The year was 1996. I boosted myself on top of my grandmother’s wooden chair, looking down at the kitchen sink filled with soapy water as it glimmered in the summer sunshine. I skimmed the mountains of bubbles with my little hand, tingling from each pop, as my small family of plastic toys from the ’70s plunged fearlessly into the water. Every so often, I’d glance through the window at my grandmother, Nonny, as she snipped vegetables from her garden—cherry tomatoes and peppers she’d enjoy later that day (I, on the other hand, would ravenously devour pieces of toast with homemade strawberry jam). As I watched her through the kitchen window, I’d daydream of growing older, experiencing true independence, and someday planting my own garden, as well.
With spring in full swing and warm weather fast-approaching, I can’t help but think about those summer days spent with my grandma. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed, and even harder to believe she’s been gone for over 11 years. A lot has changed since then; for one, I’m now tall enough to stand over a kitchen sink without the help of a wooden chair (although, my 5’5” stature still struggles to reach for flour on the top shelf of my kitchen cupboard). But, in many ways, I’m still the same.
It’s no surprise Harness has been receiving so many beautiful submissions about growth and adulthood in the past couple of weeks. After all, spring is the season for new life and renewed energy—hair grows faster, flowers bloom with confidence, and what-ifs burst through blizzards with a sense of urgency and purpose. In fact, I always find spring to be a rather busy time filled with rapid movement and fierce motivation. Everywhere I turn, I see neighbors jogging, parents strolling babies, people walking pets (or is it the other way around?).
A futurist manifesto. An everyday progress report. A time to be better at this and better at that—before winter consumes us with its bitter cold and hearty meals, yet again.
I feel this sense of urgency thrust upon me every year. I feel the urge to shed my former self, get my hands dirty and embrace the “new” me—the one who’ll do better this year, say goodbye to bad habits before next year, and only smoke one cigarette this summer (promise!).
But what about the old me? What happened to her? And why am I so eager to give her the heave-ho?
The truth? All of this self-improvement leaves little time for me to embrace my truth. In other words, when was the last time I did something fun, just for fun? When I was a little girl, I didn’t ride my bike around the neighborhood because I wanted to lose weight. I rode it because it was fun. When I sat in my bedroom writing movie scripts at age 12, I wasn’t doing it for my big break. I wrote them because it was fun. I didn’t toss my toy-family into a kitchen sink filled with soapy water because I just knew one day I’d write an article about it. I did it because it was fun. But now my days are filled with too many ellipses:
Kayaking? That could be fun…and I could lose some weight.
Writing a sitcom script for a producer? That could be fun…and I could make it big.
Watch my favorite movie just for fun? No, thanks…I don’t have the time right now.
This year, as I move through spring and summer, my challenge is to become more aware of my past self in the midst of planning my future. The old me existed for a reason, and still lies somewhere deep within. I’m ready to ask her questions, to listen when she’s trying to tell me something—to let her have fun, just for fun.
Yesterday, my roommates and I spent the day spring-cleaning our home. As the boys busied themselves with vacuuming and dusting, I gathered all of our greasy kitchen utensils, slathered them in dish soap and gently placed them in our kitchen sink. As I turned the faucet to hot, I watched as bubbles began to form, skimming each peak with the palms of my hand, feeling each bubble as it tingled with each pop on my skin. I closed my eyes and smiled.
What has your past self taught you? How will you embrace her today?