Years later, during middle school, I translated this same skill of creating imaginary friends. In the middle school social ladder, I was a few notches above the bottom. I had a group of friends to stick with, but certainly not part of the cool or popular crowd. For the most part, I was unnoticed at best.
In the final weeks of 7th grade, we received our yearbooks. On yearbook day, the school had a crisp buzz of excitement, and everyone acted as if they had been friends all year. Teachers gladly gave free time so that we could meander around the classroom with shiny pens, signing odd, meaningless phrases like, “Hope you have a great summer,” and “Friends 4 eva” and “Thanks for being cool in P.E.”
After getting home that day, I opened up my yearbook, and spent hours looking at photos and reading through people’s messages. Though I had collected friends' signatures, there was significant blank space throughout my yearbook. I grabbed some colorful Sharpies from my desk, and began to write notes to myself in the yearbook.
“You’re a great friend! Love, Allison”
“Hope to see you next year. - Nate”
“This year was fun. TTYL!” - Sharon”
As I wrote the notes to myself, I imagined what sort of friendship I had with each of these people. I fantasized that I was noticed, important, and popular. I ignored the reality that this was quite possibly a sociopathic stalker thing to do. I just knew that I preferred the fantasy of having these people be my friends to the reality of insignificance. Any psychologist probably would say that was the same reason I invented a childhood imaginary friend so long ago.
Later, as I learned how to embrace the reality of my actual friendships, I said goodbye to the fantasy ones. But I still have the yearbooks as a reminder of them.