Whether I'm sitting on the train, changing into my gym uniform, or waiting in line to buy my lunch, I never waste a spare moment diving into my world of fiction. Growing up as an only child, I often imagined myself as Alice exploring Wonderland, a soldier who was ordered to kill a child during the wars, a flapper of the 1920s, the protagonist Elinor of Sense and Sensibility, or the mother of a victim of the 9/11 attacks. As I personified these characters and heroes, I asked myself: Would I have made the same decisions? Would I have jumped into a rabbit hole leading into the unknown? Would I have the courage to stand up for humanity and social justice? Would I be able to forgive the terrorists who murdered my child? Some of these questions could be easily answered but others could not.
Embodying different characters inside my world of imagination allows me to feel and think in perspectives outside of my own. I have the freedom to travel back in time or foresee the future. It does not matter whether I am the hero or villain of a story; I can experience the lament of defeat, the excitement from a win, or even the grief from an unethical decision. In this fictional world, I am the princess who cannot choose her own prince, the knight who solemnly sacrifices himself to save the kingdom, and the mad scientist who plans to take over the world. Through each character's story, I am better able to understand the different values, beliefs, and priorities that influence his or her decision. Here, I have learned to respect the opinion of others. Here, I have learned to understand that people are sometimes forced to make choices because of their circumstances. Here, I have learned that my decision can save or hurt others. These lessons are real and I live them out in my life everyday.
My love for imagination is not to escape reality but to examine it. Imagination forces me to define, evaluate, and articulate essential values: faith, justice, valor, camaraderie, and love. I believe using our imagination is a natural human instinct. Skeptics may criticize that this drives humans to live in dystopian fantasies instead of facing reality. However, I am aware that in the real world, not all people are kind and righteous, the innocent are taken advantage of and evil often wins. At the same time, I still believe in the goodness of humanity. It may be in my naiveté, but living in this imagination as storybook characters allows me to have faith in the nobility of humankind, that good will be chosen over evil. Goodness, honesty, and love are important motifs demonstrated in folktales and childhood stories from ages past; morals that heroes sacrifice their lives to protect. My imagination allows me to continue experiencing and hoping in things that may be lost or hard to find in this world.