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Imagination as our only freedom – learning from our childhood selves.

Last week I met the first friend I ever had for dinner after a long time. We first met when we were 40 days old, with our mothers waving their babies’ little arms across the balconies of neighbouring buildings. She visited every summer and we would yell across the street, trying to fix up the best time to meet. We’d spend most days together and nights having sleepovers. Those days felt free and liberated in ways that I can’t remember in my body anymore.

When I met her as an adult, I was transported back to a part of myself I hadn’t returned to in far too long. The part of myself that felt completely free, liberated, curious and not confined by the world. It felt full of wholesome, unshackled fantasy. Our whole childhood was bursting with fantasy – we lived in a world of make believe, this world more real than the laptop on your bed right now. We could do anything, be anyone and create anything. We saw magic in every little thing around us. Simple wristwatches could come alive and grant wishes through buttons, empty cardboard boxes became beautifully furnished homes, thermocol became snow, we were fairies and princesses and we could make the crows scented soup, with a restaurant menu they could read. The whole world of our imagination would unfold between us when our fantasies came out to play. And what it was most free of was shame.

We felt free enough to engage with any and all fantasy we brought to one another, build on it, diverge from the plot in unforeseen directions. Everything we did, all the games we played felt more alive with one another than I’ve ever felt in decades. I think a part of me died, when I stopped allowing myself to imagine. I felt shamed into ‘reality’. We were moulded to not allow ‘play’ into our lives over time. Why did we stop playing? The joy of ‘play’ has slowly withered away from my life as an adult. We learnt to judge ourselves, we learn shame and guilt – not just about our actions but also, towards our rich inner worlds. We aren’t even allowed think about play in our imaginations – for shame! They are distractions from the ‘things that matter’ we are told. But really, they aren’t an ‘escape’ – they are our only freedom.

My friend and I went wandering around a graveyard and in her quiet presence, my body allowed itself to think of all the stories this space could hold, the fun we could have, the world we could create here. A world of magic, mysteries and crazy possibilities. And it was years since I allowed my fantasies to come out and play. I hadn’t been in touch with the freedom of my imagination for so long and it was interesting that it happened relationally. We could imagine – together. We could create – together. We could be both free and alone – together. Judgement felt far away from our being. We could let ourselves fully relax in the loving arms of our collective fantasies. And after a long time, it felt as if my childhood was woken up from its long slumber within me.

This piece is dedicated to one of my oldest friendships - a late present for her birthday. I wish we still lived next door to one another <3


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