I remember an assignment in a graduate English class for which I purposely did not follow the directions. The teacher had called upon us to analyze a portion of Alice in Wonderland in light of Sigmund Freud’s thinking. It was to be a short paper–just a page or two–the kind of assignment that was due once a week in that class on literary theory.
Most of my graduate classes provided intriguing challenges that engaged my mind and sparked new ideas. More often than not, this work resulted in theory-driven writing assignments, presumably intelligently argued, but inevitably dry.
I wanted to exercise some creativity.
So I wrote a diary entry in Alice’s voice. Alice expressed her frustration at being too big to play in the pretty garden but then too small to reach the key to unlock the door to get to the garden. When the cake she ate made her too large, she expressed her frustration that every calorie she consumed attached itself to the wrong place on her body while her sister could freely eat all she cared to without consequence on the scale. She wondered at the white rabbit whose presence reminded her that she had to grow up.
I enjoyed completing the assignment. Throughout the writing process, I repeatedly reminded myself that I was taking a risk, but I was having too much fun to stop.
I determined not to regret my creativity even if it cost me points.
When the time came to get our graded papers back, the instructor mentioned mine. “I was going to make you do it over, but then I read it again and realized everything you needed was there.”
Life can feel like we’re tumbling down a rabbit hole. We don’t know where we’ll land or how long until we hit the bottom. And we’re often wondering why it’s hard to go back to the small places and, no matter our age, when we’ll grow enough to reach the keys to doors we want to open.
Alice’s great puzzle to solve was to figure out “who in the world” she was.
It is the great challenge for all of us.
Jump down the rabbit hole every so often. Engage in the wonder, Take the risk.