Growing up on an Iowa farm, I was fortunate to have a backyard spanning 115 acres. While I did drive uniloaders and chase lifestock like many young “farmboys,” what I remember most from growing up is my wild world of play. In grade school, I used to jump off the school bus from a day of addition and subtraction to ride my bike back and forth in our barnyard. Soon the bike became a machine that could travel back in time or into space. The large barn became a spaceship, and I soon had created my own version of Star Trek.
As I grew older and times changed, I found it difficult to stop playing games. I secretly continued to do so through middle school, as plots and characters became more complex. There was something magical about escaping to other places. It seemed that in the “real world,” there was a hard surface where so many things were already known and defined. Through playing games, I was able to break away from the surface to find a place where most things were still unknown, and there was always more than one possible way to do things.
The “real world” came a little harder to me than it may to others. I spent the majority of my life not knowing I had a condition called a nonverbal learning disability, which will always effect many areas of my life in profound ways.
As I’ve grown, though, I have learned that the real world does not need to be separated from the magical world of play I came to love so much in youth. Though I haven’t retreated to play since those days of middle school, I’ve been fortunate to be able to maintain that perspective on the world. I got away with experiencing that world of magic in college as I immersed myself in literature. It took pecking away from the cold surface to make the discovery of my condition after I could no longer ignore bizarre or stupid mistakes I made or how profoundly difficult it was for me to perform many tasks.
I believe we all have a magical world similar to the one I found through play. I also think staying in tune to that world is vital for each individual as well as for our world as a whole. I think it is through a sort of “play” that we have come this far. Daring to dream led us across great oceans and thousands of miles through space. Perhaps tapping into that “magical” world can even help us to face our greatest challenges today, whether they be climate change or the current economic times. By chipping away from the ordinary surface of how things seem to be, who knows what new possibilities and solutions might be awaiting us?
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