Obligation 4: Daydream

Do you daydream? I do. I admit it. I was that kid with her head in the clouds, too wrapped up in her own imagination to see the giant mud puddle she was about to land face first in. I was able to focus in school—I always loved learning new things—but I lived for weekends and summers when I could read, write, and draw to my heart’s content.

I grew up, went to college and graduate school, landed one job and then another. To the naked eye, I look like your standard, no-nonsense, serious-minded adult. But that’s all a front. I’m really not. I’m a dreamer.

Dreamers get lost inside their own heads. We boil water on the stove, and then step outside for just one minute to look at a flower we want to paint, and return to the stench of melting Teflon. We file records or enter information into databases, then nearly die of fright when a coworker says, “Hello”, because we are secretly far away in an adventure story of our own creation. We miss due dates of assignments while we contemplate the Lego structure we are going to build after school.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, and poet

Don’t get me wrong. We need to attend to today’s business. We must get the job done, complete our homework, meet the project deadline, and fulfill our commitments. And we will. But we dreamers need some quiet time tucked into our rush-rush lives. We don’t want to have every waking hour scheduled. We need time for our dreams to fill our heads with ideas, solutions, and characters. We need time to practice our knitting, guitar riffs, and paint strokes. We need time to try something new, fall on our faces, and then try something different.

Today’s dreamer may be tomorrow’s great inventor, sculptor, musician, painter, civil rights activist, or teacher. Do you think Thomas Edison, Alexander Calder, Scott Joplin, Grandma Moses, Susan B. Anthony, and Anne Sullivan dreamed? We all know Martin Luther King, Jr. did. The distracted child you are frustrated with today might be dreaming of a vaccine for cancer. She might be solving environmental problems that will save our Earth. He could be our next Ralph Lauren or Ralph Waldo Emerson.

We need to play hard, explore freely, and dream hugely. And we must encourage our kids to do so also.

Do you daydream? Feel free to admit it.

(This post was inspired by Neil Gaiman’s lecture at The Reading Agency.)