I often go back to this one, vivid memory of fourth grade. The memory exists in my body, not my mind. The memory itself makes me smile, but it’s more than that. I return to it as an example of untainted, pure, simple joy. The pieces of it, the feeling of it bring me back to my core, my Self, my soul – all that makes me me.
I LOVED being at school, and at lunchtime, my friends and I would create and perform plays for each other. (Yes, we were super cool…as if that isn’t obvious.) Sometimes, there’d be a flirtatious opportunity with a crush, or we’d play a heated game of kickball. My whole body was alive with adrenaline and excitement and good old-fashioned FUN. I sought out the things I instinctively loved and didn’t question why or how they could be applied to anything more than the enjoyment I felt in that moment.
After lunch, we’d retreat to the classroom, and our teacher would read aloud to us. Books and reading were always my best friends, but this was something special. As we entered the classroom, the air conditioner kicked on as I laid my red, sweaty face on my hands, closed my eyes, and listened to the tales of R.L. Stine (Goosebumps, anyone?). I could hear my heartbeat in my ears, still out of breath, my skin tightening as the sweat dried.
I remember feeling alive – the excitement of lunchtime activities pulsing through my body as I slowed down my breath and listened. I remember feeling pure joy. Without question. There were no thoughts attached to the feeling. I simply WAS. I simply FELT. I felt beautiful and cool with my messed up ponytail, sweaty face, dirty feet. I felt comforted and relaxed listening to the teacher read, lost in my own little world. I had no regard for others’ opinions; I simply loved what I loved. I didn’t ask myself if they were the “cool” things to like, I didn’t look in the mirror before walking into the classroom, I didn’t question what was next or what I was going to do with any of the feelings. I just WAS. Happy. Joyful. Peaceful. The stuff of kids, right?
As I relive this memory, some sadness inches into my heart. I often realize how far I get sometimes from the ability to experience untainted joy. My joy comes with a lot of questions these days. How are you going to support the lifestyle you love? Isn’t there something else you should be doing right now?
Getting back to the question-less joy is difficult as an adult sometimes. We have more intellectual information than we probably need, and we often have competing priorities. Sure, we have responsibilities we didn’t have when we were kids, but there’s still time for play, exploration, and fun for the sake of fun. It’s that playtime that made me who I was back then, and it was definitely the catalyst for a lot of things I am and do as an adult. Who we are and what we do matters. I have an inkling those same things I sought out and experienced in fourth grade would not only bring me back to that purity now but would also lead me where I need to be. I just have to put the innocence back in it and take away those fear-based questions. I have to bring back the open-ness.
We have to seek out joy for no reason other than to experience it. No other reason than that adrenaline glow. No other reason than feeling beautiful, happy, ALIVE. Isn’t that the point of it all anyway?