I first realized that I had an imagination when I was a child. I honestly could not tell you a particular event or incident that sparked it; it’s just something that’s always been there. Something I was gifted with. I’d spend entire hours by myself, creating movies in my head: complete with characters, worlds, and plots. I rarely went outside, or did anything else the average child would do, I’d just go somewhere where I could be alone, and just get lost in my imagination.
As a child, I would get so lost in my own head that I would talk to myself. Talk to people who weren’t there and who didn’t exist. Imagining things, creating people and stories, is how I escaped trauma and difficulty. I wanted to escape because reality was scary. In kindergarten, I was diagnosed with a learning disability. I was written off, seen as stupid, retarded; nobody ever believed that I would accomplish much. I internalized these things: I really believed I the things people said about me, and I had good reason, since I could sit in class for hours and not be able to comprehend or listen to anything because I was so busy daydreaming.
Such things are difficult to deal with, so I escaped into my head. My head was the safest place I knew, and I never, for anyone, anything, or any reason, left it. Who needs real friends, when you could make your own movies in your head and watch them anytime you want? My family never really understood me either and I couldn’t really tell you if they do now. I was quiet, I talked to myself, and I kept to myself. I am the youngest of four boys. Kids in our community used to call me the “weird brother.” I talked to myself so much that my Dad would think I was crazy, and I often wonder if I am. In addition, being perceived as timid or weak makes one open to people who seek to take advantage of you, and I ended up the prey of people who sought to manipulate me.
Whether I was at home or outside, I stayed in my head, and it was never really possible for me to leave it. I came up shy, timid, and, in our society, being shy and timid is perceived as being weak. So I got bullied, all throughout middle and high school: verbally, psychologically, and often times physically. I had virtually no friends in middle school. This, of course, drove me further into my imagination since I had nowhere else to go. No child wants to face the harsh realities of life, simply because they are children. Reality isn’t fun.
A child’s imagination is important for many reasons. One reason it is important is that it is, as I will personally attest, a defense mechanism. A child, as vulnerable and innocent as he or she is, must find a way to defend themselves from whatever harsh reality they face. Children, who are brought up in abusive homes, inner-city violence, and amidst oppression of all kinds, really do not have any other way of protecting themselves from such experiences. To use an example, Nicki Minaj, who created alter egos as a child in order to survive in an abusive household. How else would she have survived and become the successful recording artist she is today?
Imagination can even motivate a child to become something better. You have a boy who grows up in poverty, crime, and oppression, and chooses to escape his current circumstances by imagining himself to be the President of the United States, or a superhero, like a Batman or a Superman, wishing he had the power to stop the drug dealing, police brutality, and shootouts that are a daily occurrence in his neighborhood. A little girl, poor, molested, used and abused, who fantasizes that she is a beautiful queen who rules over a utopian fantasy kingdom. These fantasies are what enable children to envision a better life for themselves. Whatever their life experiences, an imagination can help one to do whatever is necessary to make those dreams reality. To return to the Nicki Minaj anecdote, how else would she have become the extremely talented rapper she is today, with all of her many alter egos, if she never created those alter egos as a child? How would she have been successful at all if she didn’t fantasize about a life that was better than the one she had as a child?
In addition, reality is, quite frankly, boring. I mean, seriously, who really wants to be the average kid growing up in Bubblefuck, Surburbia, U.S.A, with a Dad who’s a lawyer and a Mom who’s a nurse? I, as a child, would have rather been Spider-Man, the Hulk, or Goku, than some regular kid. I would rather have been the popular, tough kid in school, who never lost a single fight and pulled all the girls, that I fantasized about being, then the timid and awkward teenager that I actually was, with my boring life, who wore his brother’s old clothes, and wasn’t respected by anyone.
This has continued into my adulthood. I often spend hours daydreaming about being a successful, millionaire writer. Complete with a beautiful wife, little kids running around and jumping on me, and a nice little condo in New York. Creating movies in my head and watching them has continued into adulthood as well. With every “what if?” moment I have, comes another movie that plays it out how I envision it. It’s probably why being a writer is the only thing I see myself doing. Sharing the things that go on in my head with the world, I’ve come to realize, is a better option than keeping them within. I’d be a fool, however, if money was my main motivation. I write to stay sane in an insane society, and to make sense of this absurdity we call modern society as well. I have to express my thoughts, experiences, and feelings somehow, writing is how I’ve been able to do it. I have to do it because I don’t want to escape anymore, but rather, I want to create the world that I see in my head right now.
Imagination is being destroyed by our society, however. One thing that the American education system has done, and very successfully I might add, is suppress the imagination, and this is its main function. From kindergarten, you are taught to obey, you are taught, as George Carlin would say, just enough as is necessary to “run the machines.” You are taught to perpetuate the status quo. Society does not want people who have imaginations. With an imagination, one can see something better than what currently exists, which would make them rebels, and thus, a threat to society.
The public education system functions exactly as it was intended: to create “model citizens”, people who can shut up and know their place, and who cannot imagine or think critically. People, who don’t know anything about society, are not intelligent enough to ask why it is the way it is, and are not creative enough to do anything about it. Society did everything it could to destroy my imagination. In fact, it almost did, but somehow, it has persevered.
I do not want my words to be confused, however. Reality, as harsh and boring as it is, must, in the end, be faced. Living your entire life in your head can be dangerous. If you spend enough time in your imagination, you can lose sight of reality. Reality is what is right in front of you. How can you create the world that you fantasize about, without doing work in the material world to make that world which you imagine possible?
Martin Luther King had a dream, but he worked, and ultimately gave his life to make that dream reality. You have to be willing to step outside of your head, face reality as it is, and do whatever it takes to make the world you see in your head reality. Even if others do not see the world that you see, that’s okay, in due time, perhaps after you are dead and gone, they will see it.
Imagination is the most important resource in a child’s life. It is something that must be nurtured and protected, but not in excess, since, at the end of the day, one lives in the material world and not the idealized one. Our society has progressed, however slightly, thanks to people who envisioned the world that they wanted in their heads. It is the “rebels” who created our society, and therefore, if the state chooses to suppress the imagination, then the community, starting with the mother and father, must do whatever is necessary to protect it. Our future depends on what type of children we’re raising, and if we’re raising “model citizens” and not people with imaginations, then I don’t really see much hope for humanity.