Fantasizing can take you places you’ve never been and set you up for future experiences. It can be a form of wishful thinking, the kind I indulged in as a three-year-old, fantasizing myself seated in one of those big beautiful orange trucks that I occasionally saw from my backyard. I knew the only way I could make that fantasy a reality would be to be one of those people in those pretty orange jackets. One of my mother’s favorite stories of my toddler years was when she would dress me up in my pretty taffeta dress with the bow in the back to match the bows in my hair, sporting my Shirley Temple curls and my Shirley Temple shoes. Her friends would fondly ask, “what do you want to be when you grow up? At three years old, I knew what I must become when I grew up to be able to ride in one of those pretty orange trucks. Without hesitation, I’d say, “a garbage man.”
By the time I was five, I had abandoned that fantasy, although gender had nothing to do with my change of mind. You see, my fantasies were not just related to future endeavors, but also my past. Being the only girl, at least for the first three years of my life, I fantasized that I had evolved somehow from the gender of my two older brothers. I would often begin to describe my early adventures with the words “when I was a little boy,” as in “when I was a little boy, I used to climb trees, and I could run real real fast.” My brothers were only a couple of years older than me, and since I had the most recent experience of coming to earth from heaven, they were sincerely curious about how I got here. I didn’t disappoint. Sometimes I would tell them that I came down on an escalator; other times, I came down quickly on an elevator to be greeted by my mother, who was waiting as the elevator doors opened.
Fantasy has no limits. With a twist of my magic ring, I could fly away to some beautiful places in the pictures in one of the many, many National Geographic Magazines my father kept. I imagined throwing away old magazines was a crime on the level of removing the tag from a mattress. To this day, I have a really hard time throwing out old magazines.
Fantasies could also serve as life lessons. When I was in first grade, there were two reading groups – the Tigers and the Bears. I didn’t know how the nun divided the groups since she assigned us to the groups before reading one word. I was in the Bears. The Tigers had more fun books, and they would go on field trips to the library and other places. I wanted so badly to be in the Tigers, and I would fantasize about myself reading better and with more expression than anyone in the classroom. One day I cornered the nun’s helper and told her I could read really well, and she let me read for her. I read really well, just like I had fantasized. I never became a Tiger, but the helper began working with the Bears and taking us to the library. Sometimes much, much later in life, I realized that all the Bears were brown like me, and all the Tigers were white.
I wonder if my ancestors who were stolen from their original land fantasized about being back in Africa with people who spoke the same language. I wonder if that’s what kept them going from day-to-day. Maybe they fantasized about escaping the plantation or about a group of their people coming from the Motherland to confront the plantation owners and demand they let their people go.
Of course, we must be realistic. But being immersed in reality every minute of every day can be painful and depressing. I believe taking time out to fantasize can do wonders for one’s mental health.
@2020, Emma Young, All rights reserved.
Emma Young is an advertising and marketing professional, and a published author and journalist. She coined the slogan “Come Alive October 5” and directed the related advertising campaign. She also created the Soft Sheen-sponsored “Brand New You” radio show which featured interviews of entertainment, health, and beauty notables, hosted by G.Q. columnist, Gordon Lee.
As Vice President, Group Creative Director of Burrell Communications, she created award-winning commercials for a number of clients including, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Stroh Brewery, Ford Motor Company, Crest Toothpaste, and many others.
She co-wrote the movie, “Up Against the Wall”, wrote and helped produce the play “STOP” and wrote scripts for Take-Two, a series of mini-dramas moderated by Merry Dee.
Her published works include the memoir, Confessions of a Recovering Racist and a children’s book, It’s Good to Be Me.