I have an important question for you: how has the crazy year that was 2020 fed your imagination? It would be safe to say that many of us have recently partaken in some well needed escapism as a result of the isolation and lockdown periods that swept over 2020.
In the state of a quarantined world, we have seen some of our favourite artists retreat to their homes and minds, only to eventually resurface having used their time in solitude to create. In the world of music and film alone, we have seen artists produce incredibly imaginative works in response to devasting circumstances worldwide. Notably, Taylor Swift blessed us with not one, but two albums – Folklore and Evermore – in which saw the singer-songwriter create music in ways she never had before. Using escapist concepts, Swift constructed songs based on folklore and fictitious worlds to make sense of her own world. Meanwhile, Sam Levinson of the HBO drama series, Euphoria, secretly shot the upcoming blackand-white romance, Malcolm & Marie, with Zendaya under COVID-19 safety protocols in lockdown. Through this creation, Levinson would go on to showcase the state of the human condition in a world of solitude.
So, for many, it would seem the pandemic’s demands to have us lockdown alone, with our own thoughts, has led people to either find or extend their creative output to make sense of the chaotic world of 2020. Personally, I found the state of life on Earth overwhelming and, as a result, I escaped to my imagination to make sense of a new reality. Feeling alone encouraged me to imagine in new ways. I noticed myself seeing and caring for the people around me through new means that I perhaps had not pursued before. For example, I often wondered how the year had looked through the eyes of strangers I passed walking down the streets or shopping in grocery stores. Thanks to this new fly-on-the-wall angle I discovered, I found myself writing poetry from the perspective of characters I never had before, like a misunderstood villain exiled from their small town or a teacher’s pet consumed by the rumour mill. It was these perspectives that drew my mind away from obsessively watching the news. Isolation, masks and mayhem would suddenly be banished from my mind and fleetingly replaced with whatever madness seemed to calm the calamity that day.
Then again, I have never lacked imagination.
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices. I was born with a craniofacial condition known as a cleft lip and palate, which required what felt like endless surgeries all the way up until I was 16. I often found myself naturally dipping into my imagination because of this, specifically during times of fear, uncertainty or frustration. At age five, I remember imagining ivy growing up the hospital walls on the way to the operating theatre whilst the IV tube appeared to me in the shape of a snake. The “happy gas” was always my least favourite part, so I imagined the smell to represent the worst thing my child mind could think of: lizards. Weird, right?
Regardless of how strange it is to look back at now, my imagination allowed me to better understand the world around me and what I was experiencing. Even when I got a little older it never quite went away. For example, I would still get nervous at the dentist and mentally transport myself to a sunflower field just to get through the appointment. You see, it has always fascinated me how intrinsic escapism is to our human nature. Our mind has an ability to look inwards and project imagined ideas onto real life.
Just take Taylor Swift with Folklore and Evermore or Sam Levinson with Malcom & Marie as examples; this world, it only makes sense to you if you design it to do so. The creation of entire worlds for us to escape to may easily be one of my favourite things about the human experience. However, I find societies lack of tolerance for imaginative people interesting even more so. In a world so focused on deadlines and realism it is incredibly easy to disconnect from our instincts, with our imaginations seemingly first to go.
I remember this being especially discouraged all through school when any student daring to stare out a window for too long was scolded for daydreaming. Yet, being creative was selectively applauded if you were graded an A for an English writing piece. This hot-and-cold attitude presented to me made one thing very clear: escapism and expressions of creativity were to be indulged fleetingly. They were only there when required in order to provide a person with something in return. As a result of this, I became obsessed with being busy and realistic in an attempt to become the productivity pump the world was asking me to be. In doing so, I lost touch with such an important part of who I am by my mid teenage years.
Now, as a young adult, I find myself attempting to align my mind with that of my child self once more in many ways, but especially in light of my escapist tendencies. Although, even now that I am outside of a school environment, I have noticed this same destructive mentality presented in society’s obsession with hustle culture. Think about it. We are all encouraged to use any artistic ability and skill we may have in order to turn a profit, rather than partake in these activities just for enjoyment or selfcare. Not to say that there is anything wrong with selling art online, for example, but the expectation for artists to do so I do not necessarily agree with.
What I saw during lockdown periods as a result of the pandemic were people painting, cooking, writing and creating incredible imaginative works (some for the first time, others for the millionth), but doing it for themselves nonetheless. Given that time to sit with ourselves in solitude, imaginations came alive not for other people and not because we were particularly good at the new hobbies we were trying, but simply to preserve our own sanity. Now, nearing the other end of the very long and dark tunnel that was 2020, I think I may have lockdowns and months of isolation to thank for my re-embracing of imagination. Like Taylor or Sam, I have used my time to sit back and observe the world in the only way I know makes sense. I have relied on escapism to feel productive and, thanks to that, I am finding myself unlearning so much of what was taught to me in an attempt to connect to my most authentic self.
Now a young adult, learning to often indulge in my imagination and not feel unproductive or silly for doing so has been just one of the many areas I have been working on. I must also give 2020 credit for normalising doing what we love for ourselves first and not needing to be at a professional skill level in every hobby we have. So, as we enter a new year, I encourage everyone to continue to (or even maybe begin) delving into their imaginations… you may just be surprised by the new world of pure imagination your mind has waiting for you.
Words and image by Stephanie Montatore