Last summer, I took my daughter and her friend to a college information fair. Afterwards, we sat at a coffee shop and perused the catalogs. One college in Vermont stood out for its “green” way of life on campus. We started making up things about the college that weren’t in the catalog, giggling about how they didn’t have freshman dorms, no way, they must have yurts.
This college went in my daughter’s “keep” pile because we are quite the granola-crunchy family. Poking fun at it is really poking fun at ourselves. But the yurt thing. That was funny. I started getting more ideas for an imaginary college that was extremely environmentalist, ridiculously spiritual, and with a touch of fantasy.
I decided to call it EverGreenSpirit College. It naturally formed the acronym EGS, which became the mascot and motto: A college to develop, grow, and hatch into the beatific being that you are! I opened a twitter account for it, posting as an employee sending out campus-wide messages like:
“New course! The Zen of Boxes 346. Prerequisites: Zen of Longhorn Beetles and Zen of Ben (or equivalent.)”
“As per student request all vending machines have been replaced with mini-greenhouse Foraging Nooks.”
“Attention Off-campus students: The Hover Bus is changing its schedule (again.) Also, the massage therapist on board is weekdays only.”
Why put effort into something that, I’ll admit, only a handful of my friends ever read? I needed something easy, positive, and distracting.
I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in September after over a year of random symptoms taking over my life. This fall was especially challenging physically, and I stopped doing many creative things, including writing or performing live music.
EverGreenSpirit College was the first thing I did on the computer every morning. It was fast, silly, and had no plot or plan, just world building. It kept my creative energy churning without any expectations or exhaustion. Twitter was perfect to keep me succinct. The campus came to life, yurt by bio-dome, each day.
This is not the first time I’ve used imaginary worlds to keep me going. Sometimes it’s fandom that keeps me happy. But I’ve created my own universe before. Many years ago, I was homeschooling two young children, teaching, finishing my college degree, and feeling lots of stress. In response, I created an alternate surrealist college called Freaky University, and kept a livejournal series called Journal Of An FU Freshman. It was really, really weird. But composing those entries took my mind on a vacation and made me giggle. I eventually gathered it into a little book, giving it to some friends and family for Christmas one year.
EverGreenSpirit may have run its course. All setting and no plot can only go so far. That’s ok. It served its purpose: every day it jump-started my imagination. Plus, I always amused my kids over breakfast:
ME: So, Maxine the Shepherdess is telling people to get off the EGS main quad so her sheep can graze today.
KIDS: (amused expressions)
Everyone deals with stress differently.
Do you escape into movies? Books? Or worlds of your own making?