Every weekday, I walk from my home to my campus office and back. It takes me thirty minutes each way and, over the yearly course of these thirty minute strolls, a belief has been forming. A belief in imagination.
You see, it is the precious minutes during my walk to work that I am the most alone, and in the best way possible. There are no e-mail alerts, no students to meet with, no lectures to write, no demands being placed, and no criticisms being made. During these walks, it is simply me, the sunshine, the houses, and the slight bustle of my small college town. And, most importantly, my daydreams.
I attribute a great deal of my daydreaming to my MP3 player, which allows me to create various soundtracks for the movie that is my life. On difficult, trying days I may listen to Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around. . .Comes Around” and imagine my anxiety stems from the exquisite pain of a broken love affair. Much more interesting emotional origins than a student contesting a plagiarism charge. On glorious days, where I’ve crossed off everything from my “To-Do List” and am looking forward to an evening of whatever I feel like doing, I may listen to Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” and imagine that, not only am I a professor, but an awesome indie rock queen who can actually play guitar and write scathing love songs. Most often, though, the “normal” days of my life are filled with a basic daydream I’ve had since I was a teenager. Sans music, I’ll often walk home imagining that somewhere a beautiful man is pining away for my affections. The sun-dappled trees and warm breezes of summer are the perfect setting for thoughts of unrequited love.
Let me clarify that these daydreams are not the reflection of an unhappy life. On the contrary, I am abundantly blessed with a wonderful husband whom I love, a family that I adore, a job which thrills me, and many other reasons to smile. My cup runneth over, as they say. But even in this most cherished of lives, there are inevitably times when I wish I could be someone else or that I had made different decisions in my life.
I believe many people let these feelings fester into ulcers of discontent and struggle with the resulting thoughts of “What if. . .” What if I actually knew how to play guitar? What if I were rich and famous? What if I’d taken that job? It’s only natural to wonder about the alternate lives you left behind or those that were never even available to begin with. Why not embrace them, if only for a few minutes a day? The pathways we have chosen in life deserve respect and attention, but I believe our imagined lives warrant some acknowledgment as well. This I believe: A healthy imagination helps me escape the stress of life, and makes me better able to exult in the life I have.
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