Sometimes, my imagined world is far more interesting to me than the world I live in.
I get lost in worlds that captivate me. Worlds of magic and stardust. Worlds seemingly without boundaries, with norms and laws that I myself dictate.
Worlds that breathe the impossible.
While here I am, confined in the finite, desperate to finish writing what I set out to write. Part of me wonders whether my words can ever give justice to my worlds. Will they ever matter to anyone other than me? The same way the real world matters to everyone else?
Will my words be able to let anyone know that my worlds exist?
I walked the streets of Thailand and China seeing through the lens of a person captivated by a world with skyscrapers hanging on cliffs and entire villages thriving underwater. The fact that my mind was trying to develop this fictional world changed the way I was experiencing the real world – a world I was just beginning to explore.
It made me feel like an awful tourist, not because I was unable to appreciate the world as it is, but because I was seeing everything through the eyes of a worldbuilder, a storyteller.
I ran my fingers over the bark of a rainbow eucalyptus tree at a park by the Old Moat in Chiang Mai, wondering if someone splashed paint on it, silently wishing that it would somehow turn into a portal to another world.
I walked along Kunming’s abandoned alleyways, while my mind’s eye saw ghosts gliding along those streets, gossamer reflections of what they used to be. I scrutinized broken glass windows, while my imagination admired the beauty of a silver-haired woman, peering through one of them – once whole, once clear.
I entered the Dhara Dhevi feeling like I just arrived at an ancient kingdom, half-expecting centaurs to appear somewhere. I saw an old well and my pulse began to race, because in my head, a siren song was echoing from its depths. I waited for a mermaid to surface.
I got yelled at by hawkers, because I kept taking pictures of their wares without buying any of them. I wanted to remember the patterns, the textures, the designs so I could use them later in my stories.
I kept on trying to describe everything in my head, wondering how I’d write them if they ever become part of my worlds. Bamboo torches and jade spheres. Marble statues of animals that seemed to be a crossbreed of elephants, lions and dragons. So intricate in their designs. Masterfully sculpted.
I was impressed by the real world, but my imagination made them come alive in ways that my companions didn’t seem to notice. They kept asking if I wanted them to take a photo of me – a souvenir – perhaps proof that I was there. I kept saying no. I guess, in my mind’s eye, seeing myself in the picture would ruin my illusion – scare the ghosts away, silence the siren’s music, make the sculptures crumble.
I snapped photos, but I hated them, because they were pale shadows of both what I saw and what I imagined. But the photos remain on my phone. Because they help me remember – the ghosts, the portal, the centaur.
I have barely seen it, but I believe that it is so. Having had the privilege to travel certain corners of our world that I only once hoped I could see, I realized that the only times the real world paled in comparison to my imagined ones were the times that I failed to immerse myself in it.
Sometimes, my imagined world is far more interesting to me than the world I live in. Maybe that’s just because I’ve never really allowed the world I live in to captivate me.
So here I am, trying to live a dream. To travel as I write, so that my fascination over my imagined worlds won’t steal the wonders of the real world away from me.
for showing me
the tools I needed
to build my worlds.
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