Two weeks ago, I saw one of the most majestic things I have ever seen in my young life. And this ephemeral image was not something that many would call majestic. It was only a moment captured from my dirty car window and to anybody else it would have been a blurred picture left behind in a cloud of gravel dust and fallen leaves. It was a simple thing, really. A simple scene played out under the hot Texas sun that I, by pure chance, happened to turn right at just the right time to see it in all its glory.
There were three kids, around the age of 8, laughing and running down a sidewalk. One little boy had black gym shorts and a red shirt that was a little too big for him. He carried a medium-sized stick in his hands. Behind him, a flash of bright pink pursued. It was a little girl with a playful look in her eye and a huge I’ve-got-him-now grin, chasing after him. She swung a large stick of her own high above her head. A third boy, with a white shirt that was a little too big for him too, popped out of a yard. He raised his stick above his head and charged down the sidewalk after them, battle cry in the air.
And just like that…we passed each other and my Rockwell moment was over. I turned the street corner and was back in my when-is-that-research-paper-on-Faulkner-due world. At the time, I didn’t know why but this image completely echoed a truth in my soul–a truth so pure and stout that I had to get out of bed and break out the old laptop to write this down at 2:09 in the morning. (funny how inspiration strikes at such ungodly hours, but, hey, when the bug bites it’s best to scratch the hell out of it until you roll your eyes back in utter pleasure) Betwixt the realms of slumber spirituality and carnal responsibilities, I realized why those running, laughing kids impacted me so heavily: they were playing. Of all the amazing, groovy, wondrous, and enchanting things that a person could do to spark inspiration, they were doing nothing more than simply playing.
Big deal, Victoria. So they were playing. What does this have to do with anything?
Calmate, I’ll explain myself. I promise in the end it will all make sense. Or, at least, I hope. Okay?
Sigh, I guess. Proceed.
Glad to see you so enthused.
I have this very dear friend who says she is 10-years-old at heart. And she is. Anybody that truly gets to know her can see this beautiful whimsical light radiating off her. I would always shake my head and agree and smile when she’d tell me this, but the truth is I coveted her. You see, when I first met her (about a year-and-a-half ago) I didn’t understand what she meant by being ‘ten at heart’ because I didn’t feel that way at all. I didn’t even feel my age, 23. I had forgotten how to feel any age. All I felt was worry, fear, and doubt. Worry over where my life was heading: What the hell am I gonna do when I graduate? What if I end up working in a cubicle for the rest of my life? Fear of letting people down: I can’t mess up. I can’t mess up. I must be perfect. I can’t mess up. Doubt about my writing: I think I’m an okay writer, but will anybody ever read me? What if they don’t like me? I CAN’T HANDLE REJECTION!
You get the picture? I was a bit distraught. Up until a few months ago (november, to be exact) when I decided that all these melancholy feelings swirling inside the depth of my soul and reverberating off the walls of my mind could go to hell. I just wanted to be happy, so I took the leap of faith and finished my first novella. I am now going through the process of publishing it.
Really? A novella?
Yes, a novella. Though short, I am very proud of it. It deserves to live and breathe in the world of published literature. And, yeah, I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I graduate. And, yeah, I’m still afraid of messing up and letting people down, but I now know I am not perfection bottled up and wrapped in a pretty pink bow; I am a young adult, a neophyte punk, learning and weaving my way through the dark Amazonia jungle of life and paddling my way through the treacherous Bering Sea of writing and publishing. And, yeah, I still have doubts about my writing style and my stories, but I’m not gonna go sulk in some corner and cry about it; I sit and write and write and write and read and read and read and improve and improve and improve. And I am happy when I do this.
That’s great and all, but how does this tie into the kids at the beginning?
Will you calm down? I’m getting there.
When I saw those kids running down the sidewalk in absolute bliss I realized I was like them. I had found my play. And by “play” I don’t mean I chase little kids down the street, laughing. No, I mean I have found the one thing in my life that makes me happy, that one moment where I can lose myself in and leave reality behind. I finally understand what my friend meant by ‘ten at heart’. Writing is my play, and I can feel the ten-year-old in me jumping in the glittering sprinkles of my imagination. I can feel her big stupid grin as she runs down the corridors of my mind with a giant crowbar, breaking into all the locked doors filled with stories that I, as an adult, have forgotten how to open.
I feel that when we grow up, we forget how to play. We grow up and accept the mentality of I-don’t-have-time-to-play-because-I-am-an-adult. We become part of the herd that declares dreams as impossibilities and cubicles as the only possibility. We grow up and forget that we love to swim, paint, write, jog, cook, sing or whatever it is that gives us joy. We go to work or school and condemn ourselves to leading boring socially acceptable lives. (unless you are blessed enough to have your play be your work or your choice of study then high-five, man, you totally made it) But there is no rule that states we must grow up and forget. Or perhaps that is the price we pay in order to step into the threshold of adulthood: forgetting our play and losing the bravest part of ourselves, that ten-year-old in us. Like Wendy, we have forgotten how to fly.
As kids, I guess, it’s easier to let go and live so freely in that one precious moment that makes them happy. They aren’t worried about what happens five minutes from now or tomorrow or five years down the road. All they know is that they are having the very best moment of their lives right now. And for all they know that moment is a lifetime, a treasured blink in the eye of eternity. As we become older, we forget we have this ability. Some of us even lost this ability. But, damn it, we grown-ups were kids once too, and we possess the privilege of being able to go back and experience that beloved blink in the eye of eternity that is so sweet and pure we feel infinite like the ever-expanding universe. But it is up to us to dig deep and take that leap of faith and trust that our ten-year-old-selves will catch us and say, “What took you so long?”
That’s all fine and dandy, Victoria, but we are adults. We have responsibilities.
Yeah, we do. We all have bills to pay, deadlines to meet, and promotions to keep in mind. I’m not saying to hell with all this, let’s just have fun and forget I have to pay the rent tomorrow. I’m simply saying we must not forget the responsibility we have to ourselves: we must find our play and live in that moment of pure fucking elation even if it is only for a fifteen-minute run or twenty minutes of writing or an afternoon of painting fruit. We must find our play and experience infinity. Because, yeah, tomorrow you do have to pay the rent and do God knows what else, but right now you are happy. Just like those kids running around with those big silly grins. You are happy.
I don’t know if this post made much sense, but I just had to sit down and write out the sentiments that that fleeting moment gave to me. I had to acknowledge my play. My own moment of pure I-am-having-a-fucking-stupendous-time-right-now-and-I-can-feel-myself-living-forever.
I hope you find your play. And I hope you find your moment. Neophyte Punk, over and out.