An imagination is a powerful tool. It can tint memories of the past, shade perceptions of the present, or paint a future so vivid that it can entice… or terrify, all depending upon how we conduct ourselves today.

Long before freelance writing as a career even entered the realm of possibility, I wanted to be a cartoonist. I wanted to have my spot in the Sunday Funnies, syndicated across newspapers from coast to coast and around the world. And the first comic strip that I ever remember reading and falling in love with was Garfield by Jim Davis. I mean, who didn’t adore that lasagna-inhaling orange tabby?

I vividly remember visiting the public library every weekend and inevitably one of the first searches I’d conduct was to see if one of the new Garfield volumes had been released and if there were any copies available. You can still find most of these available today, though the “Fat Cat 3-Pack” volumes cost less than how much a single compilation book cost back in the 80s and 90s.

Over that time, I grew intimately familiar with the world Jim Davis created. I know all about Garfield kicking Odie off the table, heading in the alley to belt out late night tunes with Arlene, and shipping Nermal — the world’s cuuuuuutest kitty cat — off to Abu Dhabi yet again. It’s funny, because before the advent of the Internet, I thought Abu Dhabi was a fictional place that Davis had made up.

It’s possible that I’m looking back at my childhood experience with Jim Davis and Garfield through rose-tinted glasses. It’s also possible that my perception of my current reality is entirely different from how you view it. That’s the beauty of imagination. And we should never allow this sense of child-like wonder to extinguish.

Just yesterday, I was hanging out with my three-year-old daughter in the home office and it immediately became clear that she has inherited my sense of imagination. She picked up a couple of blank DVD-Rs from my desk (I use them as drink coasters) and held them up to her ears. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she heard a “knocking sound.” When I inquired further, she told me a “mommy T-rex” was responsible for this sound.

We proceeded to play on the floor for the next hour based solely on this premise. She said she needed my keys to trace the “T-rex footprints” (i.e., our greasy hand prints on the laminate flooring). The hole in the center of the blank DVD-R then transformed into some sort of looking device. Go figure. Anything is possible with the power of a kid’s imagination. Just ask Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.

Regardless of its actual accuracy, a person’s perception is what will guide his or her actions. If you think the world is all rainbows and unicorns, you’ll act accordingly. If you think the world is full of evil and cynicism, your actions will reflect that too. And if you think there’s a mommy T-rex knocking, by golly you’ll need some keys to hunt down the dinosaur dame.

I have a fear of letting my mind wander. I’m afraid it might not come back.

Maybe I am a dreamer. That’s a big part of the reason why I have trouble falling asleep at night, because my mind never shuts up, jumping from one tangential thought to the next. I haven’t lost it yet, I don’t think, but my mind has certainly done its fair share of wandering over the years.

And I hope it will continue to do so.

Image credit: Super-Nerd (CC BY-SA 2.0)