Childish Games

February 3, 2011
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I take delight in putting objects on my head: hats, kazoos, cats, anything will do. I also enjoy making weird sounds, especially in awkward silences. Once, while bored waiting in the doctor’s office, I figured out how to make angry Donald Duck sounds. This incident, of course, happened when I was about seven years old. I have since refrained from imitating cartoon characters; I am much too old for that. Now, I just create sound effects in the car while I drive and pretend I am in a blockbuster movie. While it has been nearly ten years since I have had an imaginary friend or visited the underwater palace in my pool, I still take delight in what most adults call “child's play.” I believe in keeping my childish ways alive and there are two reasons why I live by this belief.
Reason One: If I am the silliest person in the room, no one else can be embarrassed.
I firmly believe one of the most difficult tasks in the world is to get people to talk. When I say “talk,” I am not referring to conversations about the weather. Talking means letting people communicate about what matters to them.
Once, when I was sixteen volunteering at an elementary school nature club, I was working with another volunteer. She was shy and would not talk. So, I whispered to her, “Has the mission started, yet?”
“What mission?” she asked curiously.
“Don’t tell me you have forgotten about the mission already, Ferocious Tiger! We are to take these kids to the pond, but there are many dangers on the way,” I paused and gazed into the distance, “ Are you ready to become the Frisky Panda’s partner to get these kids there safely?”
She stared at me for a second. Then, the “Ferocious Tiger” laughed and exclaimed, “Yes!”
For the rest of the day during our community service, we pretended to execute the “mission” to deliver the kids safely to the pond. Hettie, the Ferocious Tiger, opened up more during our “mission” and conveyed her passion for nature and photography. We then spent the remainder of the day discussing our mutual interests, and shared photography techniques with each other.
I learned so much from this encounter and it saddens me that it almost did not happen because Hettie was insecure and afraid to be herself. I did not learn everything about Hettie that day, but I took the first steps. By acting silly, we both became five-year-old children again, open and eager to interact without judgment or fear.
Reason Two: it is not fun living as a robot.
Once, I became focused on achieving in school, and almost let my childish ways die because of my studies. It was the beginning of my first year of high school. I remember lying exhausted in my bed reflecting over my first full week as a freshman. I am in high school now. High School. I need to grow up and be more responsible. Then, I began to live like a robot, consumed with three key activities: eating, sleeping and studying.
From this point on, it seemed I had become the physical manifestation of the popular bumper sticker “Eat, Sleep, Dance (or some interesting activity),” only the interesting activity was studying. Eat, Sleep, Study. Eat, Sleep, Study. Eat, Sleep, Study. It was not until one month after school started and dance classes began for the year, that I realized I was missing a part of myself. I enrolled in a new dance class called Progressions and Choreography; I was expecting a simple class where we practice different types of dances. I was false.
My friends and I were waiting for dance class to start when the teacher, a big tall black man, walked into the studio carrying a bag and shouted, “I’m mad because y’all are skinny and I’m fat. Let’s go!” This was just the beginning of an interesting class. At the end of the class we finished with a dance exercise called “walk it out.” In this exercise students walk across the floor to music and improvise movements. The music began, and I watched everyone else cross the floor performing leaps or some sort of turning combination. Then, it was my turn. The music changed tempo, and I moved without even thinking. Thus, my disco dance moves were born that night, and I laughed at how ridiculous I appeared in the mirror. I realized that I had not laughed in weeks since starting high school. It felt wonderful to be reminded of my “pre-high school” self.
While disco dancing in class, I realized doing well in school does not mean exclusively spending every waking moment with my textbooks. It is possible to perform well in school and have fun. I could still draw unicorns with chalk on my driveway as if I was six years old, as long as I completed my geometry assignment later that night.
From the Frisky Panda mission to disco dancing, keeping up my childish ways makes life interesting and fun. I always have (and probably always will) put too much pressure on myself to attain a high level of achievement and project a certain image. Acting a little childish and having fun reminds me that there is more to life than being perfect. Also, if I did not play around a little bit, I really would not be me.

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