Our children are growing up in a world that has stripped away the need for any imagination. It’s all laid out for them. Every conceivable story from vampires to wizards to werewolves and back. Throw in technology and social networking, and everything is just one click away. We had “The Littlest Hobo,” “The Beachcombers” and “CBC Sports.” No offence to any of these fine programs, but as my clever friend Ross Macnab said, it was like Canada was one giant living room and no one could find the remote. However, even if you were allowed to watch all three, back to back (yes, there used to be rules about how much TV you could watch), you were left with some serious gaps to fill. Filling these gaps required extremely vivid, fantastical imaginations. Simply put, we had to use our own brains to figure things out. Pull out an encyclopedia and do some research. How fun were those? Ah, the smell of them. I will never forget the smell of them.
And heaven forbid, we had to talk to people… have deep conversations to learn from others. Are we on the verge of losing that? Will our children know what it’s like to sit and chat with someone for hours? To lay their souls bare in front of another human being? Kids nowadays are laying other things bare. On Facebook. I digress… I really just wanted to say kids nowadays. @#$%. I’m getting old. And may I just take a moment to thank the merciful Lord in heaven that Facebook wasn’t around when we were growing up. A significant majority of us would still be in jail.
Considering we’re up against wizards, werewolves, vampires and “Hunger Games,” how can we compete? Save for growing a beard and biting my children (rather fiercely) on the neck, I’m not entirely certain how to get their attention. My best guess? We must find a way to prove to them that real life is just as magical as make-believe. Even more so. We need to share the secrets of life, as we know it… the wisdom, the humour, the regrets, the longings, the moments that make it all worthwhile. So when the werewolves lay sleeping and the spells have been cast, what is it that I want my children to know about real life?
Here’s where I need your help. I’ve come up with a list of questions. Things I think about a lot and topics that interest me to no end. My plan is to get responses from as many people as I can — through my blog, email, face to face, in dark, shadowy recesses of back alleys throughout the country — and compile everyone’s answers to the following questions. By sharing your responses with me, you hereby to and furthermore with fore-here-to-with-and-in grant me permission to use them as part of my upcoming articles. (Incidentally no, I’m not a lawyer. However, I should likely get one.) I will never use your name; all responses will be kept anonymous. Your thoughts will be compiled as part of the overall response to each question. You can share your responses by sending an email to [email protected] Create an anonymous email account if you want; I don’t need to know who it’s from, I just want to hear from you. Think about the questions, answer as honestly as you can and only answer the ones you feel like talking about. (Please number your responses, so I don’t erroneously drop answers in beside the wrong questions… although that may provide some cheap entertainment.)
Your responses are what I want to share with my children one day. Your responses are what I want them to know about real life. Why? Because learning from each other is the magic of life. Finding humour in our collective ridiculousness is the magic of life. The ability to laugh at yourself is the magic of life. Recognizing regrets, and doing something about them, is the magic of life. Finding beauty in the unexpected is the magic of life. Finding beauty in others is the magic of life. Finding beauty in yourself, and sharing your gifts with the world, is the magic of life.
And who knows? It may even become part of a book one day. Now that’d be a book I’d want to leave for my children… seeing as I’ll be spending a significant portion of my time explaining my first book to them. I imagine that conversation will go something like this: “No, I was not a raging alcoholic. We just used to drink a lot. Of course it’s fiction! Who told you that? As if. Don’t believe everything you hear. I suppose you’d jump off a cliff with that person, too? What do you think I am, a monster? Repeat after me, fiction. What? Me, smoke? Never you mind. If I ever catch you smoking, I’ll make you chain-smoke Export A Green Death until you spew. If that doesn’t kill you, I will. That’s all you need to know. What’s that? Go to your room.”
So without further ado, here are my questions to you. Please send me your responses by December 1. Yes, that’s two weeks away. One, two, three, GO:
1. Who (or what) is your greatest love?
2. What (or who) is your worst fear?
3. What is your biggest regret? Have you done something about it?
4. What’s the one topic we should talk about more openly? (Translation: something you wish you could bring up more often but just don’t, for whatever reason… )
5. What’s the most useful lesson you’ve ever learned in school? (From Kindergarten to PhD… pick the most useful lesson.)
6. What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done? (This is a very tough choice for me. I’ve narrowed it down to 3,624 incidents.)
7. What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
8. If you could go back and tell a younger version of yourself just one thing, what would it be?
9. What’s the one thing you wish you’d spend less time worrying about?
10. What’s one simple, magical thing that makes you smile every time you experience it? (Example: the sound of a child giggling, the smell of freshly mowed grass… )
11. What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you?
12. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
13. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in life thus far?
14. If given the opportunity to have a one-minute glance at your life 10 years from now, would you take it? Why or why not?
15. Thinking back to your ideals and dreams for the future when you were younger, has your life turned out as you thought it would? Why or why not?
16. At the end of each day, when you pause for a second to contemplate your life, what do you say to yourself?
17. What’s your secret to leading a fulfilling life? Put another way, what’s the motto you live by?
18. If you could make just one wish for your children, what would it be?
And promise me something? Do what makes your soul sing. Even if you can only carve out a few hours a week… it’s up to you to make it happen. Learn how to play the piano, paint, volunteer, write, help out a family in your community, go back to school, watch a movie with your spouse, pack a picnic and take your kids to the park, donate to charity, pet cats at the Humane Society… whatever it is, just do it.
It doesn’t matter what other people think. They’re not the ones you have to answer to. In the end, I don’t know where your road will take you. But I do know that giving of yourself and following your dreams — even if at the moment they feel tiny and inconsequential — will make you feel better. That’s a promise. A soul that sings is magical that way. †