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childhood


Dear 16½ year-old me,
What does one begin to say to themselves? I suppose, only the most simple and honest things. I write this at the age of 24, and you’ll be glad to know that you’re happy and healthy. Your family is as supportive and loving as they always were (even when your deepest, darkest, and most rebellious stories are revealed at your 21st) and your friends are all incredible people.
I’d say it’s momentous that I write to you at such an age, when you feel so invincible. It gets tough. But no matter how tough it gets, it’s never anything you cannot handle, and it’s certainly always worth it.
When you turn 17, you will have your heart broken for the first time by the boy you’re seeing. It won’t hurt for long, but it will hurt enough that for your whole matric year, you will swear off boys, and love. This is good for you – you learn more about who you are, and what you want. Although, it does ensure you also miss out on a boy who will on-again-off-again with you, right up until today. Even as I write this, I cannot fully assure you that we’re over him, but I can assure you that his love is vital to us. So embrace it.
When you turn 18, you will be raped. Not by a stranger, but an acquaintance. You will block the truth of the matter out for almost four years, until desperation and madness drive you to finally tell your parents. You will be diagnosed with depression immediately after this, and take anti-depressants for 6 months, until you decide that you just don’t want to anymore. On that day, I am so proud of you. You decide your happiness is in your own hands, and you begin a journey to discover it – without the aid of medication of any kind. I am still on this journey, but let me tell you, 2012 is turning out to be a phenomenal year, and a well-deserved reward for your bravery in 2011.
When you are 19, Hermy – our beloved sausage dog puppy – will pass away. It will hurt more than you could ever have imagined. You’ll wander the hallway of our parents’ home, and miss the pitter-patter of his little paws behind you. Our “shadow”, as mum always called him, will be gone – and for a long time you will not be able to speak or think of him, without an ache in your heart and a tear in your eye.
Sandy, our twin brother’s dog, will help to heal you, though. He will miss his brother, too, and the two of you will be able to console one another, giving you both another two years of licks and love. When he eventually passes, too, you will need to be strong. It will hurt. You will not get another dog for many, many years after. And you will feel alone.
However, you will channel this pain into something very, very good. After much discussion with your parents – and one or two heated arguments – you will be allowed to foster abandoned puppies through Kitty and Puppy Haven. You will fall in love with the little lumps of love, who come into your life, and leave it again – and you will cry every time you take them back to the Haven to hopefully be adopted. But you will remember that you have made a difference, even if it’s to only one animal – and it’s this memory that will cause you to continue this somewhat self-destructive community service.
 You may not be able to understand it now, but at 24 you have so much yet still to do. You always thought you’d have met the man you were to marry by now, but I’m rather thankful you were wrong on that one. I refuse to settle for anything less than magic, and I assure you that we’ll find it. One day.
 We have yet to travel the world, and our savings for the Round the World ticket is in dire straits. But we’re driven and passionate, and you can trust that our ten-year plan to climb Mount Everest will happen.
I could not wish to change anything about what has happened in the years between us. I want you to be the person that you are, the happy and fun-loving teenager I have so many photographs and memories of… You have hard times ahead of you, so cherish the years before they begin.
And one more thing… At no point are you ever alone with you pain and hardship, and it’s important you remember that.
I think it’s important I remember that, too.
At age 24, I want you to know that we intend to live forever. And so far, so good.
All my love,
24 year-old you

They say growing old is inevitable, but growing up is optional. And I believe I’m walking, talking proof of this. I may be giving you all a whole lot of somewhat embarrassing evidence to use against me, but I’m not ashamed. And to prove it, just read on and find out what sorts of things I’m not ashamed to admit that I still do.

1. I sleep with a teddy bear, sometimes. Mostly when broken hearted. It helps.
2. I can get scared of the dark, making the space beneath my blankets the safest place to be.
3. I still sing through the alphabet to figure out what goes where.
4. I die laughing at the farting noise the custard box makes when it reaches it’s end.
5. Bubbles are fascinating.
6. I cry when I get overly tired.
7. I can’t resist not stepping on a crack (it’s just not worth the risk!)
8. Skipping is still the best form of manual mobility.
9. Fairy tales are still magical.
10. Cloud busting still ranks in the Top 10 list of ways to waste an afternoon.
11. I can sing the theme tunes to Gummi Bears, Dexter’s Lab and Captain Planet; and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still rock! 🙂
12. Easter egg hunts remain the only way by which to find chocolates.
13. I will not deal with a spider or Parktown Prawn by myself. Actually, I won’t deal with either of them at all. Unless running in the opposite direction squealing can be defined as dealing with them.
14. I don’t quite know what all the knobs on the washing machine mean, but usually if I fiddle long enough it ends up making a noise and producing wet clothes (that may or may not be discoloured and 3 sizes too small).
15. I don’t like olives or egg plants and I’m pretty sure I never will.
16. I’d rather play outside on a sunny day than work or study.
17. I still forget to floss. Every single day.
18. I never think my actions through, and have thus been referred to as ‘foolishly brave’ (read: impulsively stupid).
19. The Zoo & the Aquarium still fascinate me and jumping castles may still be the best fun you can have with your clothes on!
20. I still frequently hear ‘I told you so,’ in a disapproving tone of voice.
21. I still believe I’m invincible (when it comes to physical activity, mostly: “sure, let’s climb that tree/mountain/100-year old rusty lighthouse.”)
22. I can’t conceive of ever being alive without my parents being alive, too.
23. A fight with a parent/sibling/friend still reduces me to tears.
24. Chocolate Steri Stumpie is STILL the best invention ever (and its arrival in a 1L box just gives new meaning to my existence).
25. Any technological device (a cell phone, laptop, or iPad) will be used primarily for games, and for work and communication second.
26. Jumping on a trampoline still lets me believe that I can fly.
27. I still want to be an explorer.
28. Roald Dahl still blows my mind.
29. Death is still the scariest and most painful loss imaginable.
30. I’ll still always try to run before I can walk, speak before I’ve thought, and surf before I can swim.
31. Jumping into the deep end will always be the only way by which to get into a pool.

The End.

Adulthood is tricky. I’ve been at it for a few years, but I’m not quite sure I’ve got the hang of it. Whenever I start to believe I know exactly what I’m doing, something happens and I’m left trembling in my childlike size 3 boots. The matter is compounded by the fact that the things of my childhood have become even more wonderful since reaching my 20’s. The other night in a bar with friends, whilst enduring decidedly horrid karaoke from people who were seemingly trying to contact life on Mars (unsuccessfully, I add), a machine came on which blew bubbles out into the crowd. I was in love. My little childish heart skipped several beats and before I knew it, I was on my feet in the middle of the room, bouncing amidst a bubbled bliss. It was magical! Well, until I got a bubble in my eye, but up until that moment I was in Heaven. I joke about being a Never Never Land baby, but at the age of 23, I’m pretty sure I’ll never grow up to resemble the granny panty wearing, can’t stay up all night, retirement fund candidate my peers seem to be transforming into.

Tomorrow, my parents are going away for a week. This equals an entire house to myself. Being 23 this ought to mean responsibility. It ought to mean ensuring there’s enough food in the pantry to last the week. It ought to mean feeding the fish, taking out the trash and washing the dishes. Instead, my childish imagination envisions turning every radio in the house onto the same station as I dance around the house (quite likely in my underwear) and sing into my hairbrush. Glimpses of midnight feasts with left over Easter Eggs and a glass of wine scatter across my mind as my mother’s instructions for when the garden service are due float into one ear before being chased out by my imaginary self – again in my underwear. Images of a house full of friends with whom I can chat and laugh at all hours of the day and night warm my heart as I remind myself of my over-active imagination, that tends to see me turning on all the lights in the house in the middle of the night because of a “strange shadow” jumping at me from behind the couch.

In my world of continual playtime, daily adventures and happy-go-lucky living, there’s very little room for behaving like an adult. Instead of feeling proud of myself when I make a responsible, and adult decision, I feel decidedly disappointed in myself. Seemingly antithetical, but what can I say? If being an adult means I never get to blow bubbles or climb mountain at midnight; if it means I constantly have to think things through before I say or do anything and can’t list ‘chocolate flavoured Steri Stumpie’ as my favourite drink; and if it means I never get to sing and dance in my underwear at 1:30 in the morning… Well, bloody Hell, you can count me out!

Onwards! To the sandbox!