When I was growing up, I had imagination. My imagination was not the ordinary look-at-the-ink-blot-and-see-a-giraffe; my imagination was so busy imagining, I was too busy saving my extra-terrestrial friends from their crashing spacecraft to notice any faulty pen. I lived in a world where people transformed shapes, the sky was home to sea creatures with wings, and every person I met was the most fascinating being in the universe. I grew up alternating between my created worlds so frequently, my view of reality became a blurred mess of fantastic delusion.
Unfortunately, I quickly learned the “real world” doesn’t have room for over-caring idealists who build their worlds on faith and trust. Creative writing assignments quickly became research papers, fictional worlds were revealed, and there was no time for silly childhood games. My world of zebra playmates, kindred trees, and enchanted hose-water gave way to mathematical formulas and scientific hypotheses. Even my wide-eyed optimism was churned to a sarcastic bitterness I even now cannot believe I have come to possess.
When did I start letting reality kill my imagined utopia?
I believe that childhood imagination still exists. I believe I can still be happy.
I was sitting by the river the other day, when a little girl approached me. She gave me that cock-eyed, glazed-over look I gave to strangers so often. I knew she was imagining me: what my life was, where I was from, why I was here. She didn’t need to ask me anything. All she said was, “I’m catching fish!” She was catching fish. I was hoping a whale would steal me, building a raft out of river rocks, waiting until tree roots overtook me. I didn’t need to explain, she was responding. She was catching fish. I was finding my imagination.
I took my term paper I had brought to edit, and I ripped it up. I wrapped the pieces over rocks and hurled them into the Mississippi. True, I had a copy waiting for me in reality on my computer, but with each thrust, I sent my words, my words that had turned into logistics and ink, floating away on the river’s current. I replaced the words of reality with those of my imagination. They were still in my mind waiting for me. The massive parakeets, the underground fortress, the mystical forests were all waiting for me. They were waiting for me to throw reality into the river and imagine myself happy.