From the time we are little kids, we are encouraged to use our imaginations. My imagination has always been strong. It’s how I managed to get all my Barbies to communicate with each other. It’s how I knew what to do when I got to be the teacher when we played school. It’s how I created songs to entertain my family. It’s how I managed to write poetry and short stories. Imagination in other people will be what solves the problems in this world. Imagination brings about creative problem solving and innovation. But I have decided that sometimes imagination is a bad thing.
I first started to suspect this last year when two of my daughter’s classmates died within a week of each other. One student, Mitch, died in a kayaking accident on Lake Michigan. The other student, Allison, dies of a previously undetected heart defect. Allison was also a former student of mine. I had a really, really difficult time dealing with the deaths of these two kids. One reason it was so difficult was because my imagination kept taking over every time I let my mind think about them. I kept imagining Mitch out on Lake Michigan. I kept imagining Allison collapsing. I kept imagining the phone calls the mothers of these children received. And all that imagining made me feel absolutely panic-stricken. I could feel a huge pit in my stomach. I could feel my heart quicken in fear. All I could do was imagine these terrible circumstances for these kids and their parents.
Today I think I have confirmed that imagination isn’t always a good thing. This morning, I learned that a former student who is now a freshman in high school was killed in a car accident last night. At first, I felt sad about it and I was concerned for the students at my school who might have known her (her name was Liz). Then the imagining started this afternoon. I keep thinking about Liz in the car and the phone call her mother had to take. As I was walking out of school today, I paused for a moment because I was imagining her in the halls of the school where she was just a short year ago.
Imagining makes you feel things you don’t ever want to feel. And I know that those things I feel through imaging are not even remotely close to what it feels like in reality. I don’t pretend to imagine what the parents of Mitch, Allison, or Liz actually felt or feel. But I imagine it, and the imagination is torturous.
The imagination that helped me as a child is hurting me now as an adult. And I don’t know how to stop imagining.