When I was a young boy, I remember a mother giving her son a toy dinosaur for his sixth birthday. He was so fascinated by that one toy that soon his whole bedroom was decorated with dinosaurs. He read every book on the different species and eras, he collected additional toys and built models, and he imagined what their world, now long gone, would have looked like. At night, he would dream of digging up dinosaur bones for displays in the museums he visited; maybe when he grew up he would find a new species of dinosaur and get to name it. He was obsessed with dinosaurs in the way only a child could. But as he grew, his passion for dinosaurs would eventually get lost in a sea of mathematics, physical education, social studies, and languages. There was little room for dinosaurs amidst the subjects he was told would be important to him later in life. Eventually, the dinosaurs would fade away and become nothing more than the dreams of an innocent child bewildered by beasts lost in time.
A few years later, that same boy saw a display of model trains at the mall and, once again, his interest and excitement peaked as he studied the intricacy and detail of each table. He loved watching the trains go round and round in a variety of different landscapes. He was amazed at the way each piece of scenery was individually and carefully crafted using fairly plain materials; the level of artwork involved in every tree, river, bridge and town. These people had created an imaginary world from nothing but household materials, some paint and a train set that they had purchased at the local department store. When he left that day, he couldn’t stop talking about it; the boy couldn’t wait until he got his own train set so he could build a world just like the one he saw earlier. But on the car ride home, his mother turned to him and told him that he was just overexcited and that it would pass. They didn’t have the space and it would just be another toy that would get forgotten about. His excitement was soon replaced with disappointment and the vibrant worlds he imagined creating crumbled beneath the weight of his mother’s heavy words.
As he got older, that boy went to college and began his studies in a variety of different subjects meant to prepare him for the years to come. With the passing of each semester, he found himself drawn to history and literature. As he went to each lecture and read each page of his texts, tales of the past came to life in his head in a way that made his heart race and fueled his hunger. The more he absorbed the material, the more he found himself writing short stories and tales of his own. He enjoyed it… no … he LOVED it. He thought that maybe he could be a writer, sharing worlds never seen, legends never told, and people never known. But as he wrote, a friend told him that there was no money to be made as a writer; that he was wasting his time and he should focus on something sensible like business instead. The more he thought on those words, the more it stuck in his head and other people around him started telling him more of the same. And so, the boy dropped his pen, put away his paper, and soon traded both for spreadsheets and statistics as the pages that would never be read slowly turned to ash in boxes long forgotten.
There is, of course, a reason I’m telling you these stories. Do any of these tales sound familiar to you?
This world has a tendency to forget the innocence of a child with a toy that sparks their imagination. We fall into patterns where excitement is dismissed as a fad, passing fancy, or short term obsession. Too often, we encourage ideals that find us a good paying job without asking what might truly make us happy. The story of this boy is not a unique one. If you want to meet the child I speak of, all you need to do is look around you. This child is everywhere.
But maybe, the world isn’t like that at all.
Maybe, we encourage the child with the dinosaur and he becomes a world-renowned paleontologist. When a kid gets excited about wanting to be creative we give them some paints and a paintbrush and see where it goes. If they want to become a writer, push them to submit their works; maybe they’ll get published. Never give up when you find something you love. Don’t let the world tell you what you enjoy doing. At the end of the day, if we celebrate the passions as they occur rather than try to stifle and dismiss them, then maybe the world would be a little bit brighter.
What of the boy, you ask? The boy from the stories? I will gladly tell you.
Today, I came home from work, I fed my dog and sat on the couch to relax. Looking around the room, I can’t help but notice a fossil of a dinosaur sitting on a lonely shelf. Not too far away from that shelf is an easel, where an unfinished painting sits, depicting what will be a night sky in the forest; a world created from my imagination. And finally, sitting on the couch, with a laptop, I am writing an article for a local magazine with the hope that somebody will read it. The hour is late. I turn off my computer and get ready for bed. I look in the mirror and I see that boy staring back at me, smiling.
Published in NorthWord Magazine – Issue 20 – April 2019
Photo Credit: Mauricio Abril