Come Back, Simplicity

Despite the fact that I began a part-time job that pays actual money last week, I’ve had an excess of negative energy recently. I attribute most of it to side effects from the new job — I was trying to learn everything quickly and, since I work from home, I was staying up to work until 3 a.m. I slept an average of 4.5 hours every night last week (and dreamed about the WordPress interface numerous times, thanks to all of my work), so by Saturday I was feeling particularly grouchy.

So I want to write about two completely simple things I did this weekend that made me feel significantly better (three things, really, if you count the fact that I slept for 10 hours last night). It makes me wonder why, the older we get, the more we feel the need to over-complicate things.

The first thing I did was to attend homecoming at my beloved Susquehanna on Saturday. This was not without its own set of complications (I had to spend about 2 hours hanging out by myself on Saturday afternoon which was frustrating because I felt awkward), but it was an overall upper for me.

The town where I went to college is about as boring as boring gets. It was a make-your-own-fun school through and through, but that was usually okay with me. I’m much more interested in who I’m with than where I am. If I’m with my friends, I’ll have fun anywhere. And you know what? I had the best day just walking around campus with my old roommate, talking about life, roaming through new and renovated buildings, taking stupid pictures, and enjoying the company. I laughed a lot.

Happy Simplicity Lesson #1: Making an effort to see friends is almost always worth it. It has nothing to do with “catching up” — I saw my roommate three weeks ago. Instead, it has everything to do with human interaction (a point upon which I expounded last week). For me, talking to people online or via social media will never be the same as making the effort to spend quality time with them. Something gets lost in all the text, and it’s easier to understand people when you’re in their physical presence. My best friend could invite me to spend an entire weekend in a field of mud looking at dump trucks and I wouldn’t even care as long as it meant hanging out with my best friend.

Today my friend and I took her son to the playground. It’s worth noting that we’ve been friends since third grade. The elementary school her son attends now is the one where we went as kids. So when we walked from my house to the playground at the school, it reminded me of all of our walks — to and from school, the playground, etc. That’s when my sense of nostalgia kicks in and I miss how much easier it was to be a kid. While living each day in fear that someone would publicly call me fat and make fun of me relentlessly was a major concern for me (and undoubtedly contributed to the anxiety I experience as an adult), that was basically my only worry then (well, that and long division).

I hadn’t been to that playground in years, and the only thing that remains on it from when we were kids is a swing set and a turtle-shell jungle gym. But as we sat there, I started recalling all of these really happy kid memories. I remembered riding my bike down the ramp that trucks use for unloading supplies behind the school. I remembered thinking that there would be some great adventure waiting for me if I could just go into the woods. Surely I would find something really spectacular in there.

My friend said that the jungle gym made her think of the Mark Morrison song “Return of the Mack.” I lit up because when I hear that song, I also think of the playground. I couldn’t totally remember why, though. She reminded me that during our long walks around town in junior high, we used to stop at the playground sometimes, climb up to the top of the jungle gym and share earphones on the old Walkman. I apparently made her listen to that song over and over again on repeat.

(This is one of my key music characteristics, by the way, so I found it amusing that I had also done it then. I made my first college roommate listen to the same Usher song on repeat for 17 straight hours in late 2001. It was a dark day.)

So I climbed up to the top of the jungle gym. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be, but I got up there.

Other highlights included swinging on the old swings and crawling under this three-sided tree mosaic that was painted on the inside with flowers and butterflies. Hard to describe, but it was really cool and fun to just sit there for a while.

Happy Simplicity Lesson #2: If it was so much simpler to be a kid, then what’s wrong with enjoying kid things every now and again? People would think it odd if I started lurking around the playground all the time, but every once in a while, it might not be a terrible idea to do the things that always made me happy when I was younger. We grow up and we lose our sense of imagination. Did you ever notice that kids almost always have simple answers to everything? It’s not until we’re older that we learn to seriously over-complicate things (and I’m certainly guilty of doing this by thinking too much and over-analyzing everything). Maybe getting back into that frame of mind wouldn’t be a terrible thing.

What’s interesting for me is that I know that simple, little things please me often. I’m happy when a friend gets in touch with me or says something reminded them of me. I’m happy when I look at my blog stats and see that my friends have read this schlock that I write and that they support my writing (even when it’s not always good). I’m happy in the morning when I let my youngest dog out of her kennel and she jumps up and gives me a kiss before running downstairs to pummel the older dog. I’m happy when someone makes time for me. And when I can relax with a good book. And when I can be with lots of my friends at once. I could go on. These are all relatively small things, but I tend to forget how important they are. It also becomes difficult to see them sometimes when so many big things seem to be going wrong.

In any case, those small things are what I’m going to try to focus on. I need all the positive energy I can get.

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