Many writers these days, from the most woo woo to the highly respectable, advocate the power of the imaginal. In short, if you can’t first imagine something in exacting detail, how do you think you can make it happen or encourage it into being?
Having clarity around a desirable future seems like a reasonable course to me. Yet, it’s something I have rarely, if at all, tried. I’m not short on imaginative skills. There are two novels awaiting their first revision in my virtual bottom drawer. In my usual struggle to get to sleep, my imaginative can go into overdrive (although not often helpfully as I lie awake). Rarely do I use my imagination in any kind of sustained campaign on my own behalf.
Having realised this, I’m sobered. I’ve spent the best part of twenty years of professional life working in planning. I’ve lost count of the number of vision statements I’ve drafted. Perhaps it’s because of those endless meetings where stakeholders (yes, that offensive word) debate word choice and order as acrimoniously as any democratic parliament.
Being a planner is like swimming in spit. If that seems harsh, please let me assure you that I have been physically spat on and threatened. My image has a basis in reality. While most people don’t stoop to the physical expression of their feelings, you know they want to spit on you by their disdainful tone, condescending manner, and dismissive body language. The notion of visioning, however theoretically noble, has thus been tainted for me.
I’ve been mixing up in my head my exposure to a highly politicised take on imaging the future with how it could be at a personal level. So I decided to try it. As my year off is coming to a close, I need to make some decisions. I need a vision for the second half of my life.
No pressure then…
My result is best described as chocolate coated pickled onions. It looks presentable, but it’s so wrong. So unpalateable. My years in planning make me default to a question of context. Every plan I have ever written has a section which outlines this plan sits in the hierarchy from global to local. Partly this is to do with defining what the plan can do, and partly it’s about expectation management.
In my case, it’s the question: what can I actually control? Everyone can dream big but it’s the translation process where we all tend to foul up or trip up. What can I do? Very little really. What a tiny cog I am, caught up in political tides of austerity and downsizing, and public discourses of hatred and insufficiency. Let alone my own internal discourses of negativity, such as the dream of the PhD ring crumbling into dust, which did not help elevate my mood…
All this process has done is make me feel smaller and more vulnerable that I felt before. At heart, maybe I’m not deserving of what’s on that dribbled out attempt at an imaginal future. I can write the words but they ring hollow, beset by doubts and fears. It’s so sad. I’m halfway through my life, and it appears I have neither vision nor belief.