It started young. I was sitting on a carpet, knee to knee with my pastor, surrounded by ten or fifteen other squirming children while Mrs. Patty played “Jesus Loves Me,” on the piano. The music stopped, and the pastor looked at each one of us, a smile on his face, ignoring the pews full of adults.
“Let’s talk about the future. Kaitlin, do you know what you want to be when you grow up?”
I considered for a moment. I looked from my pastor, to the cross hanging above his head and found my answer.
The church burst out laughing. I looked at the audience in confusion. What was so funny? I wanted to be different, and powerful, and loved by everyone in the whole wide world. What was wrong with that?
The pastor chuckled. “That job is already taken.”
“Oh,” I frowned, deep in thought. “Can I be the little mermaid then?”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted more. Being human was just so plain and boring. Why couldn’t I be a magical mermaid princess? Or an all powerful deity? As I grew, the feeling didn’t go away. I gravitated toward books about twins with telepathy, vampires, witches, and shape-shifters. I watched shows, like Sailor Moon, and took long walks around my neighborhood, hoping against hope that I’d find a talking cat who would tell me I was really a princess.
I made up elaborate stories, telling people I was adopted, or had a twin sister. I pretended to have magic. I wanted so desperately to be special.
In retrospect, it wasn’t just the magic I wanted. I wanted to belong to something special. Something bigger than me. Sailor Moon had her Sailor Scouts, the secret circle had each other. The vampires had their own underground society. The children at Hogwarts had each other. Buffy had her click. It wasn’t like I didn’t have friends, but I wanted the type of relationships I saw in these books. Strong and unbreakable because of everything they’d gone through together. They all had a secret, and in bound them in a way that nothing normal ever could.
Friends are great and all, but no story featuring any paranormal activity would be complete without a hot love interest. My first crush, ever, was on Julian from The Forbidden Games trilogy. Equally enticing as the idea of being special, was the idea of finding that one person, who might be a bit dark and was probably a little dangerous who understood a part of you better than you did. These heroes are often broody, good-looking, sarcastic, and for whatever reason are drawn to– no, need– the protagonist. I wanted that.
I really did want that. Right up until I met the first broody, sarcastic boy in my middle school. I spent five minutes in a class-room with a boy who had the good looks of Tuxedo Mask, and all the charming qualities (i.e sarcasm, condescension, argumentative). I took a moment to wonder, was this the start of an epic romance? Would our back and forth eventually lead to a heat of the moment kiss? Five minutes lapsed into ten, and I came to a sad conclusion about myself.
If I were the protagonist of one of my books, would have lost my chance at an epic romance in chapter one by telling the romantic interest where he could shove it and then spending the rest of the book as far away from him as possible. Turns out, guys who treat people the way that most paranormal love interests do at the start the story come off as jerks for a reason. They are jerks. Being the one and only person who can get through Mr. Paranormal love-interests tough exterior kind of requires having the patience to break through that tough exterior. I don’t.
Fine. No epic love interest for me. But surely I could have magic. Then I realized something when reading one of the So You Want to be a Wizard books by Diane Duane. Nita had just confessed to her parents that she was a wizard. Her father told her something to the extent of, “I get why you want to do this, had I been given magic as a kid I would want it too, but…” and Nita tried to point out that he was lying. Had he wanted magic, been the right candidate for it, or whatever, he would have found it. It would have called to him, found him. The fact that it hadn’t meant he really wasn’t a match for it.
I think that one line of exposition in that one middle grade novel broke my heart. My whole life, I’d assumed that magic, if it was out there, would find me. I’d be one of the kids that got an invitation to Hogwarts. I’d be the victim in the freak accident, granting me superpowers. But in reality, if that stuff existed, more likely than not, I’d either never know about it, or I’d be one of the random sidekicks. After all, I’m not super rich. I’ve never won the lottery. I’m not a princess. I’m not a genius. I wasn’t born in New Zealand. Each and every one of those things is real. They’re all random luck of the draw. If I’m not anyone of those things, why would I ever assume I’d be lucky enough to be some magical hero?
Then I realized something else. Magic came with baggage. I didn’t want to lose my family, even if it meant it would awaken magical powers. I didn’t actually want the burden of saving the world. I barely recycle. I didn’t want to worry that my actions would put my friends and loved ones in danger. Maybe I’ll never form the kind of bonds that come with fighting to the death beside a band of unlikely misfits turned hero, but bonus, I’d never have to fight to the death!
In short, I grew up. I realized I was pretty lucky. Most of the protagonists in those books would sell their souls to have my life. I have friends, and I didn’t have to save their lives to get them. I met my dream guy, married him, and have a daughter. I started reading the books and watching the shows differently. Now, I didn’t breeze by the sad stuff and focus on what they got out of it. I realized what they lost. There’s a ton of books I can’t read anymore because it’s too sad.
I thought I was the only one who’d gone through this. Then my mom’s group started a book club and we had a talk about our favorite books and movies when we were younger. I realized something shocking. They’d all felt the same way. Every single one of them spent countless hours dreaming, and wishing, and hoping to be something different, something special. And every single one us, on rereading, or rewatching, were horrified at how tragic the main characters lives were. None of us would wish that life on anyone, much less want it for ourselves.
There is something tragic and isolating about childhood that lasts all the way to young adulthood. Some part of us that’s terrified that this is it, and wishes desperately for something more. Something that’s afraid of being alone and powerless. That fear is reflected in every.single. children’s story. Maybe it’s because when you’re young, you’re still learning about the world and trying to figure out your place in it and your limitations. I remember that feeling, which is why the worlds I create in my books are full of magic and wonder.
So in light of my grass-is-greener paranormal philosophy, I propose a giveaway. Pick your favorite protagonist from a paranormal book and name one thing you have that they would be jealous of. OR one thing about your favorite paranormal love interest that would probably drive you insane if you actually had to live with it every day. My favorite comment gets a copy of my paranormal romance novel, Persephone.
Happy hopping everyone