I embody multiple daydreamer cliches – the student gazing out the window, the girl staring at the clouds, the classmate doodling in the margins, and the hiker gazing over the tree tops. The daydreaming comes with a bit of absent-mindedness here and there, but I’m owning it with pride. Thing is, daydreamers have also have a propensity for creativity, empathy and — this one is all my own — taking pictures.
The New Yorker expounds on the Virtues of Daydreaming for creatives, and the current issue of Psychology Today examines the direct relationship between daydreaming and empathy. And the connection between photography and daydreaming? Well, that’s all my own – feel free to credit yours truly.
During graduate school, I used to leave the library and study alongside the shores of Lake Michigan. I would read and write until I lost focus and started daydreaming about this that and the other. The daydream almost always ended with a tourist tapping my back and asking me to take their picture.
Before long, I found myself intentionally breaking to ask people if they wanted their photograph taken. Have you ever asked a couple if they wanted a picture? Or a family? It’s a surefire way to make someone smile, and the question is almost always answered with an eager “yes yes – thank you!”
I didn’t take many photographs of myself back then– I’m not sure why, but I had this feeling that my moment was coming soon — it wasn’t here yet, but it would arrive before long. Does that make sense?
We hiked a number of waterfalls this weekend, and each time we reached the peak I looked around for someone to take our picture. I asked hikers and bystanders and doodlers if they would break for a moment and snap a photograph. And you know what? It made me smile each time I did- it felt like whatever I’d been waiting for had finally arrived.
A long line at the supermarket makes me twiddle my thumbs and wish for a fast-forward button. I have similar feelings about stop-and-go traffic. All the wait, wait, waiting takes time away from the people I love and the activities I hold dear.
And that kind of waiting is the easiest – you can see the finish-line and you know that if you hang in there, just a few minutes more, the line will end and the traffic will part. But what about the longer kind of waiting – the kind that entails transitioning to a new life stage?
The ‘stage of life’ wait is more abstract, and the blurry outline provides room for all sorts of what-if questions and worst-case scenarios. What if I don’t get into college? Can l find a job with an art major? Will I like working as a marketing associate?
Surely you’re familiar with these questions – we’ve all had them. I woke up with ‘what if’ questions on mind, mused about them while I sipped my coffee, and then tossed them aside to go hiking with my husband.
I remind myself that it’s impossible to control the future, but I can work diligently, here and now, to enjoy the present.
We made our own rules and jaunted up, down, sideways, and around three times. Crowds marched onward and upward while we searched for interesting rock formations, hidden caves and gorgeous views.
The original goal was to climb the mountain, but we got distracted by wildflowers about halfway up the trail. After a bit of a chat and some yoga, we decided we’d rather have an adventure than climb to the top:
Hiking sideways instead of upward (as advised) made me think about about life — it’s not about seeing how far you can go, but learning how to enjoy every step of the journey. Pause every now and again to examine where you are and take in the goodness of the present moment — if you’re truly enjoying it, why not stay for a while?