The Gift of Imagination

By: Tina Shaffer

Do you remember the time when your imagination had no limits? The days when you were free to dream from a place of pure innocence and the only sense of reality that interrupted your fantasy was dinner time?

As a little girl, I spent most days converting my bedroom into a jungle, complete with paper vines hanging from the ceiling and a fake tree filled with monkeys. I spent countless hours conversing with my stuffed animals and campaigning in front of my parents for a menagerie of exotic pets-to which had they obliged, our neighbors surely would have thought we were part of a circus.

I vowed that ONE DAY I was going to own my very own veterinary clinic shaped like Noah’s Ark! I dreamt about being so skilled in the field of veterinary medicine that I would be able to converse with all of my patients, no matter how foreign the dialect of their various calls, coos, chirps, snarls, meows, hisses, howls and barks. The craziest thing was, for the longest time, I really believed I could do it!

Thanks to my parents, my imagination had no limitations as a child. They encouraged me as I made up songs, created art projects with various materials around our house and most importantly, didn’t get upset when I made messes. I am sure they realized and trusted that, at some point, I would have to face reality like the rest of the world but they saw the value in teaching me to use my imagination and embraced the beauty amidst the perpetually growing pile of art materials.

I was never told I was incapable of accomplishing my dreams, as wild and audacious as they were. So what happened to those dreams?

The truth is, I fought through my freshman year of Biology at the University of Minnesota and had to realize I was not cut out for vet school. At that point I was also unsuccessful in all of my attempts to communicate with non-human life forms. My dream of becoming the next Dr. Doolittle evaporated as I declared myself a Strategic Communications major.

I suppose at some point, our childhood fantasies collide with bits of reality and we have to plan our exit strategy from Never Never Land; the one place where we cease to age and are free to believe anything is possible. As adults we know growing up is not an optional thing; despite our most valiant attempts to stay in the sweet places our imaginations spent so long creating.

I challenge you to think about the places your imagination took you as a child. What inspired you then? What attributes of your imagination have you carried into adulthood? Imagination is truly a gift that we as adults are responsible for sharing so that it can be cultivated within younger generations.

The important thing is that we provide kids with the opportunity to explore their imaginations, to think expansively and teach them to be creative and critical problem solvers.

In the words of Dr. Suess, “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!”

As far as my Google searches can tell me, the market on Noah’s Ark shaped vet clinics is still wide open!