When I was ten, there was nothing in the world I wanted more than a way to play Goldeneye for the powerhouse Nintendo 64. And not just play, play whenever the mood struck me. Honestly, that’s still probably my highest aspiration.
You know how there are some things in life you want so badly you’d be willing to chew your own fingers off if meant acquiring that thing? Me either, but I did really want to play that game. I mean the possibility to become James Bond–who I ‘d never heard of-=was just too alluring. Of course the social capital I’d gain from crushing my friends in 64-bit, digital combat was undeniably appealing as well. I’d be cashing in on that for years to come.
But the way I saw it, there were two looming obstacles that needed to be overcome. Firstly, back then Nintendos still cost money. When I was nine, I’d gotten laid off at the cowboy space station due to budget cuts, and my personal finances were in drastic disarray. Secondly, my parents wouldn’t allow me to have a video game system in the house. It’s not that my parents didn’t love me–although that probably didn’t help–it was just that they wanted me to learn the value of “imagination” and “being outdoors” and “leaving them the hell alone so they can watch Friends in some peace and quiet for once.” But I, being ten years old and crafty, had already decided I could do without imagination. I was going to learn a different virtue. Determination. And also how to nail a headshot with a rocket launcher.
I knew as I began my quest that it’d be more challenging than any I’d faced in my life to that point. Greater than that time I lost a sock in the mud by the lake. Greater than the time I pooped my pants at a Hollywood Video store. Greater than when I choked out that Russian gang leader while whispering “ya lider pryamo seychas” in the hole where his ear used to be.
I knew that with my dollar-a-week allowance, it was unlikely that Pierce Brosnan would still be alive by the time I’d accumulated enough money to purchase him digitally. So I grabbed all of the useless junk in my house–Pokemon cards, dolls I “stole” from my sisters (they’d get a percentage, but I mean I was doing all the work), that Russian guy’s nose jewelry–and hit the streets. And by “the streets,” I really mean the driveways of my neighborhood.
I literally went door to door, begging people to buy my crap. Also, the toys and stuff I mentioned earlier. Those tended to sell better. After a few days of this, I tricked enough kids, and wore down enough parents, to accumulate just enough money to buy the system, the game, and some extra controllers (in case I ever made any friends).
Phase one complete. But how was I to buy the game? I’d failed my first driving test when I crashed the family Fisher Price car into the dog house, and I apparently wouldn’t be allowed to retake it until I was sixteen. I needed a chauffeur. And though at this point I was positively flush with cash, I didn’t have quite enough to hail a cab. I hadn’t won over the hearts and minds of my parents yet, so I needed to once again devise a plan.
I found out from one of my friends that his mom was going to take them all to the mall so they could run around and have fun, and she could drink in peace. I convinced my parents to let me ride along, so I could sneak over to the local Babbage’s (yes, that’s a real store). Once inside, I’d make it rain all over the cashier and collect my trophy.
The only problem with this plan was where to store my new treasure. My parents wouldn’t allow it at our house, and the lease on my apartment had just ended. I decided to let my friend have the system and game at his house, and I would just run up the street whenever I needed my fix. That way, I’d just be “visiting a friend’s house” and playing their games. Genius.
After a few weeks of this, I decided to enact phase three of my plan. Confessing my schemes to my parents, in the hopes that they’ll let me keep the Nintendo at my house. With very little provocation, they agreed. They were never all that invested in me not having the thing in the first place.
Here’s the thing. In my desperate attempt to avoid having to use my imagination, I ended up imagining and implementing more than I could ever have without a goal. If I’d been thrown outside and handed a stick, I’d just stab the same sad dragon to death over and over. That’s not to say that sort of imagination isn’t valuable, it’s just that I suck at just wishing things into existence.
Having a goal breeds imagination. Imagination is necessary to achieve even real life goals, no matter how stupid. Progress is made when we’re shown an impossibly small target, and handed a wildly inaccurate NERF gun. You’re only getting a hit if you imagine a new way to play.
So make a goal. Let your imagination run wild. Then shoot it in the face.
You’ll be a regular James Bond before you know it. And if James Bond isn’t pure imagination, I don’t know what is.