If daydreaming were an Olympic sport, I would be Tara Lipinski. Here are a few highlights from my daydream portfolio:
Standing in line at the airport, I struggled to fit my big straw hat back into my checked luggage. I was holding up the line, and the woman behind me said, “Do you need that hat?” I turned around and realized it was Mindy Kaling. I said I wasn’t sure if I could even pull the hat off, so maybe I should just leave it behind. Mindy told me to try it on so she could see it with my face shape. She asked where I was traveling and what I would be wearing the hat with. Mexico. Vintage bathing suit and maxi dress. “Yeah,” she said. “It’s important.” She quickly nodded and helped me fit the hat in the bag. We exchanged numbers and when I got back in the States she invited me to write with her.
While working for BBC in London, I spent my afternoon off in a bookstore. Harry Styles ducked in to avoid paparazzi (of course) and sat in a comfy chair near me. We became fast friends and eventually fell in love (obviously). When Harry and some of his friends were invited to perform on Saturday Night Live a few months later, he brought me along. I made a cast member laugh backstage during rehearsal and a few weeks later I got a call from SNL asking me to come interview for a writing position (which I accepted. Harry and I had an emotional break up when I moved to NYC, but we remained close and he visited a few times).
This was almost as cool as the time John Mayer introduced himself to me as I was stacking chairs outside of the sandwich shop where I worked during college. John asked me where he could grab something quick to eat before heading back to his hotel (he was traveling through rural America, staying in small towns to gather inspiration for his next album). I suggested he grab something from down the street, and he asked if I could go with him so he didn’t have to eat alone. He waited outside while I finished closing the restaurant then we walked all the way to my apartment so I could change. We shared our hearts and realized we should be best friends. So my BFF John and I ordered a pizza and started writing music together. He posted a video of us singing one of these heartfelt songs online, and it became a sensation overnight. He continued travelling and we stayed in touch. He took me to the London premiere of the final Harry Potter movie, where I met Adele and Emma Watson. Naturally the three of us had sooo much in common that we bonded instantly and stayed friends for years. In a side conversation, John told Usher that he was proud of me.
Clearly, these things are not true. I am embarrassed at the level of detail that went into these daydreams, and equally as embarrassed that I can recall any of these details (and more) at a moment’s notice. There must be an entire sector of my brain cordoned off for these pretend encounters.
Over the years I’ve tried cutting down on time spent in my imagination, but it’s easier said than done. It’s comfortable and entertaining to zone out in the moments when I’m driving to work or trying to fall asleep. The content of these daydreams isn’t especially disturbing or weird. You might be surprised how often they result in me working for Saturday Night Live.
Even if they aren’t destructive, this week I’ve tried really hard to live in the present moment instead. Daydreaming like this is waste of brain-time. I’m not exercising my imagination for writing or to solve real life problems. I’m not thinking of others or even enjoying my surroundings. I’m not praying or planning or listening to the song on the radio. I’m not content or satisfied with what I’ve got going on.
Instead I’m focusing on myself and the pieces of my personality I wish were more pronounced; I imagine I’m charming, I’m funny, I’m a talented writer just one joke away from success.
It also got me thinking…what is celebrity? Who am I valuing most in my life? I know real, live people who are incredibly cool. They have so much to offer, and I already have relationships with them.
What if I used my focus to work on the real world. What if I practiced my writing to become more successful? What if I made an effort to be kind and charming with the co-workers I see everyday? What if I was as excited to spend time with my friends as I would be to hang out with Mindy and John?
Imagination is awesome and I don’t want to criminalize it — but I think it’s better to infuse my real life with creativity and imagine ways to make each day better for the people I encounter here and now. So I’ll keep working on it. Whew.