I was standing in front of a ruined building. The roof was gone, and the joists were caving in. The windows were just dark holes in the walls. Inside, rubble and litter piled up in front of crumbling architectural details. It was a shocking picture of criminal neglect and decay.
It was also – unmistakably – the shell of a certain world famous chateau in France.
When I was a little girl, there was a huge framed canvas of Chenonceau in my grandparents’ spare bedroom. I used to sleep right under it. Grandad would tease me that he’d take me there one day, and I’d laugh. I knew that the delicate fairytale confection in that picture on the wall wasn’t a real place. It was just something from a storybook.
No, I knew castles. I loved castles. They were my favourite thing in the world. I’d seen castles all over England and Wales. I knew that castles were hulking defensive structures with six-foot-thick walls. They had drawbridges and battlements and arrowslits through which to shoot missiles at invaders. This? This was more like a Disney movie made of spun sugar: a beautiful, delicate, white fantasy with intricate window surrounds, spindly turrets, and pretty gardens. This confection wouldn’t keep you safe from a single angry barbarian, let alone hordes of them. No, this was just an imaginary folly for a fictional princess in a story.
At least I thought so, until Grandma and Grandad took me to France.
I was nine years old, and it was the most magical day of my life, walking on air down an avenue of trees toward those familiar white turrets… and it was *real*, right there in front of me. Chenonceau was real, which meant that magic was real… just like Narnia, or The Neverending Story.
But this wasn’t what Chenonceau looked like in my dream the other night. In my dream, it looked more like this.
It was unmistakeable, but I could hardly bear to look around me at the decay and the neglect of this irreplaceable masterpiece.
The only person left at Chenonceau in my dream was the custodian, a tired, defeated old lady with a big bunch of keys and not much else to show for her years of watchful care. She just couldn’t save it on her own. “Mon coeur est absoluement cassé,” I told her. “My heart is completely broken.”
The stunning view from the chateau was gone. High, overgrown hedges eclipsed everything except the ugly apartment blocks that had been built in the grounds. Outside, people were standing around, if they bothered to stop and look up at all as they passed along the busy road that passed right by the ruin. They all watched as the wrecking ball began to demolish the topmost floors. “What else can you do?” they shrugged. “It’s just not practical, is it? There’s no realistic use for it in this day and age. I mean, who’s going to pour millions into that? It’s just a money pit!”
I couldn’t bear to look, and that was how I woke up – with my heart pounding and my inner nine-year-old horrified and defiant. The symbolism was clear. It was like a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future – if you don’t believe in your crazy, magical dream, it will crumble away.
Your vision may not seem very practical right now, either. It may seem about as practical as a delicate white chateau, with too many rooms and basic maintenance bills you don’t want to think about.
But it is all the more important and irreplaceable for its unique, unlikely delicacy. The magic is real, right here, right now, on Earth, if you let it in. Don’t lose the magic. Don’t grow up. Trust in your imagination. Believe in your creative vision. Trust in your quirky dream.
In real life Chenonceau is thriving, she’s loved, and she’s evidently well funded by those who believe in her. Not bad for a building that’s “just not practical”.
Your crazy, impractical, beautiful creative vision is just as rare and important. Look after it – especially if it seems unlikely, impractical, or silly. It needs you to believe in it if it’s going to live, and breathe, and inspire generations ahead of you who will learn to believe in magic… because you did.
Your vision is valid, and it’s yours for a reason. Believe in it. Act on it. Today.