Once upon a time, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied "an astronaut," explaining that I wanted to bring home a pet star. Of course, in my pure, naïve mind, stars were living creatures, with happy little faces and huggable golden bodies that fit perfectly into a child’s loving arms. In later years, my dreams of having a pet star were dashed, as I was told that they’re actually giant burning balls of gas. I didn’t want that as a pet. I quickly discovered that reality doesn’t always measure up to our fantastical daydreams.
As I got older, I kept waiting for the moment when I would no longer feel like a child playing dress-up. I waited for a certificate to descend from the heavens, reading, “Congratulations, you’re officially an adult!” It got me wondering why we handle growing up the way we do. Why do we feel we must become so cynical and serious? Why do we pretend coffee tastes good? And at what point in time did we decide we were too old to jump in puddles, or look for shapes in the clouds?
Adults, I have a diagnosis: Playing pretend is a mass epidemic. We’re so scared of looking juvenile or ridiculous that we agree to play a part in a production we really want no part of. We trade in our whimsy for a suit and tie. But maybe, just maybe, we’re not as separate from our childhood selves as we pretend to be.
Imagine the works of Dr. Seuss stripped of their whimsy. Even the titles are wonderfully ridiculous: Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat. Let’s be real, The Cat in the Collar, or White Eggs and Ham don’t hold the same interest. Or how about Lewis Carroll’s iconic Alice in Wonderland without the strange, and fanciful imagery. What if Alice just fell down a normal hole, brushed herself off, and went back about her business? Surely this would render the tale dull and grey. The number of adults who enjoy these works makes apparent our desire for any glimpse of the fantastically strange, or any link to the magic of our youth.
There may not be any real practicality or reason for whimsy, but not everything in life needs a reason beyond the simple fact it brings us joy, and escape. Indeed, sometimes we need to escape reality to stay sane.
Originally, I had intended to define whimsy, but the more I tried, the more I realized how impossible it is. How do you describe that which is limitless? That which pushes us to delve the depths of our imaginations without pause. It colours the world, feeds the soul, and allows a glimpse outside the barriers of this world, to the realm of possibility.
Don’t be afraid to let your inner whimsy shine. In the end, the only opinion of you that matters is your own. Somewhere inside, we’re all just children wanting to catch a pet star.
Allison Van Maren
Meet Allison. When she's not contemplating life or daydreaming of far-off places, you can find her sketching weird faces, listening to indie/alt rock, gaming, and drinking copious amounts of kombucha tea. At the end of the day, all she wants is to live a happy and fulfilling life, and to contribute positively to the world around her.