear prison clothes to channel Poussey from OITNB, boots in Russell Brand’s style, and dye my hair Arabelle Sicardi’s hair color.

103: Options, Options, Options…

If anything, romanticizing can be a tool to a better self.

Romanticize wearing long flowery skirts and pretend to be a fairy queen. Romanticize a healthy lifestyle by personalizing your body. Make-believe you’re in a romcom when you need to make the grand move in a relationship. Post songs online for a particular person to see. Pensively read Austen on a bench. Wear your hair old-fashioned, like a Greek goddess.

Romanticize everything that makes you feel and be better as a result. Leave mental illnesses to therapists and self-loathing to the self-obsessed. Romanticize life, not some version of death.

Romanticize the hell out of a whole lot of sleep

104: Control

Ultimately, the main skill to master in the art of romanticizing is control. To quote Kipling:

“If you can dream –  and not make dreams your master.”

There’s a lot of satisfaction in thinking of tea, as the same tea that “danced” in the Boston Tea Party or as the same type of tea you and Lisa drank before she got on a train to Munich, or as the tea that gives life to dead leaves one last time. But romanticizing life, just like falling in love, is a choice to let reality (or a feeling in the second case) go to the edge of its potential.

It shouldn’t be capitalistic, because in many cases, the best romanticizing comes from no money at all – second-hand finds, protests in graffiti, and library cards as life-savers. It shouldn’t be desperate or escapist, because there is always a wake-up call. It’s a spice, a choice, an accent. It’s about letting your accumulated imagination and knowledge come out to play along with what actually is. Everyone’s at the same place, but some people take genial photographs of it. Some people see it better and who says they don’t see it true-er?

How do you see it?

Thoughts?

Tell us in the comments about your routine romanticizing or characters you channel. We’re curious.

11 thoughts on “An Incomprehensive Guide to Romanticizing Your Life”

  1. I love to do this!! People think that it’s odd of me but it helps me stay motivated. This is a great reminder:) thank you

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  2. I truly think this is the best article I have ever read on here. Everything else it’s just as great – but the ideas, how it’s constructed, and the words you chose were flawless. Nare, great job!

    Reply
  3. wow!! it’s been a while that a blog post hit me like this one. i’ve romanticized my life as long as i remember..but just in my head! for some reason, everytime i’ve dreamed of making it reality i backed out, even if it was just something as simple as putting on a long flower skirt and wear my hair like a hippy, but your well-written post is making me reconsider that! thank you 🙂

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  4. I never thought this could be a “thing”.

    My entire life I’ve been a dreamy, head-in-the-clouds kind of girl. Always wondering what my life would be like if I was born in another century, in another country, in another family, in another galaxy. And then I’d impersonate these versions of me.

    When I was young, everyone thought it was cute, and lovely, and beautiful. But as I grew older, I realized I couldn’t always act entirely like someone else. Well, I could, if I became an actress, but I wasn’t cut out for that. Anyway, I didn’t want to let that part of myself go away either. Life in my head was SO much better then what actually happened in it.

    I eventually learned how to add characteristics of my favourite characters into my life. While I don’t figure out who I wanna be, it makes life better.

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  5. This is such a lovely article. I definitely feel a lot less guilty about “escaping” the real world by romanticizing parts of my life at time. Hey, humanity also needs its dreamers.

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  6. I am guilty of this. All the time, guilty. I tell myself that I live in New York/California (fill in the blank with whatever awesome thing I’m doing with my life right now), and how many kids from Utah WISH that they were here right now, etc.

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