A New and Improved Imaginary Me

Most kids go through an imaginary friend stage. Some adults go through it too, but I think we refer to that as Schizophrenia. When we were kids, my sister had a set of imaginary friends who would only come out to play when the toilet was being flushed. Bizarre, yes, but it seemed harmless enough. The creativity and detail that go into imaginary friends has always amazed me. And creeps me out a bit too. When kids talk so confidently about their imaginary friends, I have wondered if there may actually be friendly ghosts who have befriended them, and their “imaginary friends” aren’t imaginary at all. Also, I may have seen Casper one too many times.

I too had an imaginary friend for several months (years?) as a young girl. She didn’t live in the toilet, she didn’t have magic powers, and she didn’t hang around too often, but she was someone I thought about almost constantly. Her name was simply “New Courtney.” Not exactly the epitome of creativity there, Court.

I believed in New Courtney so deeply, with every ounce of my being. To me, she wasn’t imaginary. I remember I used to stand in our backyard by my favorite willow tree, peering out over the lake at New Courtney’s house. She lived in a town home with her family. That is how real she was to me, she didn’t live in the toilet or under my bed– she lived in a home down the street from me, like a real girl. For a while, my parents let me carry on about New Courtney, but at some point, they became worried that she was no longer imaginary to me. Essentially, my parents were starting to wonder if their 4-year old child was psychotic and could no longer separate reality from imaginary. Which oddly enough has become a sort of theme in my life. But hey, living in a dreamworld has its perks. PS I’m not psychotic, I just “live in my head a lot”, as my counselor says. Which is all well and fine until you daydream for an entire semester of school and write a research paper on the wrong topic because you just “didn’t notice” that the entire 6th grade was studying Middle Eastern culture, not Medieval fashion. True story. I digress.

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One afternoon, my parents had “the talk” with me. They wanted to make sure I understood that while New Courtney was fun and really great, she was not real. I was not convinced. I told my parents that I would even introduce them to New Courtney, if they’d like. So we all loaded into the car and drove to the development over, to where the town homes were. Our car idled in the driveway as my parents patiently waited for me to say, “forget it, I know she’s not real. We can go home now.” Except that never happened. I scooted out of my car seat and made my way up the cement stairs to New Courtney’s door, sure she would be happy to see me.

Before you go all crazy thinking my parents let their 4-year-old daughter knock on a stranger’s door, don’t worry. The town homes were actually under construction so nobody was living there.

I knocked, and waited. And when nobody answered, I knocked again. And waited. I felt a slight sense of panic that New Courtney wasn’t opening the door– now my parents would never believe me! After a few minutes that felt like hours of waiting, I padded back to the car and explained that New Courtney simply wasn’t home, that was the the only reason she didn’t answer.

My parents probably felt hopeless, like if that didn’t work, then nothing was going to convince me that New Courtney wasn’t real. Except after that day, I never spoke of New Courtney again. I think that deep down I always knew she wasn’t real, but I enjoyed keeping up the facade, as all kids do.

My family will still occasionally tease me about New Courtney, especially when I do something odd or out of character. They will say, “was it you that did that, or New Courtney?” We all find it amusing, but it wasn’t until I saw a counselor a few years ago that I started to think about New Courtney again– in a different way. How cliche, right? Discussing childhood imaginary friends with a therapist. It wasn’t part of a therapy session, I actually brought it up because we were talking about my creativity and my “Other Courtney” who feels the need to express herself. I joked that I must have not been very creative as a kid because my imaginary friend was named “New Courtney”– doesn’t get more vanilla than that.

But Ken, my therapist, looked at me with sheer amazement. He shook his head and said “that is the opposite of non-creative, that is fascinating.” He speculated that New Courtney was not the product of a lack of imagination, it was a way for a 4-year-old me to have an emotional outlet of sorts. He thought maybe it was a version of myself that I wanted to be– or felt safe as. It’s not that I didn’t feel safe as a kid, I was just so miserably shy that I admired New Courtney– she was so much more confident and put together. Ken digressed from dissecting my alter ego, but we had fun talking about it for a few minutes.

The truth is, I still do think about New Courtney because as I’ve gotten older, I have become New Courtney. It took years and years, and only recently do I feel like I am doing the New Courtney I so admired as a child any justice. New Courtney is caring and strong. She is assertive and confident. New Courtney is responsible and says what is on her mind, even if it is not the popular opinion. New Courtney doesn’t let people walk all over her, which is a quality that finally emerged in early adulthood. And much to my four-year-old miserably shy self’s delight, New Courtney has no problem looking people in the eyes, public speaking, and sparking up conversation with strangers. New Courtney fully embraces her quirks and qualms.

I wonder if all the imaginary friends we have as kids are projections of what we want to be, or who we would be without our insecurities. I’m sure some kids have imaginary friends who are nothing more than just a friend to play with, but I do believe that some of us have imaginary friends who serve a purpose. Eventually we grow out of our imaginary friends, but maybe we don’t have to. Maybe we can embrace our inner creativity, explore what characteristics made our imaginary friends so appealing, and become them. Or adult versions of them. Unless your imaginary friends were of the sort who hang out in toilets.

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17 thoughts on “A New and Improved Imaginary Me

  1. I had an imaginary friend too as a child. His name was Ali (or at least that is the way I called him). One day while playing in my grandmother’s back yard, Ali ran out into the freeway behind my grandma’s back fence. I screamed and screamed. My grandmother ran out to see what was wrong. I was crying that Ali had been ran over by a car. She was petrified because she didn’t know Ali was an imaginary friend until she relayed the message to my mother…I guess him getting ran over by a car was my way of letting go of him. Weird I know.

  2. Great write! I was a weird child. I wasn’t a child I was a young adult. I was always around adults and never had a real childhood. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have an imaginary friend. I get around kid’s and I get squeamish because I can’t relate. I enjoyed reading this though.

    • I can definitely understand what you mean, I have some friends who were the same way! Were you an only child? Even though I had an imaginary child and grew up with lots of siblings, it’s still weird for me to see kids with imaginary friends and remember a time when I was so fearlessly creative and imaginative. I miss those days!

      • I had step sisters and a step brother but they were almost adults. They didn’t spend a lot of time with me and now they don’t acknowledge me at all. It’s okay though. The crazy thing is I’m very artistic but it runs in my family for generations. I will have to post some paintings soon.

  3. I loved reliving this event via your blog, though your mother and I were very concerned at the time! You have an amazing insight Courtney, and a true gift at writing and story telling! I do remember the look on your face when we turned and walked away from the empty townhouse—and it may me question whether we did the right thing. It was the look of someone who had just lost a good friend—and you were only 4. Soooo glad all these years later to read your analysis of the situation and that it didn’t mess you up (at least not too bad — LOL). I love you, the otherCourtney, and the New Courtney — I think you have all become one!!! 😄

    • Why do your comments always make me tear up!? Love them. I’m glad my memory of the New Courtney Saga is true to what happened! I don’t have too many memories from VA Beach but New Courtney is definitely a strong one! I think you and mom handled it really well actually, I would do the same thing. How long did I actually talk about/have New Courtney? I can’t really remember the time frame?

      And no, you didn’t mess me up too bad. But next time I’m in therapy, I’ll send you my bills just to be safe 😉

  4. I once had an imaginary friend named Mikey. He was actually so small that he fit into my pocket. I would even tell my friends about him. I can’t remember what happened to him… I guess one day he just wasn’t there. (I lost interest in the whole imaginary friend thing, I suppose.) Anyway, my last two boyfriends have been named Mike… I dunno if that’s any indication of anything, but there you go. lol.

  5. So the Other Courtney is simply a manifestation of New Courtney? Not having grown up with you I guess you weren’t all that pleased with Old Courtney. Hence the therapy.

    I’ve only been following for a while but I am quite sure that Old New and Other are all just part of Real Courtney…warts and smiles and all. You sound pretty all together to me. Your self awareness is quite well developed. If I were 28 years younger I’d be sure to stal… er I mean look you up next time I was in your neck of the woods.

    I hope your health care is paying for your therapy. If it’s not then I’d consider stopping it. Cuz from where I sit in NJ you seem fine!

    • You’re sweet– thank you!! I do feel like I have things together, and definitely was not always that way. I actually “graduated” from therapy a few years ago and it was the best year of my life! My therapist helped me tune in to who I really am, and accept the things that I used to see as flaws. Over the span of a year it did cost me several hundred dollars, but I would pay twice that because it got me to the place I am today. I am a huge advocate of therapy even for people who don’t think they need it!

      Thanks for your compliments 🙂 Glad I usually come off as semi-sane and normal through my rants haha!

      • Speaking of rants I recall your Craig’s List rant. THAT was some funny and scary shit. Also glad you’ve not been scammed recently. You see, it’s all looking up.

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