When I was in sixth grade, I was given a writing assignment with an essay prompt asking me what I had done over the summer. At first, I was lost. I didn’t know what to say. So, I decided to just stick to the interesting parts.
Over that particular summer, I trekked through the Apennine Mountains and then rowed around Venice. After that, I was off to Germany. I hiked through the tall firs of the Black Forest and then took a flight over the Bavarian Alps. I toured all of Europe that summer, and then it was time for Asia. I had to cut that tour short, though. There were many delays and lost opportunities, and before I knew it, summer was over. It was time for school again, and I was stuck at a desk wondering how to talk about what I had done over the summer without mentioning all the court dates of my parents’ ongoing divorce.
No, I didn’t lie. Every word I wrote was the truth. I did visit all those places over the summer ... in my imagination while I was playing outside on the sunny days. In fact, when I wrote that essay talking about my adventures abroad, I left out several other adventures, the adventures I had on the rainy days, the days when I had to sit in a courtroom or stay inside. Those adventures, however, I had help with. I let someone else direct my imagination. That was the summer Suzanne Collins took me on a tour of Panem with Katniss Everdeen. That also was the summer I spent hunting with a clan of wildcats Erin Hunter introduced me to. And there were so many others who took me by the hand and allowed me into their worlds.
My imagination was the only ticket I needed to travel the world and discover new ones while I was at it. It was my ticket away from all the stress around me, away from events I had no control over. It carried me everywhere and anywhere, and no one could take it from me. I still have it. Imagination is the key to freedom. Sure, there will always be some dull classroom you have to return to, or maybe even some problem you can’t shake. You can’t run from your problems forever, and even if you could, you’d have to ask yourself if you should.
However, when you feel like you can’t take any more without exploding, you need an escape — even if it’s just for a few minutes — and your imagination can give it to you.
Get lost somewhere. Paint a picture in your head of a place you want to go and then go there. Read a book. Draw a picture. Take a walk. Play pretend like you did when you were a kid. Just do something that allows you to let your imagination get away with you.
It might just help you step away from your problems enough so that when you return to them, you can view them more objectively and work through them more easily.
The best transportation around is your imagination, you just can’t be afraid to look deep enough inside yourself to find where it can take you.
KAYLA COOK has lived in Ottawa since 2011. She can be reached by emailing email@example.com.