November 06, 2014 / UNCOMMON
November 06, 2014
My husband and I will bring a new baby boy into the world in just a couple of months from today. As we’ve been preparing for that moment, I’ve been thinking about some of the things that I want to share with him from the very first moment he experiences the world. One of the things that struck me as essential is teaching him about the power of imagination, the ability to question and ask “what if” and to suspend traditional assumptions so that he can open his mind to the world of ultimate possibilities and ultimate play.
Children are especially good at dreaming and imagining, so I doubt he’ll have a problem catching on at first. Anybody who’s spent much time with a child under the age of 5 will probably agree. The key will be helping him practice and hone his skills of imagination so that he can continue dreaming far into adulthood. Because if he’s anything like me—he’ll probably have trouble tapping into his dreams when he’s caught-up in life’s hustle and bustle.
It’s my hope in sharing this letter that those of us who have reached adulthood might remember, if only for a moment, what it’s like to be a young boy or girl. A child who hasn’t yet set his or her boundaries—whose mind is open to possibilities and whose imagination roams free.
To My Son–
Imagine you built the very best forts in the neighborhood where all the kids come to play. Fifteen story forts handmade from the hand-hewn poplars that grow in our backyard and the hides from deer that drink in the nearby stream. Forts that stay lit long into the night with the light from fifty candles, a light so bright that people find their way from miles away and come to play every night. Imagine never letting big dreams deter you—and rather than turning away from challenges other people call impossible, charging in head first with the determination that anything can be done.
Imagine climbing the highest hill to see what your world looks like from a different perspective. And on the way that highest hill becomes the highest mountain where you have to find your way through dusty lowlands, wild forests and arid snowfields to reach your final destination. And the only food you have is what you can carry, but you know it will sustain you until you make it back home again. Imagine knowing that what you have is enough—and always being able to turn inward to find the strength to keep going.
Imagine walking as far as your feet will take you. Soon you are no longer walking close to home but dog sledding across Alaska. And along the sled ride, you come across hoards of bears that you have to wrestle to pass, followed by three Eskimos who give you a place to stay for the night and teach you how to make a bow which will protect you for the rest of your journey. Imagine treating everybody you meet along your path as a teacher, choosing to learn something from each and every interaction you have.
Imagine going fishing on a pier. And that pier suddenly becomes a thirty-foot boat tossed about in rough seas in the depths of winter. It’s your job to pull as many crab traps as possible before heading back to shore the next morning. You can barely feel your hands, but you keep pulling with all your force, and by sunrise count more crabs on your side of the boat than anybody else. Imagine welcoming adversity as a chance to push through your boundaries and discover a side of yourself that you never knew existed.
Imagine you’re on your way to school in a big yellow bus and that big yellow bus suddenly takes flight. Flying far above the clouds until you’re soaring with eagles. And then that big yellow bus disappears altogether, your arms become wings and you fly among the eagles, leading all the other children in a dance of flips, summersaults and turns. Imagine assuming nobody else is watching you, and choosing your actions based on what speaks to your soul rather than what you think might make others happy.
Imagine you’re granted a pass to spend the night at the zoo all by yourself. But you aren’t scared because you can talk to all the animals and they can talk to you. During the night you make friends with the lions who let you climb on their backs as they introduced you to their friends—the panthers, the hippos, the tigers and the meerkats. Imagine letting your guard down when you least want to and through that vulnerability reaching places you never thought you’d go.
Imagine you’re the star pitcher for your little league team. And in the bottom of the ninth, down by 10, your team ties the game and goes to extra innings. You pitch your heart out into the 15th inning, with speeds increasing until you pitch at 100mph. And then, in the 16th inning you come up to the plate with the bases loaded and sink one into deep left field. You round the bases to the cheers of friends and family, and get to eat as much ice cream as you want for the rest of the night. Imagine never letting up and never giving up hope—instead choosing the knowledge that anything is possible.
Imagine you wake up in the middle of the night to a fire alarm and have to run outside in your pajamas. And on that run, you begin your great escape. Out from the confines of your neighborhood and into the middle of New York City. You grab a motorcycle and started zipping around the city—exploring the empty midnight streets by the light of the tall buildings beside you. Imagine knowing that every bump in the road is simply a signal to look left and look right—and see all the other opportunities around you.
Imagine you’re a scuba diver who travels the world to find the very best diving spots. But, one time you decide not to come back up and instead swim deeper to find your home at the bottom of the ocean for a year. During this year you swim with dolphins and make friends with sharks. You learn to speak the language of the ocean and orchestrate schools of fish to dance with you. Imagine being free to always choose a path that’s different—a path that’s guided by your own passions, interests and ingenuity.
For you my son—I imagine all this and more. I imagine the thoughts you’ll have, the worlds you’ll create and the places you’ll explore from your very own mind. But what thrills me the most is imagining the amazing things you’ll imagine—the dreams you’ll dream, the places your heart will lead you, and the passions that will drive you wild. Life is nothing if not an opportunity to imagine and I can’t wait to see you tackle it head on.