I was one of those kids that could not wait to grow up. Ok, I guess that probably made me like every other kid in the world. I knew that when that time came, when I was old enough to go to the store and buy as much candy as I wanted, I would get what I always wanted: freedom, freedom, and more freedom!
Funny how much freedom I had then and did not realize it. I lived by one motto, tried and true, faithful throughout the ages….”Let’s play!”. I played my life depended on it. Some kids lived to play, I played to live. That was all I knew to do. This, of course, thrilled my parents to no end (did I ever tell you one of my favorite literary weapons is sarcasm….). They did all they could to redirect my energy in any way they could to make sure they still had a place to live, because I played like the Tasmanian Devil. The day I didn’t break something or write on a wall was a great day…and they were few and far between.
“Read this to me.” My dad would say. He would pick up a newspaper or a magazine and select a ‘child-friendly’ article and have me read it out loud to him. If there was a Christmas/Easter/Mother’s Day/anything program in church, my mother made sure the speech I had memorized was the longest one she could find. People marveled at my ability to recite these long speeches and my seemingly endless knowledge about politics (my dad read Time Magazine and The Economist, so I had reliable sources). Pretty soon I was that half-American, half-Nigerian girl who could read so fast and so clearly they wanted me to read at every program, no matter what it was….not only was this getting overwhelming, it was NOT FUN! Ok, the attention was, but suddenly I felt pressured to always know the right way to pronounce a word, or to know the details of presidential campaigns in America when I still lived in Nigeria. I was really pressuring myself, because I felt like I had to live up to some standard that I think I had created in my own mind.
I needed to play. Now I really needed to grow up so that I could….play?
Now, I don’t want to sound ungrateful about my parents grooming me to be a genius….I really am a prolific reader, and I have never lost my interest in world events. I was also raised with Star Wars in my life (episodes IV, V, and VI, thank God), and for that I am eternally grateful. But I started counting down the days till the time I could call the shots, and do WHATEVER I wanted WHENEVER I wanted. I thought that this would happen when I got to high school….nope. But college….yup.
In college I got up when I wanted to. Went to bed when I wanted to. Partied if I felt like it. Did whatever I wanted with whoever I wanted. I was in full control of this cruise, baby…….and nearly flunked out of college.
Ok….reality check. All those years I focused on trying to play as much as I could……you mean growing up means no playing? When I finally sobered up enough to save my own life and successfully graduate (finally!) I came to a not-so-exciting conclusion. Apparently you can’t play all the time as an adult. My childhood was dying a slow and painful death. This was going to ruin everything! I had to find some way to survive in this new and alien ‘adult world’ I had found myself in.
Bills. Getting a job. Getting married. Having kids. Moving to America. So much going on, moving to our first home….being an adult. The only way I would survive would be if I could redefine what I knew as ‘play’. As long as I could play, I would be fine. But recreating what the concept of ‘play’ meant to me was going to be the challenge.
My husband is a nut and I love him madly: Play.
My kids are wild (talk about coming full circle): Play.
We can pay our bills, we have a roof over our heads, and I can watch Star Wars anytime I want on Netflix (episodes IV, V, and VI anyway): Play.
I think the biggest thing that I had wrong about growing up was the definition of fun. Fun and responsibility can go hand in hand, it’s just the balance that is the challenge. And that is the most fun of all.