I was that kid. The one in the back. Staring aimlessy out the window. The one with all the ‘potential’ that the teacher just couldn’t tap into. One wanted me to learn the fine art of ‘stickling’. Where you take a pencil, hold it very straight, with the recently sharpened tip barely touching the paper, and twist your hand slightly. The goal was a perfect dot representing some part of a cell. Biology wasn’t my thing really. 30 heads bowed over their desks as she roamed the aisles between, staggering a bit I noticed. I noticed because I’d already broken the tip of my pencil and given up.
Years later I realized ‘stickling’ wasn’t even a thing, it was called stippling, and the teacher was staggering thanks to the bottle she kept in her desk drawer. While she was pontificating about perfect points, I was thinking about the guy with the red hair in the third row. I wondered if he was self-conscious about it. He was the only redhead in class. I began to wonder if his skin burned in the sun. Did he have to wear hats in the summer? I wondered what he did on those summer days we all spent at the beach. The girls with their baby oil; a precursor to sunblock with a few more adverse effects. The boys with their boomboxes and shades. I wondered next did he have a girlfriend? Did she go to the beach without him? By the time class was over, the first of the semester, I’d pretty much created the full-on summer’s tale for the redhead in the third row. I wrote it all down in my journal.
Because of course someday I knew I would write a novel. I just didn’t realize how long it would take for someday to arrive. Nobody told me all those years ago that my daydreams were stories waiting to be told. I would have written every single one of them down.
Daydreams are stories yet to be written.
I daydream. Deliberately and inadvertantly. I people-watch, imagining their lives. In living color, often in excruciating detail.
I notice them only for a moment. I don’t continue to stare, or follow their movements. I don’t pay particular attention to what they are doing. It’s a fragmented picture of a stranger on the cusp of becoming a main character.
I notice them only for a moment. Then I look off into the distance, and ponder. The woman at the DMV counter. Quick glance, look away. She’s older than I am. She’s there for a roadtest. She’s waited her whole life to drive. Her late husband was a patriarchal misogynist who never allowed her to drive or go anywhere alone. He was jealous. He projected. He hated their children. All 9 of them. Her name is…
Most days my daydreams resemble made-for-TV movies and full length novels. Though sometimes I do daydream in the abstract. Fleeting thoughts about one thing or another. Vague imagery that I might recall days later.
Sometimes, when the mood strikes, I jot them down. Many of my daydreams have journeyed through life with me. Composition books gave way to journals. Legal pads gave way to floppy discs. Jump drives uploaded to the cloud. Jumbled thoughts and moments hastily pondered, recklessly stored.
Now and again I open them. I read them. I ponder their merit. I close them. I start anew.
Sometimes I daydream about my future. The winning lottery ticket I lost on the way home. Hitting the NYT bestseller’s list. Discovering karma has caught up with the evil coworker. Finding a secret path in the woods that leads to a thousand year Oak where the fairies live.
The older I get, the less I focus on my future and the more I play what-if with my past. What if I’d been an early riser, hitting the rink at 5am, destined for Olympic glory on ice? What if I’d run off with that guitar player I met in Hamburg who ended up fronting an eighties cover band and ultimately having a one-hit wonder dedicated to me. What if I’d never thrown Tommy Twoface’s books out the schoolbus window, thereby avoiding the inevitable punishment which led to my missing the field trip to the space museum. Maybe I’d have ended up an astronaut. Not even remotely possible you say?
Daydreams are the stories that thread through our lives. They are hopes and dreams and mistakes and regrets and everything in between. They take us places beyond our reality and ground us all at once. Daydreams are the foundation of invention fueled by imagination.
Daydreams are wonderful, magical, mind vacations. Take them often.