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Why We Need Imagination? Reality Bites!

By Brittany Rubio

Why We Need Imagination? Reality Bites!

We’re taught as children to use our imagination to its fullest. We draw our dreams in crayon to have them pasted on the fridge and we’re encouraged to go on adventures with cartoon characters and playthings. Most of our childhood is spent playing pretend, playing house or doctor or school, things that will one day define our very lives. 

Then we hit high school...

Not only is high school difficult in its own right, but teachers feel the need to shove the idea down our throats that we need to grow up, we need to take on responsibility, we need to get our heads out of the clouds and focus on what’s important: success. They pile on the academic overload to prepare us for college and “the real world”. It doesn’t end there. Given today’s market, most soon-to-be college freshmen are pressured beyond measure to choose a reliable major that will produce us with a steady job and a comfortable life. How do we cope with it all?

"Imagination is More Important than Knowledge."
-Albert Einstein
We escape.

The Great Escape

Most of us have something special we cling to when the world is weighing down on us. The imagination we’ve now hidden deep in our sock drawers comes out to play when we see that new adventure movie, read that fantasy novel or watch that intense drama series. We allow ourselves to suspend disbelief, we allow our imaginations to wander and daydream what it would be like to live in a world other than our own, and we imagine ourselves successful and happy with lives filled to the brim with adventure and intrigue.

The Great Escape: Alice in Wonderland 
It’s likely these fantasy worlds are filled with just as many stressors as our lives, so what makes these them more attractive than our own? These worlds adhere to rules. Things happen for a reason and good always triumphs over evil (unless you’re watching Game of Thrones, of course). And this does not just apply to fictional fabrication, but pastimes like sports as well. Every event has a cause and effect, easily definable rules and means of identifying right from wrong. Despite their fantastical elements, everything seems to make sense, bad things happen for a reason and there is always a clear end goal, something many of us feel our own lives lack.

Whatever comfort these alternate worlds provide us with, they can oftentimes distract us from our own potential. Our imaginations have been tempered by “reality”, stopping us from fully seeing what fantastical potential our own lives actually have.

Is This the Real Life? Or is This Just Fantasy?

We often believe that because a world is fictional, most of what happens in them is equally unrealistic. But we forget that the reasons we connect with these stories so well is because of the characters and our intimate connection to them. The most famous characters are as beloved as they are imperfect because they are human. Harry Potter, while a wizard teen whose life is tied to a prophecy and a Dark Lord, he’s a messy haired, average student and is often clumsy. His family life is far from perfect, he’s suffered his fair share of adolescent bullying and can’t gather the nerve to ask out the hottest girl in school. 

"The greatest thing Harry Potter has given the world is the freedom to use our imagination."-Oprah Winfrey
Despite the magic spells and flying creatures, Harry and his friends are a lot like us. We all have characters whose qualities we connect to and we forget just how much potential we have for greatness, too. Because we’re conditioned to think practically, act reasonably and be responsible, our imaginations have shrunk and can only see possibility in fiction instead of our own lives.

"...imagination has no age, and dreams are forever."
-Walt Disney
Take your imagination off the shelf, dust it off and let it see the life of day outside of fantasy.

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