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Alissa at the apex: joie de vivre

Growing up is when you finally open your eyes to beautiful reality.
Alissa Van Dress
Alissa reflects on her maturity, including the hard-knock life of her first musical, “Annie.”

“Mama! Mama! Mommy!”

I opened my first musical with these lines as the youngest orphan, “Molly,” in Lorain Community Music Theater’s 2013 production of “Annie.” Luckily, Annie came to Molly’s rescue in real time, singing her lullabies to reinforce their optimism about reuniting with their families and to silence their fears about the prospect of staying in the orphanage forever.

Like the orphans, I used to believe in fantasies, wishing that my dreams at night would come true or that what I saw in a movie or show would turn into my reality. But, they don’t compare. Reality is better.

As someone who posted abundantly on Instagram, VSCO, Snapchat and Twitter in my early adolescence, taking a gazillion photos of myself to select only one or two from the bunch, spending my precious time lounging around and watching YouTube videos, binge watching Netflix shows and scrolling through endless pictures of models or influencers with envy in my eyes, none of it compares in the slightest to the true beauty of reality, the present in which we live. Reality is not a fantasy, but greater than anything that I could ever imagine.

While having a presence on social media, I am grateful to have still enjoyed normal kid activities such as playing mermaids in the neighborhood pool with friends and family, dancing soccer balls on my knees during practice while I later twirled during ballet and jazz class and finally, belting “the sun will come out tomorrow” during the summer evening. But, daydreaming gradually stole my attention, distracting me from the irrevocable joie de vivre, joy of life.

Even now, I wrestle with a creative mind that trails so easily. I’ve come to tame my imagination by accepting that it’s not reality, only an imperfect will. The truth is immaculate and is not for us to control. After realizing that, I’ve entered a state of enjoyment and awe. I don’t want to imagine what could be; I just want to live in what is.

Don’t get me wrong, imagination can ignite action. Dreams that originate in the heart are powerful and speak the truth to us. Imagination becomes precarious when it incites inaction and the act of dwelling in a fantasy, a world of disillusionment that often lies in mind-numbing habits like scrolling on social media.

I realize now that fantasizing prevents me from living in the glorious moment and from feeling the true peace I’ve sought after all this time. While imagination is a part of life and it can be used for good, it will never replace life. It has no power over us, for life is an indestructible gift.

At the end of “Annie,” the children’s dreams come true realistically: they are adopted all together into a loving home and family. It’s a joyful finale that was only possible for them by coming to terms with beautiful reality.

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About the Contributor
Alissa Van Dress
Alissa Van Dress, Campus Editor
Alissa Van Dress is a junior English major from Amherst, Ohio. She has a concentration in professional writing with minors in business, creative writing and Spanish and Hispanic Studies. Previously, Alissa served as the copy editor at The Carroll News. In addition to her current role as campus editor, Alissa is a JCU football and basketball cheerleader, a writing consultant at the JCU Writing Center, works as a digital engagement ambassador for the JCU Carroll Fund, and serves on the visual arts committee for The Carroll Review. Also, she is honored to have co-founded the Theatre Club at John Carroll University. Other than writing, some of Alissa's favorite hobbies include musical theater, vocal performance, fashion, dance and cheerleading/acrobatics. After graduation, Alissa plans to write for children's entertainment.

To contact Alissa, email her at [email protected].

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