Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Living the dream

In second grade, we got to make a list of all the things we wished we could do every day -- this meant foods we'd eat, places we'd go, rooms we'd have in our house. I think my list tilted heavily towards horses, ice cream sandwiches, and bouncy castles. I was thinking back recently on the ideal life I imagined for myself a seven year old and realized, suddenly, why children should not be able to make major life decisions or have credit cards. If I were permitted to live my dreams at age seven, which included, among other things, eating Eskimo Pies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and installing a water slide in my parents' house, I would be morbidly obese, toothless, jobless, and probably broke. But dammit, I'd be happy.

As you grow up, you reevaluate what an ideal life entails, of course. I have gradually moved away from the life dreams entailing a diet consisting entirely of Klondike products -- although I haven't let go completely of that one -- towards goals that involve the type of work I want to do, the city I want to live in, the company I want to keep. Big stuff. Adult stuff.

On the other hand, I think that seven-year-old yearning to have my own horse and water slide (and perhaps horse-accessible water slide?) still figures in there somehow. What lies at the core of those seven-year old desires is not the cost or the elaborateness of the stuff, but the fact that going down a slide is fun. Riding a horse is really fun. Eating ice cream till your teeth rot out is perhaps the most fun.

The thing is, the stuff -- that is, the specific items or activities -- that makes you happy when you're seven may change, but that core hankering for finding happiness in simple fun doesn't. When I was seven, I enjoyed spinning around in my mom's office chair till I was so dizzy I fell over. I also liked climbing on my friend's garage roof and jumping off into the bushes. Also fun: riding my bike "no hands" down hills, towards traffic. You know, the simple things. To be fair, I wasn't a completely reckless child. I also enjoyed latch-hooking. Anyway, the point of all this is that 24-year-old Stephanie may not be able to spend hours spinning in a chair without some serious vomit issues arising, but the basic impulse to do goofy things remains.

Being goofy probably gets harder as you get older and consequently have a lot of pressure riding on the choices you make. If you're seven and you knock your teeth out going down your personal water slide, so what? You didn't need those teeth anyway. If you're 24 and you show up to work toothless because you fell down the stairs trying to rig a slip'n'slide from your bedroom to the backyard, you're in trouble. And probably fired.

Beyond that, adults are expected to have more high-minded leisure activities than kids do. That's fair. As an adult, I can appreciate -- and truly enjoy -- things that would have bored me into stupification as a child. However, if you don't have a few fun activities ("fun-tivities") as an adult -- by that, I mean things that you do because they are just FUN, not because they enrich your mind or make you look cool to the dude in the beret you met at that gallery opening -- something is missing. I don't mean this to be an "when I am an old bat, I shall wear red" type post -- may God strike me dead if I ever veer into that territory -- I just don't want us to forget about fun. Remember, fun comes in many forms -- no one's here to judge. Just don't let it pass you by. Go get on that slip'n'slide and live it up!

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