I’ve always been an intense person. When I was born, my mom said I was, “all business” and I guess she was right. I don’t really have anyone else to compare myself to, except other people, and I’ve discovered over the years that I’m not really like most people. I’m only sort of like my family, and even they think I’m a little odd sometimes.
I don’t remember having fun as a child. I don’t remember letting go or being carefree. I’m sure I let my guard down at some point in my life, but as far back as my consciousness can remember, I’ve been reserved and observant rather than goofy or childlike. I remember feeling paralyzed by sensitivity when I was younger. Worried about what people would think, I considered my moves like a chess player instead of diving in like a child caught up in the wondrous rapture of early freedom. It is a minor miracle that I joined the Children’s Theater in Palo Alto when I was just eight years old. I still marvel at the fact that I got over my fears and auditioned for any plays, much less had the success that I did. Who was that kid? It doesn’t even feel like me, and yet I know it was because her memories are embedded in my mind, along with that fabulous stale smell of black velvet backstage curtains that have given every show they’ve witnessed a standing ovation. Thank god for that theater and everyone in it. I’m sure it saved my life. Michael and Pat—YOU, I love.
I think my last youthful opportunity to live like a kid exited stage right after my mom got sick and was replaced with a double dose of responsibility. I needed to stay on track—for me, for my brother, for my dad. If I didn’t keep my shit together, I might have become a burden, or worse yet, I might have fallen apart and people would have seen me disassembled. I mean, if I didn’t go to college, who knows what might have happened? The track! Don’t step off the track! It’s funny how scary that was to me back then, and now it sounds amazing.
Enter: Today. This is my opportunity to (re)discover that feeling of absolute freedom I lost back in my childhood. It’s time for me to find the second star to the right and fly straight on till morning.
Do you know this poem?
Sick by Shel Silverstein
"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more--that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut-- my eyes are blue--
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke--
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is… Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"
I had this poem memorized at one point. Now I usually remember it up to “going blind in my right eye” and trail off afterwards. It still impresses people that I know it at all. It’s not hard to memorize things, yet no one seems to do it anymore. Unicorn status: Unlocked. Level 1: Achieved.
As 40 approaches, I’m no longer paralyzed by anything, especially not my emotions. If anything, I’m more afraid not to experience my life to the fullest. And that’s why I’ve just rearranged everything so that I can blow off reality for a while and have 60 Saturdays in a row. And by that I mean I just quit my job to travel for two months so I can find myself again. It’s like cliff diving backwards into Whogivesadamnville just to see if I can stick the landing. I’m throwing open the front door and running outside with only a flashlight and a shit-eating grin and I don’t plan to be back in time for dinner. How about we break a few things and leave it for someone else to clean up? I'll go first...