30 August 2020
Dear Daily Daydream,
It’s the first time I write to you, my daily journal writing, strange but intimate. You probably aren’t familiar with your name. I always say it in Chinese, and actually, I don’t like this translation; Daily Imagination sounds fancier. But I still decided to write down the standard English name, though a quite stupid one. Hope you won’t blame me for this. I created you in the first place because I had so many “daydreams” in my head, quirky and secret thoughts, heaping up in my hippocampus, about to encroach on my forebrain. I needed a warehouse to let off, so here you are.
I have to apologize for one thing though. Even though you are over 300,000 words long now, it might be your first time to thoroughly know about your brothers and sisters. Yes, you have brothers and sisters! Is it too rash to tell you such big news in a single letter?
You are definitely not alone. You have many relatives, and it’s hard to introduce all of them to you at once. Some of them were archived, some were hand-written, some were electronic: travel journals born on the plane from Chicago to New York, a ten-thousand-word–long love letter for all my teammates in the robotics competition, social media posts about my story with volleyball, the letter I wrote but never sent to my dream school after they rejected my application…just impossible to end the list. To understand the family in general, though, you should at least know three of them. I haven‘t lived that long or had a very special life yet. Thus, your three brothers just come from my primary, middle, and high school life.
Your youngest brothers were a series of prose-like narrations of life. The most promising one was called “The Autumn Joy.” In 2010, when I was ten years old, writing was still mostly by hand and on paper, definitely unfamiliar to you. We bought those composition notebooks with squares of a certain size for Chinese characters, about 400 words per page. The title starts after four blank spaces, and each paragraph starts after two: this is the standard writing format according to school requirements. After learning a unit, the teacher gave us writing assignments: “The Autumn Joy” was my homework in the second grade. Describing the color of autumn, the scene of harvest, my essay was not unique, but it was vivid and real. A world grown-ups may not have paid attention to or had literally forgotten to appreciate. I would say fortunately, merely by chance, my essay was published in the evening paper of our city, page A37.
In that period of time, I decided to give everything in my home a chance to be famous: that pot of red lantern pepper on the balcony, blending and blurring green and yellow; the muskmelon seed I planted in the pot, winding, jumping up, finally breeding an infant-palm-sized melon…… A series of writings arose: namely, my chili, my persimmon, my mimosa, I wrote an autobiography for each. As the most loyal fan of my writings, my mother said that my talent for observation was very unique. Thinking about it now, I am grateful that I was tranquil and close to life at that time, rare characteristics for young kids. Standing on tiptoe, clinging to the edge of the windowsill, I scanned everything from the bottom: I could see the stubbornness and sparkle in the color red, the world hidden in the water drops on the window; everything was with hope, with light, including my words. I always believe that children’s eyes are the most beautiful camera in the world, simple, calm, without filters, careful and delicate. I have recorded all these with my writing, with colors.
Middle-school writing basically taught us to pursue established structures for higher scores, though I always challenged them, at least in my casual writings. The expansion of my territory in the field of writing occurred at this stage: I used ancient Chinese prose to write, which is like the English Shakespeare used, often with fewer characters and special syntax, something I found powerful and persuasive; I improvised short poems, always four sentences as a stanza; I used metaphor to express elusive thoughts imitating satirical fictions. The most vivid memory was the first weekly journal I wrote: the first week, when everyone didn’t know each other very well, my writing was chosen as the model essay, being presented to the class. I felt nervous to read in front of my friends, but I was also so proud that it was my writing that gave me the chance to show myself. This is your second brother, my middle-school writings: they gave me so much pride and confidence. Ever since, my expression became more and more natural, no coercion, no hesitation, no torture; I just enjoy it.
Here’s the boy with whom you may find the most commonality, as you are of a similar age: he was born in 2017, my first year of high school. Writing for so many years, I always assumed the reader and listener to be myself, or sometimes my curious mother would desperately ask to read my work. Until in the first year of high school, I found my most intimate reader: my Chinese teacher. He’s a really busy guy, a head teacher and at the same time an administrator. But every week, he read every single word in our weekly journal and wrote some comments. I was excited to open the notebook every week when he returned it: gently holding it with my two arms and walking towards a secret corner, leaning forward, like opening a letter from a long-time friend I hadn’t seen in ages, unfamiliar but intimate; page by page, I read to the end of my writing, the page where there might be a comment, curious and strained; my eyes sparkled, zoomed, anticipated; my heart nearly stopped; word by word, approval, obsession, appreciation, in his dignified and bold hand.
Once, I wrote an autobiography of my experience in the student union election. Hesitation, worries, unwillingness, uncertainties, hopes, determination, earnestness, belief, success, pouring into a seven-page work. My teacher wrote, “I have read every word you wrote, congratulations! I’m moved by your braveness and determination. Enjoy your life in this wonderful school!” Yes, just these few words gave me so much power to keep doing the journal for three years, because I knew it had a purpose.
Finally, my writing had more value, for my audience, my fans. I thought more carefully about the topics, the tactics, and the structures. I kept asking myself, “How can I be more persuasive? How can my audience find this more interesting? How can they understand my experience or my thoughts?” I turned more attention to social events, to commenting on recent affairs, to giving my own opinion, and forming my perspectives.
In the last week of school, l saw this line on the blackboard: Chinese homework—the last weekly journal. I nearly froze, bumped into my friend’s shoulder. The most glorious age in my heart was over; I used the most formal way I could think of to end it. I wrote, trembled, like signing the most important document in my life, “This is probably the last time for you to read my words; hope you have enjoyed everything, all my trivial but delicate thoughts. It’s a pity that you can no longer be my listener, but I promise to keep writing as a habit. To live, and to write.” In response, my teacher wrote, “You never know. Publish a book in the future! I will always be your reader.”
Daily Daydream, you need to know how lucky you are. Containing the combination of your brothers and sisters, you are nearly perfect in my heart. You will be Thoreau’s Walden in an unadorned style; you will be To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf with stream of consciousness, a journey in time and space; you will be Mark Twain’s The Art of Lying with dramatic transitions and endings. Every time, when I sit in front of you, typing and mediating, I feel the freedom of writing, of expressing. I hear your breathing, deep and steady, the feast of dust in the beam of light, the sound of the current running through the charging wire, the discordant running of the gears in the sandalwood clock. In this unfettered freedom, I have you, quietly listening to me: three o’clock in the morning waiting for the meteor shower, six o’clock with me in the bouncing drizzle, ten in the morning, three in the afternoon, twelve o’clock surrounded by the sonata composed by crickets…… You have heard the cry of every cell in my body, the laugh from every atom: we are one, indivisible one.
I have to say that I feel so lucky to meet you. Enriching you gives me comfort and tranquility I have never felt before. Thank you, and I hope it’s not too late to say, “Welcome to my life!”
See you tonight.