Imagination Default

Ellie Farber

6 min read

Hello Juniors. As you obviously know, we are all beginning the college process and deciding the future ahead of ourselves. In the next year, we will most likely be caught up in constant SAT preparation, ceaseless meetings with college counselors and many drafts of essays.  This journey we are about to embark on will partially determine how the rest of our professional lives will turn out. While you might be eager to begin the college process, I want to warn you that every time you reach another milestone, a piece of your childhood imagination leaves your mental psychology. Those lighthearted days of playing knights in the basement, riding a unicorn in the backyard or talking to your stuffed elephant will soon vanish. You will enter a world where talking animals and unicorns not only don’t exist in reality, but they also won’t exist within your mind. Before you know it, you will face a form of society where people think straight, no matter their field of education. Even if you become an artist, writer, or performer, you will face a world where people think in a linear direction. Soon reality will finally come true and you will be responsible for more than cleaning up your room and bringing an object to school for “show and tell.” It will be time to call the insurance company and pay the mortgage.  Adults have too much going on to sit around and create imaginative stories.

Recently, my house has been under renovation, and I have watched the walls get plastered with snow-white primer and wallpaper vigorously ripped off, leaving a mark that will soon be covered and never seen again. When I walked into my bathroom the other day, it had its usual white floor tiles and white trim, but there was no life to it. The walls were bare, as they had been stripped of its graphic wallpaper and the many bright paintings that had once characterized my childhood imagination were missing. Even the oval-shaped mirror was gone, the one I used to make funny faces in and laugh.  Once, I stood for two minutes brushing my teeth and staring at those blank walls. There was nothing to keep me amused.  Keep in mind, my attention span has been described as being shorter than that of  a squirrel. The process of brushing my teeth was as if it was straight out of the classic American girl The Care and Keeping of You hygiene and puberty book.  It was as though I was acting out the motions described by the italic letters of a script. I put a white glob of toothpaste on my brush head, tasted the piquant mint flavor as I placed it on my tongue, and stood there listening to the buzzing sound of the toothbrush as it slowly restored all my teeth back to the shiny white they had been when I woke that morning. Later, all of that wall-white that I had experienced was roaming through my mind, swarming around as if my mind was becoming a whirlpool.  I began to realize that this might be a sign of the end of my innocent childhood days full of colorful and make-believe adventures. Nevertheless, one thought did stay imprinted in my mind: the vision of a hand painting the walls of my unornamented bathroom with neon-colored Crayola crayons.

Flash back twelve years. I am five-years old and I still live in New York City. I am snuggled in my parent’s bed because I am supposed to be falling asleep. But, of course, being a sleepless child, I was wide-awake, flipping through the classic children’s novel Harold’s Purple Crayon. I placed the book on my lap and looked around at my surroundings. My parent’s room was decorated with an unembellished sense of style. I was influenced by Harold and took the opportunity to gussy it up. I planted a three-foot jump off the bed and dashed into my sister’s and my playroom. I rustled through lots of art supplies until I came across a vibrant yellow-colored crayon that reminded me of the sun on a vivid summer’s day, but which would send my parents’ eyeballs straight out of their sockets. I ran back into the bedroom where I drew the sun turning those dull walls into a luminous and clear day across meadows of flowers, fields of lush grass, and vast highlands more massive than my little arm could draw.

While it was no Mona Lisa, I drew on that wall. I want to recall those ten minutes and share the nostalgic thoughts I had of my adolescent days as I entered the very naked bathroom. But, mainly, I shared them because I wanted you all to think back to your whimsical days of school games and hopscotch, and know that it is O.K. to have a sentimental moment. Therefore, Juniors, next time you have writer’s block, don’t get up for another cup of caffeine. Doodle on your hand. Loosen your mind. Paint an abstract design on a blank canvas, or sketch a picture of your teacher with horns when your brain is tired, and always remember that it is okay to let your thoughts curve away from their linear path.