There’s something so magical about my childhood that I find hard to shut away in my adult life. Every question asked about my future that is dripping with expectations of corporate responsibility or a “big girl job” is answered with a disguise, similar to imaginary doors with the truth of childhood desires locked inside.
In my recent years as a college student studying creative writing, whenever someone asks me about my favorite authors, I always say what I think I should say at my age: “Hemingway, Vonnegut, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Thompson, you know,” followed by an uncomfortable smile and eye contact avoidance. Not to say that these aren’t great authors (because they are) but if I were being honest, I’d really come out and say Roald Dahl, E.B. White, Carolyn Keene, J. K. Rowling, Beatrix Potter, and C.S. Lewis– all of which are children’s books authors. I’ve never admitted this up until this moment for fear of judgement on the seriousness of my studies. It’d be silly to say I didn’t worship the founding Mothers and Fathers of Modern American Literature. What can you possibly get out of children’s books verses short stories and novels that shed light on the human condition, the American Dream, and cultural movements?
This is where it gets a little complicated. I admire writers of all different mediums. I believe writers serve a great responsibility to write from their experiences so that when readers read their life’s works, they can connect deeply with people they have never met, might never meet, and might even have passed on. And I appreciate the messages I learn as an adult. But there is something so compelling about the innocence of being a child looking at the world– we see it as flawless, blind to the very idea of them. Most modern writers cover their themes with clever and sophisticated literary devices. The process of peeling those layers ends in a disheartening conclusion of prevailing human corruption, with hopes that morals can stem upon reflection. Children’s stories tap into those same morals with less mistakes made from selfishness and more mistakes made from naivety and the curiosity that comes with being pure. And for the majority of my writing since I came to college, I’ve tried writing abstract stories that echo the great authors of modernism but have failed to create one successfully every time, all the while not even enjoying the process. It becomes an grueling procedure of forcing how I think I need to write instead of just writing. When I do enjoy writing, I find myself naturally creating story ideas for animated shorts only to write down and shut my journal away until the next idea pops into my mind. I’ve come to the tiring conclusion that I’m no Hemingway or Vonnegut and I never will be.
So for the first time in my life, I’m coming to the cathartic epiphany that what I want to do in life is to be a kid and inspire others like me and beyond my years to never forget that magical beginning of dreaming, imagining, and creating. There’s nothing like feeling the wind the protagonist feels before setting off in pursuit of adventure, all the while simply reading in a chair, on the bed, or in a library. Books I’ve read as an adult don’t resonate as effectively as the books I’ve read as a child and have reread as an adult. My mind has been battling with what I think would be an admirable position from an adult’s perspective, to what I’ve always admired as a child in my heart. And the only thing that ever kept those two opposing forces in battle was my transformation from child to citizen of the “real world.” Because as kids we go from being told we can do anything to stepping onto the cold concrete of the “real world” and are told:
“It’s too competitive.” “It’s too hard.” “It’s too expensive.” “You must be joking.” “You can’t.”
Dreams that grow from imagination are destroyed with man-made insecurity, the desire to control, or even just the fear of putting hopes up just to be let down in the end. The idea that knowledge is a box with no room for colorful theories of the imagination is an insult to the human brain. For me, I don’t want a “big girl job.” My dream is a “big kid job” and it’s to story tell. If the corners of our infant minds can perceive the beauty of the world around us, then it is definite to say that worlds can be created within those corners as we grow with age– defying assumed mentalities and gardening seeds of impossibilities into ripe fruits of possibilities. Storytelling is the process of dressing up life, recreating it, and exploring those possibilities. As once said by the great Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important that knowledge.”
So, starting August 6th, I will be interning with a wonderful group of storytellers called Wonderland Creative Group. They work with Disney, Universal Studios, and even help non-profit organizations spread the idea of helping others in need through the impact of storytelling. Unlocking an adventure that my child-self might have known all along, I’m okay in saying that I draw inspiration from children’s books and that I can’t wait to fill the blank pages of a new epic waiting to unfold itself. Following your dreams may be one of the hardest things to do in life, while at the same time being the simplest of tasks. It’s harder to shut those dreams away like they could never exist than to pursue them and live the possibilities.