Since I spend a lot of my time with children who are five and under, I think a lot about how they see the world; getting in touch with your inner child is really helpful when you’ve got to speak pre-schooler on a regular basis. One of the things I see in play more than anything else, and that I remember about being a child, myself, is the power that imagination wields over a child’s world and how they see that world. It occurred to me again today that, though I’ve grown, the importance of my imagination has never diminished. In fact, in learning more and becoming a wiser, more savvy member of society, my imagination has not only remained intact and influential in my life, its fierce creativity right out demands that it begins and ends my day.
The extraordinary thing about being a child is that imagination is encouraged and fostered by play and interaction with friends and schoolmates. One of the most difficult things about being an adult is that imagination is often doomed to a ill-repute as a childish pastime. There’s a huge difference between what it’s like to imagine something as a child, and what it’s like to imagine something as an adult; that difference lies in the amount of restraint we are given, or that we give ourselves. I envy the pre-schoolers with whom I interact — they “don’t know any better”, and therefore, their world is masterpiece of imagination. By the time you “grow up”, you’ve put the whole world in boxes, including your own mind, and with so many boxes, in boxes, in boxes, it’s difficult to think outside them.
I like to think of imagination as “the gift of silly thought”, and there’s nothing more comforting to me than using my silly thoughts to formulate a great story or game in my head. I don’t often tell people about these stories or games, but they keep me thoroughly amused, and they remain a way in which I can stomach the difficult things that go on around me, and in the world. Having said that, I am reminded again of why I ended up doing an English degree, but also why I write and aspire to be a better writer in the course of my life. I’m sure that anyone who writes (fiction, of course, but many other things as well) can understand and relate to creating a set of utopias in their mind in order to escape the dystopias in which they live during the everyday. It all starts at about age 3, and goes from there. Though I miss the uninhibited imagination of my 3 and 4 year old self, I am so thankful that I got the chance to use that imagination and that it has stayed with me. So many kids don’t get the chance to spend hours imagining like I did. You might say it’s the product of being idle or bored, and maybe it was (and still is), but I definitely associate it with boredom in the best way possible — I was under-challenged, so I created my own world in which to live, and I think I’m still living there. It’s definitely more fun to live there, and the fine mix of control and change that I find in my imagination is so satisfying and enlightening that it has rescued me from many a darkened corner of my psyche.
In saying that, I have come to the point in my train of thought where the “realist” kicks in and insists that my brand of imagination and day-dreaming is only escapism, and that I should quit it and live in the real world. Problem is, of course, that I don’t know a world that’s any different than mine. My M.O. has always been to imagine big and dream bigger, and I don’t think that’s very likely to change at twenty-four. How does one live in the real world, anyway? And where the heck is it? Truth of the matter is that no one I know has ever been able to give me a satisfactory answer to that question. The real world, it seems, is a concoction of experiences that have made a person to believe that the world operates in a certain way. It’s all perception, of course. And one’s perception of the world can be traced right back to the 3 and 4 year old self and the corresponding imagination and the lack and/or repression thereof. There’s more to it than that, of course, and it’d take me a year to fully explain what I actually believe to be true about these matters, but the fewer restrictions placed on a child’s imagination, the bigger their view of the world will be, the more possibility they will see in it. People with big imaginations (no matter what it is they’re imagining) are the world-changers; they’re the ones who believe things before they see them, and who dare to dream of wildly creative worlds beyond their own, only to bring some of that magic to those around them. I always (well, since I was about 5 and my cognitive function allowed such lofty aspirations) thought I could make the world a better place just by imagining it, and I feel incredibly lucky to still believe that, and all because of my spare time and my penchant for living limitlessly in my head.
Now, I just have to take a lesson from my pre-schooler friends and parade around like a fool with my ideas on my sleeve, not caring what anyone else thinks. Alas, the “not caring” thing doesn’t come bundled with the “wild imagination” thing. Well, at least not until there’s an app for that.