“…Then one day, when he was out for a walk by the lake, he forgot what his mother had told him. He forgot that he was not a dinosaur. He stood blinking his dinosaur eyes in the bright sunlight, feeling its familiar warmth on his dinosaur skin, watching dragonflies flitting among the horsetails at the water’s edge.”
—from “Dinosaur,” by Bruce Holland Rogers
My daughter’s a pilot. It took three days for her airplane to get here after she placed her order. The steering wheel was delayed even longer because we couldn’t find the right fit. She’s almost too big to stretch out inside a standard copy paper box, but we made it work.
Now I’m happy to report that her plane is in the hangar with a custom-fitted wooden spoon steering wheel and fresh detailing.
When she’s not soaring to Mexico or over a field full of horses, she can be found in her salon/makeup shop, putting eye shadow on her cheeks and blush on her forehead. She’s also a queen (not a princess), since she brought home a paper crown with stars from preschool.
Some might say she’s a job hopper. But she has health and dental, her rent’s cheap and meals are included, so it works for her.
I don’t remember using my imagination this creatively when I was 5, but I assume I did. More importantly, I don’t ever remember being told not to. So I don’t tell her not to either.
Creative freedom starts in childhood but is fragile. It can get lost, even unintentionally.
She says she’s a queen. Who am I to argue?
Bruce Holland Rogers is a creative writer of fiction, columns, and other work. Penelope Trunk is a career adviser, coaching young professionals on how to make their mark on the career world.
Both have written about the importance of our imaginations, one more subtly than the other. And both offer some important ideas to consider for ourselves and our kids.
In a few years, my paper-box pilot will need to cover that rent all by herself. What’s the working world going to look like then? If today is any indication, then…well, I have no idea. How much has it changed since I was 5? And 30 years before that?
The economic downturn, job losses, small-business closings, the health-care crisis, all of these negative things that have happened in the last several years are creating changes. Priorities are being jostled around. I’m beginning to think they may shake out in a much better order. Maybe more people will find balance and do what it takes to just live “well,” without settling or over-compensating.
In a career column, Trunk wrote “…staying in one job forever is today’s recipe for career suicide. At the beginning of one’s career, it is nearly impossible to find something right without trying a bunch of options.”
And more importantly, “you will experience more personal growth from changing jobs frequently than staying in one job for extended periods of time.”
In the magazine The Sun, Rogers wrote “Dinosaur,” a flash fiction story about a little boy who pretended to be a dinosaur when he was little. “Oh, for goodness sake,” his mother said. “You are not a dinosaur! You are a human being!”
His father asked him what he wanted to be. As he grew up, he was given tests and told he was good at math. So, when he was older, he became a tax accountant. When he was even older he became a retired tax accountant.
Eventually, age set in and he began to forget things like taking his medicine and where his children lived. And finally, as an old man, alone with what remained of his mind, he forgot the first life lesson his mother told him. The final paragraph is the opening quote above.
Can the eternal imagination of a 5-year-old still be there 20 or 70 years later? I would hate to be the one responsible for stifling it early on, just in case.
If I had any recognizable skills at math, I would come up with the ratio for the best odds of balancing imagination with responsibility as I raise my kids. But—for good reason—no one or no test has ever said I was. I don’t want them to sacrifice imagination for stability or stability for imagination.
We’ll just have to rely on instinct and our kids’ queues.
All I know for sure is there is one sweet airplane in the corner of my dining room.