"Curiouser and Curiouser" - My Journey Down the Rabbit Hole

January 15, 2021/ Garrett Smith

The void wasn’t so empty after all.

I’ve always been fond of my imagination. Ever since I was a wee young babe, I would play with stuffed animals, Polly Pockets, Bratz dolls, G.I Joe guys, and Legos. Each time I would explore the depths of my brain, going through each pink wrinkle, seeing what new storyline I could generate. I developed a protagonist, the antagonist, the climax and gave each character a complex personality for any individual to relate to (or really for my multiple personalities due to being a Gemini). Webkinz stuffed animals were my favorite and had nearly 50 different kinds.

I paired each of them up into family units, ranging from the single dad green dragon with a green budgie bird daughter to the blended family compound of six with a cow mom and tiger dad and four shared kids plus one adopted. I explored how the different family units interacted and differed in their parenting styles and sibling rivalries.

The stories I created had elements of action and adventure, romance and passion. I wanted to replicate real-life characters with the fantasy world of talking animals with magic powers of firing ice out of their hooves, and flying reindeer that didn’t need a sleigh, or a shapeshifting cow fighting the villains/ex-husband. With my raging imagination, I fell in love with the movie Alice In Wonderland. I was so desperate to have the wild intense rush of falling deep down into a rabbit hole and seeing the most random things floating by me. Well, lucky me, it happened.

When I fell, I fell hard. I was catapulted into the darkest depths of the rabbit hole. I was thrown into an unfamiliar world where my reality felt gray and was rotting with sighs. It was empty, and I was isolated. Nothing but the shadow of myself to talk to. It wasn’t like Alice’s experience of a wide grinning cat or a mad hatter that had gone bonkers. I was on a shortage of imagination. I lost my treasured skill to COVID. I was filled to the brim with paranoia as my friends and family, which I once relied on to make sense of the world, were nothing more than vessels for a disease. I was out of my comfort zone as my world used to spin. I was deep in the rabbit hole with no source of inspiration.

I was sent back home to the house and family I grew up with. While watching Alice in Wonderland as a child I found myself identifying with each character or pondering about who in my life they would represent. The Mad Hatter’s childlike behavior shaped his creativity and perception of the world. He sees the best in others with his naive nature. He was “absolutely bonkers” as he played around with his friends, and enjoyed every moment with a laugh. The Cheshire Cat’s edge was apparent in his contrasting dark colored coat, bright blue eyes and white grin. The Cheshire Cat danced along the line of good and evil. He portrayed this duality as he took part in mischievous games, but guided Alice throughout Wonderland. Alice was complex to me. She never quite understood what was going on, but she navigated Wonderland with grace. She accused her adventures of being a dream and neglected its strange familiarity. Alice lost herself as she matured and society told her what to be. She approached life with curiosity, however began to let people shape her perspective simply because they didn’t agree. She left her imagination behind. The creatures of Wonderland challenged her and reminded her of who she was. I connected with Alice. I rely on people to inspire me in a similar way that Alice was supported by her Wonderland friends. I enjoy engaging with others and learning about different personalities, actions, and their visual expression. I am inspired by fashion, how people identify with a style, and the cultural influences that cultivated it. It’s the accessories that they partner with, a large chain or a mint green Kånken. It leans into the hairstyles and variety of colors people sport on their heads. It’s the way I watched students walk to class. One might step heel to toe. Another person may add a bounce to each step. Or they may be in a hurry, running or so joyously skipping. People are my inspiration to create because I feel I understand the world better when I can learn about the people in it.

After months of feeling uncreative, I needed to recharge my imagination. I had to fall down the hole again. I craved to be introduced to a new perspective, something different than what I was feeling. I wanted to know if anyone saw color while in isolation. I was curious to know what intense emotions others were feeling

My curiosity led me into the unknown territory of the virtual world. A new way to engage in other’s perspectives. It was an opportunity to step outside of my head and dive deep into someone else’s. It felt familiar to step into someone else’s head, for I had already lived vicariously through the eyes of all my favorite fictional characters. I’ve experienced this before, when I fell down the rabbit hole with Alice long ago. It felt nostalgic. Mygrip tightened around this realization, and I reminded myself of the identity I placed in each character of Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t need actual people or real-life experience to take the reigns of creative inspiration. My ability to imagine lets stories come to life. It helps remind me that the impossible is only a short fall away. That:

1. Rabbits love to be on time.

2. Madness is best accompanied by a spot of tea.

3. Caterpillars enjoy the occasional hookah.

4. Small pastries and little bottles can make you grow or shrink.

5. Yelling “off with their head” is a solution to anything.■

This article was written as a part of Spark Writing’s first annual summer workshop series, Words With Friends: A Spark Writer’s Summer!

Graphic By: Juleanna Culilap
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