When I was a child, I went to the moon.
We did it in an afternoon, my preschool class and I. We entered the shuttle through the airlock, pressed buttons, and watched on the monitor as we took off. The shuttle rocked around, then smoothed, then shifted again when we landed. On the moon, we examined rocks in sealed chambers with thick plastic gloves, and I remember watching the Earth through the shuttle window. I tried to find Iowa (North America) or Minnesota (South America), but I couldn’t see them through the swirls of clouds.
Before it was time for our parents to pick us up, we headed back to Earth and ate astronaut ice cream on the journey home. The texture was strange, and it made me thirsty, but it tasted so sweet.
It was one of the best days of my life. I had been to space. I was an astronaut. I told everyone who would listen. I told friends and teachers. When reading about space exploration, I’d sigh over NASA’s conservative goals about landing on the moon again in the future. “I’ve already been there,” I said to my friends, proud and smiling. I’d been to so many places. Iowa, Minnesota, the moon.
Not until years later did I realize my mistake. I wasn’t an astronaut but a dumb kid, tricked by the clever ruse created by the Science Center, where the model shuttle performed moon-trips for everyone with a ticket and a dream of the stars. I remember quite vividly the gut-wrenching pain of disappointment, coupled with the flush of embarrassment. Not only was I a liar against my will, but my greatest adventure was revealed to be nothing but an educational simulation. I loved going to the moon and having gone to the moon and now what was I without it?
It was the idea of the moon that made me an astronaut. I believed it so fiercely that, for a while, it was nearly the truth. Or my truth, at least. Perhaps it was this twist of truth that led me to fantasy and science fiction. It’s the same truth that lets me forget that I’m a normal human when I read, and I can be a hobbit or an elf or the heir to an ancient and powerful throne. Something otherworldly. Something off-world.
The older I get, the harder it is to tap into those other worlds. Most of my time is wrapped up with normal, mundane things, and I find little magic in the endless taste of adulthood, like loading the dishwasher and paying my mortgage. Adulting is hard, but the worst part about it is the grind of truth against imagination, of reality and news cycles and work schedules against the place within yourself that believes you can do anything, even go to the moon.
These days, I have to consciously choose the dream world. It’s hard finding time to let my imagination roam, and I end up going on long, solitary walks around my neighborhood, listening to music and searching for a way back into the dream. It’s more exciting there, more beautiful and magical. People go to the moon all the time.
Once a month, I’ll be searching for the dream world in some way, pointing out little pieces of magic I find as I make my way through life. Sometimes, it might mean talking about a great book or playing a fantastic game, and sometimes my journey might look like this post, musing about the past and future and what enchantments lie between. Either way, I hope you’ll join me on my quest, and perhaps we might find something magical together.