I’ve always been short. Things were no different when I was younger. I was a little baby, only four pounds eleven ounces when I emerged precariously from the womb. I grew up as the short one, the kid who was smaller than all the other kids her age. Still, my world was expansive. It consisted mostly of the imagined. My sleeping hours were spent in dream-full reverie. My waking hours, while full of kid things like puzzles and bike riding and handwriting homework, mostly happened in my head.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’m pretty sure everyone else had made up worlds in their heads as kids, too. Worlds where the only children had imaginary sisters who played with us in our rooms. (Those sisters may or may not have been named Tracy and had straight, thin hair, unlike ours.) Worlds where, if we tried hard enough, we would be able to levitate our little bodies above the short-cut grass next to the sidewalk. Worlds where the stuffed animals distributed neatly on the carpet in front of us were, in fact, our royal subjects, waiting for our regal commands.
I’m probably also not alone in that, at some point (and I’m totally unsure as to when and where this actually happened), I stopped living in that imaginary world. The shift must have been gradual, over years, because until a few months ago, I didn’t even think about it. At some point, the things I thought about as I stared into space stopped being full of whimsy and magic and began to get heavier, filled with thoughts like, “Is my stomach sticking out too much?” or, “I wish I could do X, but I can’t, because X”. If that’s not depressing, I don’t know what is.
When I was little, people told me that anything was possible. I could do anything, go anywhere, be anything. If I told my mom that I was going to the backyard to find a secret garden, she gave me her blessing. But here in Grownupland, when you tell people you want to start your own joke shop on a private island in the middle of the Pacific, or ride a unicorn across the United States, they raise their eyebrows at you and start asking you whether you’ve considered all the reasons you can’t do whatever it is you’ve dreamed up. And when they raise their eyebrows and ask you those questions, you start asking yourself What was I thinking? You start wondering why you thought you could make this thing happen, what on Earth made you think you could bring something new into existence.
The problem isn’t that we need to be more rooted in reality. We need, instead, to fearlessly imagine the way we did in our childhood. Imagine without fear that someone will tell us what we can’t do. Simply think of all that’s possible in our world and then make it so. Because if we don’t imagine it, then it will never happen. If someone hadn’t dreamed up all the things that once sounded crazy, things like telephones or Re/Dress NYC or Diva Cups, those really cool things wouldn’t exist today.
So go get started. Remember what it was to daydream, and see what you can think up. That’s what I’ll be doing today, and tomorrow, and this weekend. And I’m not going to let anybody tell me I can’t.
Just after I finished writing this post, I found in my Google Reader a delicate, gentle post by Havi Brooks that’s all about protecting your big ideas until they grow big enough to defend themselves against detractors. She calls it “A Tiny, Sweet Thing“. It felt serendipitous, and just perfectly right, that I stumbled upon it this morning, so I wanted to share it here. It’s really beautiful.